I came across this modern recipe in Bugialli’s Italy, by Giuliano Bugialli and thought I recognized it. I should, I have seen the same item under a variety of different names in Renaissance Italian recipe collections. Here is what he has to say about Taralli:
There are many different versions of taralli, varying with the region. Taralli may be savory, that is seasoned with black pepper, hot red pepper, fennel seeds or anise seeds, or sweet, glazed with confectioners’ sugar, among other possibilities. They are most often associated with Puglia in the south, but this sweet version comes from Marche in Central Italy.What is most interesting is that each recipe is similar and yet just a shade different. The modern recipe from Puglia uses wine and oil to blend the flour. The recipe from the Libro di Cucina uses eggs only, the ones from Scappi and the Libro Novo use eggs rosewater and goat milk. The only recipe which calls for time for the bagels to rise is the one from the Libro Novo, however it does not call for the use of leaven. Now it looks like a little experiment in cooking is in order. Just to find out how they all taste if one follows the recipe.
Both the ring shape and the unique method of cooking taralli (boiling them first, then baking them) finds parallels in the bagel, so popular now in the United States, probably brought there from Poland. Did these two pastries arise independently, or where taralli brought to Poland with the well documented importation of Italian art, music and cooking during the fourteenth century?
I make taralli by the simpler method; the more complicated method, which I have observed in Puglia, is to drip a small ball of dough in the boiling water and to use the handle of a wooden spoon to pinch it , and with a rotating motion, while the dough is still in the water to give it the shape of a ring.
From Giuliano Bugialli “Bugialli’s Italy”
1 pound unbleached all purpose flour Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons granulated sugar Coarse-grained salt for boiling
1/2 cup dry white wine TO FINISH
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Place the flour on a large pastry board, form it into a mound, and make a well in the center of it. Place the sugar, wine, olive oil, and pinch of salt in the well and start mixing them together. Start incorporating the flour from the edges of the well a little at a time until a very soft dough forms. Wrap the dough in a dampened cotton kitchen towel and refrigerate for half an hour .
Bring a casserole with cold water to a boil over medium heat; add a little coarse salt. Unwrap the dough and add a little more flour if too sticky. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Form small rings of dough by rolling 2 heaping tablespoons into a rope and closing the edges. Or form the 2 heaping tablespoons into a ball and then with your finger make a hole in the center. Carefully place them in the boiling water and cook for less than 1 minute. Use a skimmer to transfer the parboiled taralli to a wet kitchen towel. When all the rings have been parboiled, very lightly oil cookie-sheets and arrange the taralli on them. Bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the granulated sugar over the taralli and bake until lightly golden and rather dry, about another 20 minutes.
Here is a similar recipe from Scappi under another name:
CXLVIII Per fare Ciambelloni con ova, & latte
Impastinsi libre tre di fior di farina con otto ova fresche sbattute, et sei oncie di zuccaro, & tre oncie d’acqua rosa, & il restante latte di capra tiepido con un poco di sale, & facciasi la pasta, che non sia troppo soda, ma sia ben menata, & faccinsi i ciambelloni di quattro oncie l’uno, & ponghisino in una caldara d’acqua che bolla, & lascisino stare fino a tanto che venghino a galla, poi cavisino, & lascisino raffreddare, & asciugare, & faccisino cuocere in forno su la carta, o sul suolo che sia ben netto, & cotte che saranno, servisino calde, & fredde a beneplacito; si puo mettere con esso finocchio dolce secco, o anici.
CXLVIII To make little rings with eggs and milk
Paste three pounds of fine flour with eight fresh well beaten eggs, six ounces of sugar, three ounces of rosewater, and the rest of warm goat milk with a little salt. Make a dough which is not too hard, but has been kneaded well. Make little rings of four ounces each and put them into a casserole with boiling water, and leave them there until they become yellow. Take them out and let them cool and dry, and then put them to bake in the oven on a card or on a sheet which has been well cleaned. When they are cooked serve them hot or cold as you please. You can also add to these dry sweet fennel or anice seeds.
From the Libro Novo of Messisbugo (translation by Master Basillius)
Bagels of Milk and Sugar
To make fifty bagels of four ounces each you will take fifteen pounds of the best flour, three ounces of rose water, three pounds of milk, two pounds of white sugar, twenty-five eggs, four ounces of butter, and you will knead these things together very well.
Then you will make your bagels according to the method you want to use, and then you will let rise with careful attention, and after it has risen you will boil your water, and then you will place inside the above mentioned bagels to cook, and when they come to the top you will take out, and then you will put in fresh water, and when you have removed them from within (the water) you will put them to cook in the oven, and if you want to put inside anise, it is a good deed.
Work done in 2004 and finally webbed in 2007. As with all my other
work and translations copyright remains with me but I grant free use for
scholarly and non-profit use provided that I am given credit.