Tarallucci and wine. In Italy, the conjunction of these 2 words takes on actual meaning other than the name of a trendy restaurant or something to eat and drink. When friends engage in a discussion of opinions and realize that common ground can’t be reached at the end, they’ll say something like, “Let’s forget it and have tarallucci e vino.” It’s just a way to end things on a good note, and what better way to do so than with nibbles and a glass of red.
These savory (or sweet) snacks that look like miniature bagels might fall under the category of “crackers” as they’re essentially a product made from flour, salt, flavorings and water. Whenever we have surprise guests, I usually open a bag of tarallucci and set them out with a platter of assorted cheese and olives, kinda like how you’d serve chips and dip back in the states. What prompted me to make my own tarallucci was a post by Susan of Wild Yeast. She tried her hand at making the elongated taralli which inspired a baking marathon this past weekend. If you can master these, then you can call yourself italian for the day. I don’t know of many bakers who have tried making their own at home.
Recipe and a variation
When I told MotH that I wanted to bake my own tarallucci, he recalled a fond memory of the tarallucci that his friend’s mother use to make. He said they were flavored with ground black pepper and chopped almonds, and were shaped so tightly that you couldn’t see through the hole in the middle. He claims that they were the best that he had ever tasted. This recipe was created with that fond memory in mind, but I’ve also added a variation at the end using chile pepper powder, chipotle chile flakes and red wine. I figured that with the addition of wine, you could still end a debate with tarallucci e vino, even if you might not have any wine to imbibe on the spot!
3 cups all-purpose flour (tipo “00″ in Italy)
1½ teaspoon salt
1¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped almonds, small dice
1/2 scant teaspoon dry yeast
10 ounces warm water
2 tablespoons lard or olive oil
Combine the flour, salt, black pepper and almonds in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add the yeast. Add the water and allow the yeast to dissolve. Add the olive oil and stir to combine until the moisture is absorbed. Scrape the contents onto a lightly floured work surface and need for a few minutes until smooth.
Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and roll each into a long strip that measures around 1/2 inch in diameter. Cut into 2½-inch lengths and wrap each piece around your finger to form a ring, pinching edges together to seal. Set aside on a floured surface and repeat with the remaining dough.
After shaping all of the pieces, lightly cover the tarallucci with a plastic bag (not necessary that the bag sticks to the surface) and allow to rest for 2 hours. The purpose is not to get the dough to rise a whole lot, but rather to allow the rings to firm up a bit before the next step.
Preheat oven to 350° F (convection) or 400° F (regular). Bring a large pot of water to a boil and lightly salt as if cooking bagels. After the tarallucci have sat for the required amount of time, drop them into the boiling water, a few at a time, and cook until they rise to the surface (shouldn’t take more than a minute). Remove with a slotted spoon, drain well, and arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake for 50-55 minutes until light golden brown on the surface, rotating halfway during baking time if your oven has hot spots.
Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container. Makes approximately 85 tarallucci.
Chile pepper and wine variation
In place of the black pepper, add 1 teaspoon chile pepper powder AND 2 teaspoons chipotle pepper flakes. Omit the almonds. Substitute the liquid with 6 oz water and 4 oz dry red wine.