Italian Taralli Cookies
A Closer Look at Italian Taralli Cookies
Italian taralli cookies are a great example of Italian baked goods. These crunchy, curly cookies can be sweet or savory. They can be plain or with fruit or nuts and they might also contain spices like fennel or anise. You can find Italian taralli cookies all over southern Italy but they are especially popular in Puglia where most Italian housewives enjoy making easy cookies recipes.
Traditionally, Italian taralli cookies contain extra virgin olive oil but the ingredients in these cookies vary from recipe to recipe. There are more than fifty million olive trees in the Puglia region and some of them date back an incredible seven thousand years. Four hundred million pints of extra virgin olive oil is produced in Puglia every year, so it makes sense to use it in your taralli recipes.
Tips for Tasty Taralli Recipes
The dough for taralli tends to be very wet but there is no need to worry about it. Simply use plenty of flour when you roll the dough into strips and the cookies will come out fine. You can use all-purpose flour in the recipe if that is what you have (and the results will be fine) but you might prefer to use 00 flour, which is often called pizza flour, for extra great results. You can get it from Italian specialty shops or Italian gourmet grocery stores.
You might like to prepare your taralli dough the night before making the cookies, so you can roll, boil, and bake them the following afternoon. Alternatively you might like to invite a few friends over and make them together. Taralli are not difficult to make but there is more time and work involved than with, for example, easy Mexican recipes for cakes or an easy chocolate chip cookie recipe.
What comes to mind when you see an Italian flag or think of Italy? A lot of people might think immediately of pizza which is, no doubt, one of Italy’s most popular recipes. Pasta recipes are also popular and most people have a favorite. Nevertheless, what about Italian desserts and Italian cookie recipes? These treats range from crispy cookies to soft, crumbly ones, flavored with all kinds of things from chocolate or vanilla to fennel seeds, hazelnuts, nutmeg and more. Italians love food and Italian bakers are proud of their traditional Italian cookie recipes. If you do not have an Italian grocery store nearby, Italian cookie recipes are easy to make yourself.
Italian Taralli Cookies and the Best Italian Desserts
How to Make Italian Taralli Cookies
Taralli cookies come in two varieties, although there are different recipes within those two categories. There are savory ones and sweet ones. The following recipe is for sweet Italian taralli cookies and it is very easy to make, even if you have never made any Italian recipes or any easy cookie recipes before.
These light-flavored cookies make an appearance in Italy on birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and Christmas because most Italians associate them with such events. Everyone has their own preferences as to what to eat on these occasions but taralli are really good and, if you have not had them before, you will be impressed with them for sure. You can frost them if you want to, using any frosting recipe to do this, and the best way to enjoy them is with your fingers.
If you enjoy this delicious Italian treat, you might be interested in learning some authentic Mexican recipes as well, since Mexican cuisine is not too different from Italian food. Both Mexican and Italian cuisine feature tomatoes and plenty of fresh vegetables. If you look at Mexican desserts, you might also find some things in common with Italian ones. Chocolate features heavily in both cuisines and so do spices. Nutmeg and cinnamon are often used in cookie and cake recipes.
- 6 eggs
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 6 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ cups white sugar
- 1 tablespoon anise flavoring (optional)
- 1 cup Crisco
- Juice and zest of 3 oranges
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Combine the sugar and Crisco.
- Add the eggs, orange juice, and orange zest. Add some anise flavoring if you like.
- Combine the mixture well, and then add the flour and baking powder.
- Roll the dough into strips, using your hands, and coil them or shape them into loops.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until done.
7 Famous Types of Italian Cookies
Amaretti – These little, dome-shaped macaroons are soft inside and crisp on the outside. The originated in Venice during the Renaissance and they are made with almond paste or ground almonds, along with egg whites and sugar.
Biscotti – These Italian cookies are long and curved. Traditional biscotti do not contain oil or butter. They have a crunchy, crisp texture and they come in different flavors, with almond biscotti, chocolate biscotti and vanilla biscotti being three examples.
Brutti ma Buoni – These are like meringue cookies with nuts. The inside is soft and chewy and the outside is crispy, making these Italian cookies a real pleasure to eat. The name of these cookies translates to mean "ugly but good" which is a fair description.
Butter Nut – Italian butter nut cookies are sometimes known as Mexican wedding cakes (they are not Mexican food though!), Swedish teacakes, snowdrops, sand tarts, or butterballs. These little round treats are sweet, soft, and usually coated in powdered sugar.
Pignole -This is a pine nut macaroon cookie. Pignole recipes are especially popular in the south of Italy.
Pizzelle – These Italian wafer cookies are Italian through and through, although many cultures have adapted the traditional recipe and given the resulting cookies a different name.
Taralli – These cookies come in sweet or savory varieties and they are usually ring-shaped. Taralli are served as snacks and some feature fennel seeds, ground nuts, vanilla, anise, or other exciting flavors.
Savory Italian Taralli Cookies Recipe
Fennel Taralli Recipe
Taralli come in varying shapes, sizes, and flavors in the south of Italy and the following recipe shows you how to make Neapolitan cookies. These are sometimes known as scaldetelli. Some Italian taralli cookies recipes are dunked in boiling water before you bake them. This is similar to how you would prepare bagels and this water bath stiffens the dough a bit and produces an attractive sheen.
Taralli are usually served as snacks, although they can be served after dinner too. Keep them in an airtight container when they have cooled down, if you have any left!
If you normally make your cookies following easy Mexican recipes, it might make a nice change to experiment with Italian flavors instead. Think of Italian taralli cookies as big, up market pretzels and you will be able to imagine the flavor a little.
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 envelope active dry yeast
- ¾ cup warm water
- 3 cups pizza flour or all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- Whisk the yeast into the warm water, then whisk in the oil.
- Combine everything else in a food processor bowl and pulse a few times.
- Add the liquid and pulse to make a coarse dough. Run the food processor for about 15 seconds to knead it.
- Turn the dough into an oiled bowl and make sure it is greased all over.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise for an hour at room temperature.
- Turn it on to a floured cutting board and divide it in half.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F with oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven.
- Roll each dough half into a 6 inch cylinder and cut each cylinder into 3 pieces.
- Roll the cylinders into 5 inch pieces and cut them into 1 inch pieces. You should end up with 30 pieces.
- Stretch each one into an 8 inch strand and join the ends together, to make 30 circles. Press the ends to seal.
- Arrange the taralli on floured, rimmed baking sheets without letting them touch each other.
- Fill a big pot ¾ full with water and bring it to a boil.
- Oil a pair of rectangular cooling racks.
- Working in batches, dip the taralli into the hot water and remove them with a skimmer when the float to the surface.
- Arrange them on the greased racks, an inch apart.
- Put the racks in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the racks from front to back and from bottom to top.
- Bake for another 15 minutes or until the taralli are crisp and golden brown.
- Let them cook on the racks, and then store them in an airtight container.
What Makes Italian Taralli Cookies Wonderfully Unique
One of the great things about taralli cookies is that there are so many variations. Perhaps the best ones are the authentic ones you will find in a bakery in Puglia, still warm from the oven, golden brown and crunchy, or maybe you have your own preferences.
Sweet Cookies and Savory Ones
You can make sweet Italian taralli cookies or savory ones. The sweet ones often contain cinnamon, vanilla, anise or nuts and the savory ones might also contain nuts, as well as spices.
Fennel seeds feature in some savory recipes for taralli and you can also sprinkle grated cheese over the dough before baking it. A light dusting of Gran Padano is sufficient to add plenty of flavor. Some gourmet recipes feature ingredients like basil and sun-dried tomatoes and you can experiment with your own flavors if you want to.
The Shape of Taralli Cookies
Another thing that makes Italian taralli cookies wonderfully unique is their shape. These cookies come in different shapes but the most common ones are rings or stretched rings. There is no reason for making them this shape – it is purely traditional. A lot of traditional Mexican recipes are made in certain shapes too, perhaps so you can identify them immediately.
Some cookies are always round and others are shaped like little balls. You can make different shapes if you like. Be creative with your own Italian taralli cookies recipes and you will always get interesting results.
The History of Italian Desserts
Chocolate is popular in Italian cookie recipes and some of the most famous ones include Baci, which is a dark chocolate "kiss: filled with hazelnut crème, and gianduiotto, which is hazelnuts, sugar, and cocoa.
Breads are believed to have been the first Italian desserts. Fruit or honey would have been used to make them sweet, since sugar was very expensive at the time. Panforte is an example of an Italian dessert recipe which has been around for a long time. Biscotti also dates back hundreds of years.
Italian Desserts with Sugar
As sugar became cheaper and affordable to more home cooks, a new range of Italian dessert recipes appeared. Tiramisu has been around since the 1500s and so have cheesecake and panna cotta. This old-fashioned cheesecake would have been made with ricotta rather than cream cheese, since cream cheese has only been around for about 100 years.
Italian ice is refreshing and popular. It is similar to a snow cone except Italian ice cream is frozen after the fruit juice is added to the water. Italian ice dates back to the time of Nero.
Chocolate used to be used for making drinks, instead of being eaten. You might already know this if you know about Mexican food history. Chocolate has been layered with cream and espresso in the Torino region of Italy since 1763. Today, chocolate is one of the most popular additions to Italian cookie recipes.
The history of the Italian desserts we love so much also reveals that torrone dates back to Roman times when it was used in religious ceremonies. This nougat confection is made with egg whites, nuts, and honey and it is popular all over the Mediterranean.
Health and Nutrition of Italian Taralli Cookies
Since there are different recipes for Italian taralli cookies, it goes without saying that the health and nutrition of them does vary, depending whether you are making sweet ones or savory ones and also depending which ingredients you use. Traditionally these cookies are made with extra virgin olive oil, although some recipes call for regular olive oil, butter, or even Crisco.
Olive oil is the only oil that can be consumed directly from the fruit it is extracted from. Olive oil contains high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids as well as antioxidants. This oil can protect against heart disease by lowering bad cholesterol whilst boosting good cholesterol. Olive oil is beneficial for sufferers of gastritis or ulcers because it is gentle on the stomach, activating bile secretions and pancreatic hormones.
The sugar and butter content in some Italian taralli cookies recipes might negatively impact the overall healthiness of them but not all foods can be healthy.
Comparing Taralli with Other Easy Cookie Recipes
There are plenty of easy cookie recipes which are much less nutritious than taralli and, if you look at other cuisines, you might find healthy cookie recipes and not-so-healthy ones. For example, Mexican cookies featuring cinnamon and chocolate have some health benefits (chocolate can actually be good for you!) but their sugar content might make them less beneficial in other ways.
The key here is moderation. Nothing is truly bad for you if you enjoy it in moderation and taralli are supposed to be enjoyed as a snack, after all, rather than as an entree or dessert, so just have one or two with your after-dinner cup of coffee and you can enjoy them without eating too many.
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