It’s the dead of winter, and while it hasn’t been all that cold here in NYC, it is still the season for comfort food. Breads are especially nice and one of my favorites comes from my husband’s Italian family. It is called a Taralle, though the term is confusing because its meaning differs based on region. Some regions of Italy consider the Taralle a Christmas cookie, filled with chocolate and currants. Other regions consider it an Italian bagel or biscuit that is heavily peppered. To make matters even more confusing, the differences of opinion on what a Taralle is can occur within a single family, as the case is with ours. My husband’s maternal family (who lived nearby Naples) are of the Italian bagel camp, whereas my husband’s paternal family (who lived in Orsogna, a town more North and on the Eastern coast) is of the Christmas cookie camp. I’ve had both types and my favorite is the bagel, as I love savory breads and any excuse to use a lot of pepper.
I’ll go through the steps first, and then post the recipe. Taralles are fairly simple to make–there aren’t a lot of ingredients. You just need to make sure that the dough is the right consistency: wet enough to stick together and not crumble, but not so wet that the dough is slippery. You can add more flour or water as needed.
The main work is in getting the shape correct. I start by dividing up my dough into about 20 balls. Then take each ball and roll between your hands to make a snake about 5-6 inches long. Then cross the ends to make a bagel shape.
Then slit the bottom, curved portion of the bagel with a serrated knife and split the edges apart. This will help to dry out the Taralle when baking so that it becomes crispy inside.
Next you put each Taralle in boiling water (similar to making pretzels) for 4 seconds. This helps form the bagel crust. I boil each one separately, and keep it on a spatula so that it does not lose its shape.
Then bake for 3o minutes until they are nice and browned, and you have Taralles!
- 7 TBSP butter, melted
- 3 eggs
- 3 1/2 cups flour
- 2 heaping TBSP + 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup water, to moisten dough
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with Pam.
- Mix the flour, baking powder, and pepper into the bowl of an electric mixer.
- Break the eggs into the flour mixture
- Add the melted butter and mix on medium speed using the dough hook attachment.
- Add the water and mix thoroughly.
- If the mix is loose, add more flour. If it is dry, add more water.
- Knead the dough until it is elastic in consistency.
- Roll the dough 1 finger thick and shape into circles.
- Split the Taralle around the edge with a knife and lift the edges all the way around.
- Place each Taralle in boiling water for 4 seconds, making sure to keep the Taralle on a spatula so it does not lose its shape.
- Bake on the foil-covered cookie sheet for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.