Saturday, May 17, 2008
Merri, my mother-in-law, is an excellent cook. She is one of those people who cooks instinctively, never needing a recipe. This means that--unlike me--she does not gather cookbooks the way a treasure-hunter scours the ocean floor. (I, on the other hand, have cookbooks in every room of the house. They're even stacked on the floor next to my bed.)
While Merri does not depend on recipes, she does have a copy of one of the most beautiful cookbooks ever published, Giuliano Bugialli's Foods of Italy. Published in 1984, this cookbook contains exquisite photographs and some truly alluring dishes. When Steve and I went over to my in-laws last week, I decided to try my hand at one of them. I picked the taralli, out of my love for these crunchy little snacks.
Giuliano describes taralli as versatile items that, "according to their flavoring, may be used as bread, appetizer, or dessert." They are made like bagels, dipped in boiling water for 30 seconds before baking.
I stuck to Giuliano's recipe this time, but next time I may add a pinch of cayenne for a little fizzle and replace the fennel seeds with rosemary. Or maybe I'll brush them with apricot preserves when they come out of the oven.
A hint for the wise. When you are ready to roll these puppies into 25-inch ropes, do not dust your working surface with flour. I did that (see the photo below), and ended up swearing at the dough that would not roll under my hands. You need a slight tackiness to get the dough to roll out smoothly.
Giuliano Bugialli's Taralli
Adapted from Foods of Italy, available at www.bugialli.com/page7-1.htm.
For the Sponge
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
For the Dough
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon salt
10 twists black pepper
To make the sponge, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. In a separate bowl, make a well in 1 cup of flour and mix in the dissolved yeast with half of the flour. Let the sponge rest, covered, for 1 hour.
To make the dough, put 1 3/4 cup of flour in a bowl. Make a well and put the sponge in the well, along with the remaining flour around the sponge. Add the olive oil, eggs, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper in the well and start mixing in the flour from the outside of the well. Keep mixing until the dough is homogenous and smooth.
Cut the dough into four pieces. Lightly roll each piece out on a flat surface until you have a rope about 25-inches long. Divide each rope into 5 pieces, then connect the ends of each piece to make a circle.
Let the taralli rest, covered with a towel, for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a baking sheet.
Meanwhile, boil water in a casserole dish and add salt to taste. Place 4-5 taralli at a time in the water and boil for 30 seconds. Remove the taralli and place them on wax paper to drain. Once drained of excess water, place the taralli on the greased baking sheet.
Stir the remaining egg in a bowl and brush the egg over the tops of the taralli.
Bake the taralli for 30 minutes.
Posted by Sarah at 3:55 PM