Looking again at the pictures I took in Italy I noticed I had "lost" a few somewhere on my HD. Even worst looking at them I noticed I completely forgot to post about taralli, one of my favourite street snacks. Taralli are little dough rings, fairly widespread in southern Italy in their many variations. Quite common are the so-called taralli bolliti (boiled taralli), that is taralli which, a bit like bagels, have been dipped in boiling water to make their outside shiny. These can be plain, sweet (sugar frosted), or flavoured (fennel seeds, pepper and so on). They're mostly dry and crunchy, great as a snack with a glass of wine. The taralli I'm talking about are a bit different. They are the typical Neapolitan ones: Taralli sugna e pepe (lard and pepper taralli).
- These taralli are not boiled like most of those found in the rest of the south and are more flaky than crunchy. That's easily explained by looking at their name: the dough, apart from a good dose of ground pepper (and very often whole almonds) contains a noticeable amount of lard.
Although they're also eaten at home as snack or bread substitute their real place is as street food. No seaside stroll in Naples would be complete without a tarallo bought from one of the kiosks between Castel dell'ovo and the Mergellina harbour. That said I have to admit that the best taralli in Napes are to be found somewhere else: from one of the Leopoldo bakeries. Their taralli are still made by hand (except for the dough portioning) following a traditional recipe.
Taralli themselves are not too hard to make. Since we often get a little packet with taralli from my parents I never tried baking them myself. The recipe itself is actually quite easy.
500 g. (1.1 lb) bread flour
150 g. (5.3 oz) lard
150 g. (5.3 oz) whole almonds, slightly toasted
abundant ground pepper (enough to get a marked pepper taste in the dough without being too hot, 2-3 tsp.)
1 tsp salt
20 g. (0.7 oz) fresh yeast
First make a sponge with 100 g. flour, the yeast and some water (enough for a soft, moist dough). After 30 minutes mix it with the rest of the flour, lard, peer, salt and eventually enough water to get a soft but non-sticky dough which you will knead till shiny and smooth and which will rise till doubled, ca. 2-3 hours. The taralli are then shaped: for each ring two dough "sticks", 18-20 cm (7-8 in) long and as thick as your little finger, are rolled together to form a "rope" which is then closed into a ring shape. Each ring is then decorated by pressing 4-5 almonds in the dough at spaced intervals. Once all the rings are formed they should rise another hour and then be baked at 180C (350F) till golden brown. Some bakers add the almonds directly to the dough. It makes the dough a bit harder to knead and to shape but has the advantage that the almonds, as often happens, won't fall of the taralli once they're baked and cooled.
Now excuse me I've got to go munch that last piece of tarallo I hid in the cupboard...