1 kg. (about 2 pounds) "00" flour (finest grade)
6 large eggs (1 more if needed)
200 gr (about 7 ounces) sugar
100 gr (about 3 1/2 ounces) olive oil
50 gr (about 1 2/3 ounces) cooking alcohol or Marsala wine*
Yield: about 1 1/2 dozen taralli
*Sherry is also a good alternative
o Beat eggs.
o Add oil to the eggs and mix well.
o Add Marsala wine.
o In a separate bowl mix the sugar and flour together.
o On a wooden board make a mound with the flour and sugar mixture.
o Make a well in the center of the mound and add the egg mixture.
o Work the mixture into a fine dough, adding a touch more flour if it is too sticky, or adding another egg if the dough is too hard.
o Knead the dough lightly (For some peculiar reason kneading is best done by hand for sweet taralli -- at least the first part should be done by hand, and then when one has a smooth dough one can put it in an electric mixer and continue kneading the dough until it is very smooth and "shiny.").
o Shape the dough into a log -- about 4 inches wide and 2 inches high.
o Wrap the log in plastic wrap. Place it in a container and cover it with a towel. Let the dough rest for about an hour at room temperature.
o Remove the dough from the container, and on a wooden board cut a slice of the log (about 1/2 inch thick) and turn it into a 9 inch rope long and 3/4 inch thick (Do this by rolling the dough between the palms of your hands or by rolling it on the floured wooden board.).
o Shape the 9 inch rope into a circle (or a half bow) and pinch the ends together.
o Continue making the taralli until all the dough is processed.
o Bring a large pot of water to boil.
o Place two or three taralli at a time in the pot of boiling water.
o Remove the taralli from the boiling water as soon as they rise to the surface (Usually takes less than one minute) and place them on a large baking sheet.
o Continue until all the taralli are boiled.
o Remove the boiled taralli from the large baking sheet that was used and place them on a dry one, making sure there is no excess water.
o Let the boiled sweet taralli air-dry for about an hour (or leave them overnight as was done in days of old!).
o After the sweet taralli have been air-dried, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
o Bake in a greased baking sheet (or one lined with a silicon baking mat) for about 25 minutes or until the taralli are golden brown (Unlike "plain" or "salty" taralli these sweet taralli should not be over-cooked as they'll get too dry; while "plain" or "salty" taralli are best a "bit" over-cooked, sweet taralli don't necessarily have to be crunchy for them to be tasty.)
o Cool before removing the taralli from baking sheet.
o Serve at room temperature.
Apparently, the Italian version of this recipe represents the traditional way of doing taralli di Pasqua in Puglia. The recipe comes up in a number of Italian web sites. Prior to World War II people in Puglia brought their taralli to a communal wood-burning oven to cook in, so they made their taralli the night before, boiled them in a cauldron on the hearth, and only in the morning had them baked. Many in Puglia still do this -- not because they don't have ovens nowadays (They do!) but because many individuals prefer wood-burning ovens (Pizza tastes best cooked in a wood-burning oven, so do I suppose taralli). Also, it seems that prior to World War II people in Puglia only included eggs in their taralli dough during the Easter holidays (As everyone knows eggs are a symbol of fertility and rebirth and so are often present in Easter feast day dishes etc.). However, while those in Puglia made egg-based taralli only for Easter, this was not necessarily the case in other regions of Italy. In Molise taralli were made (and are still made to this day) with loads of eggs, year round. For the Easter holidays those in Molise use their eggs for cakes and cookies. In fact, like in many other areas of Italy, a number of Molisani holiday sweets display hard-boiled eggs which are beautifully decorated. In North America Puglia-style taralli (sweet and/or salty) are very popular. Many recipes have been adapted from Puglia to suit North American tastes. I tried my hand at making the traditional recipe, but I was unable to find cooking alcohol as is called for in this recipe. So I substituted Marsala wine (This is often used to make sweet taralli). In fact, of all the sweet taralli recipes I have made to date, the taralli made with this recipe come closest to what is presently being sold as "sweet taralli" in many of Montreal's Italian pastry shops. I doubt Montreal's pastry shop chefs (who refuse to divulge their secret taralli recipes) use Marsala wine, but whatever they use it comes close.... Photo: by the contributor.