Friday, December 31, 2010

Baking Taralli Pugliesi ...and a happy New Year!

I have a penchant for doing things backwards.  A quality I prefer to believe is endearing.  For example, when I dreamed of the glory that becoming a Bread Baking Buddy would bring me...and subsequently found out that I still had time to jump in on a December challenge...and to top it all off, realized that the challenge consisted of Italian bread...I dove in head first.  Have I ever mentioned that I was born to be Italian?  Of course I have.  Tuscany, take me away....  So, I made bedroom eyes with the photo and recipe...broke out my mammoth mixing bowl and my semi- trusty scale...and got down to business.  At risk of losing some of the romance, I'll tell you that they looked like little bagel bites.  Totally not as enchanting as taralli pugliesi sounds say it with me now...taraaaalli puglieeeeesi, but true never the less.  They do end up tasting vaguely reminiscent of a bagel, but more like a cracker scented with fennel.  Which brings back to the beginning (where I should have started...backwards, remember?)...after they were cooling and being monched on (everybody liked them, by the way), I decided to do a quick search to find out what Taralli Pugliesi were exactly.  Oh.  They're an Italian snack cracker.  No wonder.  Reminiscent of a breadstick or a pretzel or a bagel. I also read that sometimes they're made sweet and drizzled with a sugary glaze.  And often they're dunked in wine.  Ah, Italy...I love you so....

TARALLI PUGLIESI
adapted from Food Bible Le Ricette Regionali Italiane by Anna Maria Gostii Della Salda 
via Lucullian Delights
makes ~90

1 kg (1000 g / 2.2 lb)  AP flour
200 g extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. (+ more) tepid water
11 g fennel seeds,bruised a bit (optional)
7 g instant yeast
1 tsp salt
2 eggs (or the equivalent of dry white wine)

Dissolve the yeast in 2 Tbs. of tepid water. Mix the yeast water with the lightly whisked eggs and the olive oil.

Mix flour, fennel seeds and salt and then add the liquid. Start working the dough and continue to add small amounts of tepid water until you have a firm but pliable dough (used 1¼ c. total).

Start rolling 2 - 2½" long ropes that are as thick as your little finger and pinch the ends together to make an oval. Put the taralli on a parchment paper, cover with a towel and leave them to rest ~20 minutes.

Turn on the oven to 392° F (converted from 200° C...so just get it there-abouts, I suppose).

While the taralli rest, bring a fairly large pot of water to a boil.

Lower 15 taralli at a time (this really depends on the size of your pot...mine was big...don't over crowd or it will lower the heat) into the simmering water and as they surface, take them out and put them to dry on a kitchen towel or rack.

Transfer to baking sheets covered with parchment paper or a silpat.
 Bake until golden and cooked through, ~20 minutes.

Eating Italian crackers in a spattering of cool sprinkles...how perfectly melancholy.
We have some surprising weather here in Northwestern Indiana on New Year's Eve...rainy and 48° 55° F!  I love it!  It feels cleansing instead of frozen... 
WISHING YOU AND YOURS A SAFE AND HAPPY NEW YEAR... MAY YOU BE BLESSED.

*This post is linked to:
*Bread Baking Buddies (in conjunction w/ Bread Baking Babes)
BYOB