One of the best snacks any Italian can have around the house are taralli, a crispy bread stick. At the store you’ll usually find them in small circles flavoured with hot peppers, sun-dried tomatoes or fennel. My Calabrese side makes them much longer, in loops you need to snap in half, and using black anice seeds from Italy. This is a large recipe, if you are going to make taralli, you might as well make a lot, but if you decide to halve the recipe, use 2 eggs instead of 3. A word of warning: these are addictive.
20 cups of flour
4 tbsp salt
1 heaping tbsp Crisco shortening
3/4 cup oil
4 1/2 cups water
1 tsp anice seeds
Preparing the yeast:
4 tsp “ready” yeast
1 cup hot water
2 tsp sugar
mix all together and let sit until it rises
Stir together flour, salt and anice seeds. Add eggs, Crisco and oil in with the yeast mixture. Put both these mixtures together into a mixer bowl, using a stand mixer with a dough hook. Add water and start the machine to knead the dough. Allow the mixer to run for five to ten minutes. Ensure the dough is more to the tough/hard consistency rather than soft. Add extra flour and continue to mix as necessary to get the right consistency.
Once the dough is kneaded, empty the entire bowl as one big ball onto a large cutting board or counter. Cut the big ball into smaller pieces and roll into smaller balls. Set aside and cover with a dry tea towel as you make each ball. Take each ball at time and cut it into smaller pieces, about an inch thick, to create single breadsticks. Cover the entire batch with a wet tea towel.
Take one pieces at a time and roll into a long thing breadsticks, pinching the ends together to form a loop.
Lay these breadsticks on a tablecloth or towel-covered tray. Cover with another tablecloth so that they can rise a little. Put a large pot of water to boil.
Once you notice that the breadsticks have risen a little, take 2-3 at a time and place into the boiling water. When they boil for about 1-2 minutes, and have risen to the top of the water, remove them from the water and place them back onto the tablecloth or towel to dry for a couple of minutes.
When enough breadsticks have been boiled, place them in rows on an oven rack which has been previously sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake at 300 degrees until golden brown, turning over once.
Once they are golden brown, remove the breadsticks carefully into a large basket until they are all baked. If you want crispier breadsticks, place them all back in the oven, piling them up onto each other on the racks and at low heat, about 150 degrees, bake for about 1 hour. Once cooled, snack until your heart’s content (and fight off friends, family and roommates.) They are awesome with cheese, sopprasatta and a glass of wine or dipped into peanut butter or Nutella. To save yourself from gorging you can also place them in zipped bags and freeze.
UPDATE: My mom reminds me that besides being a great snack taralli, used frozen, are also used as an ideal soother/teether for babies. It cools the gums and they get a little bread as they defrost. Used by Italian moms and nonni everywhere!