I used to teeth on these when I was a baby! Wonderful cookies!
These Authentic Italian Cookies are pronounced “Ta-Dolls”. One of my favorite cookies from childhood. I like to think of them as Italian pretzels.
Prep time: Approx. 3 – 4 hours
Cook time: Approx. 30 – 40 min. for each batch of cookies.
Temp: 375 degrees F
Yield: About 100 cookies
Taralli Cookie Ingredients:
- 1 package dry active yeast (1 package of yeast = 2-1/4 tsp.)
- 9 cups all purpose flour (2-1/2 lbs.)
- 2 tbsp. fennel seeds (This is what makes these cookies taste so good!)
- 1 cup canola oil
- 1 can of Beer – 12 oz. (I use Samuel Adams Boston Lager)
- 1 tbsp. Salt
- 1/2 cup warm water 110 – 115 degrees F. (you will use this for the yeast)
- 1 candy thermometer (You will need this to get the temp. of the warm water just right)
- Optional: You can also add some black pepper. About 1/2 – 1 tsp. (your preference)
- Note: I highly recommend double wall cookie sheets to bake these cookies with.
See below for VERY detailed recipe instructions
You will need (2) bowls for this recipe. You will need a larger bowl for the dry ingredients.
In bowl #1 (Liquids)
In this bowl you will add yeast, oil and beer. First you will need to activate the yeast. What?? Activate the yeast you say… Hmmm, how does one do this? It’s easy, this is what you do: Get a small bowl, pour in 1/2 cup of hot water from the tap into a small bowl, then get a thermometer and test the temperature of the water. The hot water needs to be between 105 – 115 degrees F. You might have to put it in the microwave on low temperature for about 30 – 50 seconds or so. (This is important, it makes the yeast happy). Once you have the temperature of the hot water at the desired temperature, go ahead and pour in 1 package of dry active yeast (2-1/4 tsp.). Mix it up with a fork until creamy brown. Then let it sit in the warm water for 3 – 5 minutes, when activated it should have a creamy consistency with bubbles on top. (This is also kinda cool to watch, yeast is weird stuff!). After the yeast is activated, add the warm beer and oil. Beer must be room temperature and the oil I use is Canola oil. Mix this well.
In bowl #2 (Dry ingredients)
Add 9 cups of flour (2-1/2 lbs.) to a large bowl. Then add, 1 tbsp. salt and 2 tbsp. fennel seed. Mix this well with a fork.
Next (Mixing content of bowl #1 into bowl #2)
Now slowly pour the liquid mix noted above into the bowl with the dry ingredients, slowly pouring in while your mixing. Mix well with a fork until you have to use your hands. Mix until you get a nice dough ball. Sprinkle some flour onto a large wood block, table, counter, whatever. Just make sure it’s clean. Knead a little bit, maybe 3 minutes or so. Then form into a ball. Place a damp cloth over dough ball and let sit for 15 minutes.
When the dough ball is ready, spread some flour on the counter and plop the dough ball onto the counter. You will want to work with the dough a lot, folding it and pushing it into the counter, throw it up in the air, bounce it off your cabinets, whatever you want, just get it to a nice consistency. Not too firm, it should be light and elastic and just a little wet. More dry than wet… um… well… you’ll figure it out. There is an art to this part, knowing when the dough is just right. Check out the video below for some tips on kneading the dough.
Note: The key to this is to “take your time kneading the dough”, it’s going to be hard work. When your done, your wrists will ache! But trust me, it’s all going to be worth the pain!
At this point you will want to pre-heat your oven to 375 Degrees F.
Ok – Now your cookie dough is ready. This is the tricky part and will take a little practice. This is the part where you are going to make the cookie shapes. I make circle and Q shapes like grandma did. There are several steps before you make the cookie shapes. First thing you need to do is divide up your dough into (5) smaller dough balls. Get a baking pan, sprinkle some flour on the bottom. Place (4) of the dough ball sin the pan and then place a damp cloth over them so they don’t dry out while your working with the other dough ball. Take out one dough ball at a time as you need more dough. Cut off a piece of dough and shape into a bar shape approximately 8″x3″x1″. Then Cut into 3″x1″x1″ pieces of which you will role out with your hands until long and skinny, about 1/2″ dia. Then divide into (3) piece of which you will then roll out a little more and then shape. Here are some photo of the dough ball shaped into a log and then divided up.
Here you can see the 8″x3″x1″ dough sliced up into smaller 3″x1″x1″ pieces. Keep them under a damp cloth until you use them. Roll out a 3″x1″x1″ into a long approximately 10 – 12″ long and 1/2″ dia. piece. Then cut that in half. Roll some more to stretch out each piece into about 7″ or so, then shape. I placed a video below showing how I shape the dough. Also check out the Taralli video at the bottom of this page of the Italian lady making her Taralli. She has some amazing technique.
Important note: When you are rolling out the dough into long pieces with your hands, get you hands wet. Not too wet, but get them damp. I helps a lot during the rolling. I keep a small bowl of water on the table, dip my hands in there and then rub my hands together slightly drying them.
Shaping the Taralli
As you shape your Taralli, you need to set them on a table with a cotton table cloth to dry before boiling. Yes, you are going to boil them before you bake them. Here is a photo of my table after I have shaped all the Taralli. Speaking of boiling, at this point you should fill a large pot of water and start boiling the water. Be generous with the water. You need a lot of room for the Taralli to roll around in the water before they float to the top.
Next (Boiling he Taralli)
At this point you should preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. You will need to boil the Taralli before baking them. After the Taralli have been drying out for about 15 minutes, gently drop them into a large pot of boiling water and cook them long enough for them float to the top, then take them out with a slotted spoon. They usually take under a minute to float to the top. Let all the water drain out of the spoon, then place them on a plate. Then bring them over to the table with the cotton table cloth and set them on there a dry. You can also set them on wax paper to dry. These also need to sit and dry for a while before you bake. The drying times before and after boiling usually work out well if you start with the first cookies you worked with. So, you shape all the cookies and place them on your table going from right to left. Then when you are ready to boil you start with the cookies on the far right, the timing works out just right for drying times. You do the same after boiling as well. Boil, drain, dry, set on table right to left. Then when you are ready to start baking the cookies, you start with the cookies on for right.
Next (Baking the Taralli)
I like to use a double wall baking sheet for this and I use two baking sheets at a time on two different racks offset from each other, like this.
You are going to bake these at 375 degrees F. for approximately 30 – 40 minutes. Personally for my oven I have found 36 minutes works the best. You do not want them getting dark brown, more of a nice crunchy golden brown. Here is a photo where I have have placed to cooked Taralli side by side, the cookie on the right was baked to a perfect golden brown. That is the color you are going for. The dark brown on the left was over cooked, that is a dark brown you don’t want. The golden brown on the right was cooked for about 36 minutes and the too dark brown cookie on the left baked for 38 minutes. Only a 2 minute difference, so you have to watch these cookies closely after 30 minutes. During the baking, I switch the baking sheets at the 20 minute mark, changing racks and rotating sheets. Once the cooking are done, you drop them right into a brown paper bag to cool off. This is when you should pour a glass of red wine and enjoy you first Taralli. Well, I already had some wine during the shaping… Anyway, they are good with red wine! For this recipe I usually end up balking with two cookie sheets twice and one more time with one cookie sheet. So five cookie sheets worth of Taralli total.
Note: The absolute best way to eat these wonderful cookies you just made is to sit down with a nice cup of Espresso and enjoy your hard work!!!! Auh, just wonderful!
Great Job! You did it! Your now an Italian Grandmother! Congratulations!
That’s it you’re done… Easy as Pie!
Special note: I have been trying for years! Decades even, trying to perfect these Taralli cookies and get them close to my grandma Salerno’s. This is it! I finally go there through much trial and error. So excited! Now I have to make this recipe a lot more so it gets locked into memory. I also have to work on my technique of shaping the dough so I can pick up some speed. I also need to get an old fashioned key like the lady in the video above is using. OK, I am ready to make these again!
A BIG special thanks to a friend of the family, Leon! He is a wonderful man in his 80’s who spent a lot of time with me on the phone sharing some extremely important details on how to properly make the Taralli, or Tadolls as we call them. Also known as Tadalli. An Italian Pretzel is what they really are, but nobody calls them that. This is his recipe which is “extremely” close to my grandma Salerno, just a few minor tweaks in the ingredients and measurements. Leon shared some wonderful stories about helping his mother when he was a kid. She used to make 10 lbs. at once! They would put special sheets over the beds and spread out the Taralli all over the tables and beds to dry. He remembered sneaking some into his pocket and eating some during the process and his mom would smack him up side the head, he would say, I wasn’t eating any! … Pretty hard not to snack on these.
There are many variations of the Taralli. What I have shown above is how my family has made it and how I continue to make it. There is this wonderful website called “Italy Revisited”. Check out their Taralli page, wow!
This video reveals an awesome secret for helping the two ends of the Taralli dough stick together.
The answer?… Use an old fashion key. Brilliant!!! Check the video below.
Taralli Cookie Photo Gallery