Saturday, July 12, 2008
I was planning to bake another no-knead bread this weekend, but at the last minute, I decided I wanted something more interesting, so I turned to Maggie Glezer's Artisan Baking for inspiration. I opened the book at random to page 201, which had a big picture of beautiful, shiny brown elongated ovals.
The directions looked easy. I like fennel, and I like crunchy, cracker-like things. Most of all, I like shaping things into long, thin snakes. When I was in the first grade, I learned to make bowls out of modeling clay by making a snake-like shape and then rolling it up into a bowl. I was very careful and earnest, and I was the best snake-bowl-maker in the first grade. Unfortunately, my artistic ability peaked there. By the time I was in third grade, my friend Jennifer was using modeling clay to shape dogs and cats, and I was stuck in the snake-bowl phase.
Making the tartalli was just like being in first grade again. First you divide the dough into 32 30-gram balls, and then roll them into 11-inch-long snakes. With moistened fingers, you pinch the ends together and then hold it on your fingers so that the shape becomes a big elongated.
After the dough rests for a few hours, during which time it does nothing to speak of, there's another fun part--the dough gets boiled in water to which olive oil has been added.
They only boil for about a minute, until they puff up a little, then they're put on a rack to drain. I have no idea what would happen if you just baked them, without doing the boiling thing first. I think it makes them a little shinier than they would otherwise be because a little of the olive oil sticks to them as they're being removed from the water.
Finally, after they've dried off a bit, they go into the oven for about 45 minutes (more like 35 in the convection setting). When they're nice and brown, they slide right off the baking sheet onto a rack. (If you drop one on the floor, it shatters). Excellent with wine or tea as an afternoon pick-me-up.
All the steps make it sound like the taralli are difficult and time-consuming, but they're quite easy and fun, and they take only about four hours from start to finish.
Royal Crown's Fennel Taralli
--from Artisan Baking by Maggie Glezer
1/2 t. instant yeast
3 c. (450 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 c. (120 grams) durum flour
1 3/4 t. (9 grams) salt
3 T. (40 grams) vegetable oil
1/4 c. (60 grams) white wine
1 T. (60 grams) fennel seeds
1 cup plus 2 T. (250 grams) water
2 T. Olive oil
Add yeast, flours, salt, vegetable oil, and white wine to food processor workbowl fitted with steel blade. With the machine running, add the water through the feed tube and process until smooth, firm dough is formed. Remove dough and knead in fennel seeds by hand.
Divide dough into 32 (30 gram) pieces. Dampen your hands sand roll a piece of dough into an 11-inch rope. Pinch ends together. Hold rope ring together at the seal and let it drop into an elongated oval shape.
After all the dough is formed, cover with plastic wrap and let them rest for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 400.
Bring a pot of water to the boil and reduce heat so the water is simmering. Add the olive oil to the simmering water. Set a rack over a baking sheet. Boil the taralli in small batches, for about one minute, or until they float and puff up slightly. Skim them from the pot and let them drain on the rack. After they've drained, move them to two parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
Bake in preheated oven until they are dry and golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes, rotating the baking sheets after about 20 minutes. Let cool on rack and store in sealed container.