Think of these as crunchy little pretzel bites or mini Italian bagels. Dunk these taralli into red wine — Italian, of course — as you relax on the patio with friends. You can also shape these into little bows. They keep for weeks, so think about making an extra batch.
- 2 1/2 tsp (12.5 ml) fennel seeds, divided
- 2 1/2 tsp (12.5 ml) active dry yeast
- 1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine, preferably Sauvignon Blanc
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp (5 ml) kosher salt
- about 2 cups (500 ml) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 1 large egg, for the egg wash
- crunchy finishing salt
- You’ll need both cracked and ground fennel seeds for this recipe. Crack 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 ml) of the seeds by rolling over them with a heavy rolling pin, or pressing onto them with the bottom of a small cast iron skillet. Grind the remaining 1 teaspoon (5 ml) by using a spice grinder, or coffee grinder set aside for spices, until it’s a fine powder.
- In a medium saucepan, warm the wine to just over room temperature, about 110F (43C). Place the yeast in a large bowl and pour over the wine. Let stand until foaming a little, about 10 minutes. Stir in the olive oil, salt, and the cracked and ground fennel seed.
- Add as much of the flour as necessary until you have a slightly sticky, shaggy dough. Turn out onto a clean work surface. (You shouldn’t have to add flour to the work surface because of the olive oil in the dough, but of course do so if it is sticking.) Knead until slightly smooth, adding flour if necessary, about 5 minutes. Let it rest on the work surface covered with a damp tea towel for 10 minutes. Then knead again until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 7 minutes. (All this kneading is developing the right amount of gluten for taralli.)
- Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, then turn over the dough to coat it lightly with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until the dough is puffy but not quite doubled, about 30 minutes, depending on the dough and the temperature.
- Break off a piece of dough the size of a walnut, and roll it between your palms and fingers to form a rope about as thin as a pencil. Continue with the rest of the dough, covering the ropes with tea towel as you form them.
- Have ready a lightly greased baking sheet. Cut each rope into 4-inch-long (10 cm) pieces, and shape them into rings about 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. Press the ends together very firmly to keep them from separating during baking. Set the rings on the baking sheet, cover them with a clean tea towel, and let rise slightly, about 1 hour.
- When the hour is almost up, preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, and a third with paper towels.
- Fill a wide braising pan or large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Plunge about 7 taralli into the boiling water. They will either sink or float. If they sink, wait for them to rise to the surface, then flip them over and cook for 1 minute; if they float, cook them for 1 minute on each side.
- Remove the taralli with a slotted spoon or spider, and drain on the paper towels, letting them cool slightly. Transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheets.
- For the egg wash, in a small bowl whisk the egg with 2 teaspoons (10 ml) water. Using a pastry brush, brush the taralli lightly with the egg wash, then sprinkle with the salt.
- Bake until crispy and golden brown, about 7 minutes. Allow to cool and serve.