A beloved Italian snack food fennel taralli are savoury, crunchy bites, with pops of anise-like flavour from the fennel seeds. They’re enjoyed equally and with gusto whether simply on their own, with a glass of wine, or as part of an antipasto platter. With a texture similar to bread sticks, they’re a particular favourite of mine and they never seem to last long in my house! For awhile now I’ve thought I should try making them. This is my first attempt and I couldn’t be happier with not only how they turned out, but the somewhat meditative process of making them!
Part cracker, part bagel, total taralli!
What they are, really, is a form of cracker. Crisp and made with flour they look adorably akin to tiny bagels, and much like the making of bagels, they take a dip in simmering water before baking, giving them their characteristic shine.
It’s a very wet dough so using a mixer is preferred, especially a stand mixer; using first a paddle attachment, then switching to a dough hook for kneading.
Toasting the fennel seeds in a dry skillet, much like doing so for nuts or spices, warms them and releases the essential oils. It only takes a couple of minutes, but really does make a difference.
While the recipe from Maria at She Loves Biscotti is credited to her colleague’s mother Filomena, I find it somewhat odd that it calls for vegetable oil. Taking my own advice on following a new recipe to the letter, I did use vegetable oil, although don’t mind admitting it was really hard to not reach for the extra virgin olive oil.
Knead. Rest. Roll.
Once the dough is kneaded it gets a mere half hour rest, even though yeast is used in the dough. Because of the nature of the taralli, it doesn’t require a long rise time, as most bread doughs do. The rolling and forming does take some time, so get some help if you feel like it. I didn’t mind the solitary task, focusing and enjoying my first taralli making. It would however be a great task for kids to help out with, rolling the dough and forming the little circles, a perfect kitchen task for little hands.
Simmer, then bake.
Just before all the taralli are formed and resting on clean kitchen towel lined baking sheets, a pot of water is put on to boil. Once boiling, the water is turned down to a simmer for the taralli to have their several minute dunk, before baking. A long-handled slotted spoon is very useful here, so you can remove several at a time.
They’ll stay soft for a while when they’re fresh out of the oven, but will eventually firm up. If you find they get too hard, you could always dunk them… in a glass of wine, a bowl of soup, etc.
Italian snack food.
Eat on their own. Serve with cheese. Dip. On the side with soup or salad, basically anywhere you’d enjoy a cracker, bread stick, or other bread product. A quintessential Italian snack, I urge you to make your own. Me… I’ve already added these to my gotta-make-again list, and can’t wait to try them using olive oil, and perhaps some fresh rosemary~
Italian Fennel Taralli
Italian fennel taralli are a crunchy and addictive snack food, great on their own, perfect with a glass of wine or as part of an antipasto platter.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour plus an extra ⅓ cup
- 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted toast in a dry skillet, just until fragrant
In a bowl of a stand mixer, with paddle attachment, combine 3 cups of flour, yeast and salt.
Add the oil, followed by the lukewarm water. Add the toasted fennel seeds. Mix until combined.
Scrape down the dough and switch to dough hook attachment. Add the ⅓ cup of flour. Knead for approximately 6-8 minutes until you have a soft, smooth elastic dough. Alternately, you can knead by hand.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and tea towel and allow dough to rest for about 30 minutes.
Place the ball of dough on a wooden board. Knead the dough for about 1 minute and if the dough sticks add a little bit of flour.
Pinch about a tablespoon of dough and roll into a rope shape approximately 8 inches long and ¼ inch in diameter (about the size of a pencil). Feel free to adapt any sized ring-shape when you are making these taralli. Cut in half and join the two ends together to form a ring. Place the taralli on a clean dishcloth lined tray or sheet pan.
Bring a large pot of water to boil, then reduce heat so that the water barely simmers. Add the taralli to the simmering water; 3-4 at a time. Once they surface to the top, remove with a slotted spoon and place on clean parchment lined baking sheet, to drain. Repeat process until all have been boiled.
Place boiled taralli directly on oven grates (if large enough) or on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 375°F for 25 - 30 minutes or until golden brown (set oven rack in the center.
To insure the taralli are the same size (for best baking) you could use a scale. I portioned out 40 gram pieces of dough, rolled them into 10” ‘ropes’ and cut them in half. It sounds fussy, but once you get going, you get immersed in the process.