These crunchy, savory biscuits, which are simmered in boiling water, then baked, are sometimes called “Italian pretzels.’’ Antonia Sellitto uses Brioschi, a fizzy Italian antacid whose primary ingredient is sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), to lighten the dough; it’s sold at some supermarkets and specialty stores, and at
|1/4||cup olive oil|
|About 7 cups flour, sifted|
|1||teaspoon vanilla extract|
In an electric mixer, beat the eggs and oil until smooth. Beat in the salt, sugar, and Brioschi. Continue to beat at medium speed for about 5 minutes.
Gradually add 4 cups of the flour, continuing to beat the mixture. Add the vanilla and beat well. The dough will be sticky.
Spread the remaining 3 cups of flour on a work surface, making a circle of flour about 15 inches in diameter. Make a wide, shallow well in the middle and turn the wet dough out into it. With a large spoon, draw the flour into the dough, going around the perimeter of the flour circle and kneading in the flour with your hands as you do. When all the flour is incorporated, you will have a stiff, firm dough.
With your hands, knead the dough vigorously and thoroughly for at least 10 minutes (the longer the better); eventually, the dough will become elastic and smooth. When sliced, it will have visible air bubbles inside.
Set the oven at 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Slice the dough into 12 pieces. With your hands, roll each into a thick snake about 9 inches long. Join each snake’s ends (overlap them slightly) to form a ring, pinching the ends to make a tight seal. Place 4 rings in the boiling water; they will sink to the bottom. When they rise to the surface, add 4 more dough rings to the pot. Remove the first batch of rings from the boiling water 2 to 3 minutes after they’ve surfaced, and wrap them in a dish towel to keep them warm. Repeat this process until all the dough rings are boiled.
While the rings are warm, score the outside of each ring (as if you were going to slice it like a bagel, but without slicing it through) around the entire periphery.
Place the rings in the oven directly on the oven racks. Bake the taralli for 35 to 40 minutes, until they are a deep golden brown and very dry and crisp.
Adapted from Antonia Sellitto