Last spring I attended the 32nd annual IACP conference that took place in Portland, Oregon – whew, was it really that long ago already?
I knew that my life has been busy, but it really hits home when I think of these taralli. During the conference, I came across a booth set up by the California Walnut Board, where Portland chef Greg Higgins was generously handing out tastes of these crunchy little snacks. He was also generous about sharing the recipe, but I haven’t gotten around to making them until now.
I saw their appeal right away – they were an updated version of a savory Southern Italian biscuit I grew up eating, only these were made with walnuts and had a definite West coast sophistication.
Greg had them arranged on a tray, adorned with a rosette of roasted garlic chevre and tiny little basil leaves; seeing them made me rethink what I always saw as a humble snack that you took home in an olive-oil stained brown paper bag straight from the corner bakery.
But instead of being piled casually on a plate at my grandma’s house, these taralli looked like they were ready for a cocktail party in San Francisco.
Greg’s original recipe, including the delicious Roasted Garlic Chevre spread is on the California Walnut website, but my tweaked version is below. I substituted some whole wheat flour for half the amount of all-purpose and added fennel seeds, which gives the taralli a flavor that reminds me of home.
4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups stoneground whole wheat flour
1 cup finely ground toasted walnuts* (grind in food processor)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds
2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing on taralli
- Using the kneading attachment, stir together the yeast, flours, walnuts, salt and fennel seeds.
- Add 1 cup of the water and mix at medium-high speed until the dough starts to come together. Slowly add more water as necessary (turning down the mixer speed as you do so) until you have a smooth, moist dough. It shouldn't be too wet or sticky, so keep your eyes peeled. Depending on the humidity and your flour, you might need a bit less water.
- Put the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover and let stand until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 3 or 4 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Punch the dough to deflate and turn it out onto a sparingly floured surface. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.
- Working with one piece at a time, cut each into balls about the size of a walnut. Roll and stretch each ball using your palms into ropes about 6 " long. Bring the ends of the rope together to make a ring, tucking one end inside the other and pinching together.
- Arrange the rings on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between. Brush the rings with oil and bake until golden and firm, about 30 minutes.
- Remove to a rack and cool. The taralli will crisp up more as they cool. Store at room temperature in covered container.
You could mix this up in large bowl and knead by hand, but I used my Kitchen Aid Mixer.