I have a copy of a fun little cookbook called Salty Snacks by Cynthia Nims. It features a wide array of snacks, from chips and crisps to nuts and nibbles. The recipes I've tried have been very tasty and some of them have taken me completely by surprise. The taralli fall into that camp. Taralli are an Italian snack that seem like a cross between a tiny bagel and a pretzel. The recipe in the book calls for only 4 ingredients yet produces a crunchy, flaky, and unexpectedly flavorful snack. The simplicity of the ingredients is like a blank canvas—it begs for add-ins. I decided to add some chopped oil-cured olives, Dijon mustard, thyme, and a little pepper to my batch. The result was a taralli with a flavor reminiscent of tapenade. Note: You can bake the whole batch on a single pan, so if you wanted you could easily double the recipe yet bake them all at once. —hardlikearmour
Test Kitchen Notes
Hardlikearmour’s clever addition of olives to taralli is perfectly appropriate considering they originated in Puglia, Italy, a place literally overrun with olive groves. I doubt that any Italian would even raise an eyebrow to this French interpretation of tapenade, because these crispy gems are just so delicious. The dough comes together fast and the rolling and forming is fun. Don’t let the boiling part turn you away: it goes quickly and the directions are right on. You might consider decreasing the salt in the recipe based on the saltiness of your olives. I’ve been making taralli for years and this recipe is a keeper! —PRST
- Makes 32
(10 ounces) all-purpose flour
kosher salt or flaky sea salt
fresh thyme or lemon thyme leaves
teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
minus 1 tablespoon dry white wine
extra virgin olive oil
finely chopped oil-cured black olives
- Whisk the flour, salt, thyme, and peppers together in a medium bowl. Set aside. Place the Dijon mustard in a 2-cup liquid measure, then use the wine to fill to the 1/2 cup mark. Use a fork or small whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients (including the olives) to the dry ingredients. Stir just until a cohesive ball of dough forms and there is no visible dry flour remaining. The dough should be fairly soft, but not sticky, and will have a slightly marbled appearance. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and set aside for an hour so the flour can fully hydrate.
- Preheat the oven to 350° F and place a rack near the center (if you're making a double batch, put a rack in both the upper and lower-middle positions). Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone liner.
- Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil. Once it starts to gently boil, lower the heat to medium or medium-high to maintain a gentle boil. (If you are making a double batch, you might want to wait until you've shaped about half the taralli before you start the water to boil.)
- Divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Working with one portion at a time roll it out on a clean counter until it is an even log, about 8- to 9-inches long. Cut the portion into 4 equal lengths, then roll each length into a “rope” about 1/2-inch in diameter and 5 to 6 inches long. Try to taper the ends slightly, as they will overlap when you form the taralli, but don't fret about making them perfect.
- Take each rope and form it into a circle, overlapping about 3/4- to 1-inch. Pinch the overlapping area between your thumb and finger as if it were a ring sitting on your index finger. Flip the ring over onto your thumb, while maintaining the pinch. Place the shaped taralli on a baking sheet, continuing to twist the pinch as needed to help get a good union. Repeat the process until all the taralli are formed.
- Make sure the water is gently boiling before proceeding. If the water is boiling too vigorously it is likely the taralli will come apart at the pinched seam. Gently add 6 to 8 of the taralli to the water (you may want to start with fewer to test your boil level). Don't worry if an occasional one comes apart, just use it for a taste test when they're done. Cook until they float to the surface (a few may stick to the bottom, gently dislodge them as needed), and look like an inner tube floating in the water. They will start out perpendicular to the surface, but wait to remove them until they're parallel. Use a spider or slotted spoon to scoop them out of the water, several at a time. Drain briefly over the pot, then transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Arrange them on the baking sheet so that all 32 fit. They will only puff slightly during baking, so they can be close to each other, but shouldn't be touching. They are going to look a little grey and sad on the baking sheet, so don't be dismayed—all will be well once they bake. Boil the remaining taralli, allowing the water to return to a gentle boil between batches if necessary.
- Bake 45 to 50 minutes, rotating the sheet midway. They will be lightly browned and crisp when they are done. Transfer the taralli to a wire rack, and allow to cool completely before serving or storing. They will keep several days in an airtight container.