Taralli are a symbol of Puglia, recognized all over the world. Here is their story and the original Apulian recipe
Next to orecchiette, panzerotti is buns, i taralli they are a symbol of Puglia, recognized all over the world. Bread substitute, created to take advantage of every grain of dough, taralli are also the recommended culinary pastime by the mayor of Lucera Antonio Tutolo to serenely spend the coronavirus emergency quarantine at home. Everything is born, once again, from the flour which turns into a sweet or savory snack according to the added ingredients.
Taralli, the origins
The origins of the name are shrouded in mystery. Some scholars think it comes from Latin torrere, which means to toast. Others trace the word back to the crisis between Italian tar and the franc danal, which indicated the rolled bread typical of the Alpine areas. The most accepted hypotheses lead back to the Greek word daratos, that is, kind of bread.
Historians of Apulian cuisine date the taralli recipe around 1400, a very hard period for the region, marred by a great famine. Legend has it that the first tarallo was kneaded by a mother who, to feed her children, put together flour, extra virgin olive oil, salt and white wine: the starter kit of every self-respecting Apulian pantry. From these ingredients he created a dough then flattened into two thin strips, to which he gave the shape of small rings. After a leavening, the passage in the oven sanctioned the success of the recipe that still makes Puglia famous worldwide.
Over time the recipe underwent major improvements. Before the passage in the oven, usually borne by the town's fire mouths, boiling was added, which made the tarallo even more crisp, thus giving life to the famous scaldatello. "I knowThey have not always been home-made, only from the end of the 1950s have they been produced by bakeries ", recalls Felice Giovine, an Apulian historian and creator of the Centro Studi Bari and the Academy of the Bari language. Spices such as fennel seeds were added to the ingredients. «Each area has its typical taralli, even if made with the same ingredients. They can be circular or have an eight-shape ".
Taralli, food of faith and devotion
As Matilde Serao documents in The Belly of Naples, the tarallo was born as a food for the people of the fondaci, poor people who supported themselves with these bread-making waste put in shape and baked in the oven. Between the end of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century taralli became a devotional food. The nuns of the convents produced them in quantity and jealously guarded the recipe.
«In Terra di Bari those of Palo were very famous, Giovine points out. Taralli were used by the ziazì (pilgrims) as sustenance during the long journey from Campania, Basilicata and Abruzzo to Bari. They arrived in Puglia in May to honor San Nicola. "They carried the mussel of San Giacomo around their necks as support for the long journey," explains Giovine.
The counters of the bakers and the shelves of supermarkets (in the South, but also in the North) today show off the Apulian taralli, also included among the traditional Italian agri-food products (P.A.I.). The variants they are wasted. From those to olives to those with onions, passing through pizza or chili pepper flavors. There is no shortage of burnt wheat and capocollo taralli. The sweet ones stand the test of time and continue to be widespread, both in the frosted version and covered in chocolate. The reason for the success of the taralli? Versatility. Taralli are perfect for an aperitif, to break that mid-morning pang or to accompany a platter of cold cuts and cheeses and a glass of wine (hence the famous saying, linked to generous glasses of Primitivo di Manduria, Nero di Troia and Negramaro).
The tarallo di vincotto
Among the sweet variants there are also i Black taralli with vincotto. These are also part of the traditional Italian agri-food products (P.A.I.) from Puglia. They are widespread in the province of Foggia and were used in the past to celebrate special occasions such as engagements and weddings. They are more or less circular in shape, with a diameter of between 15 and 20 centimeters, with a thickness of approximately 3 centimeters. These circles of sweet bread are dark brown tending to black due to the main ingredient: the grape vincotto, also used for cartellate (or, as they are called in this area of Puglia, Scarole). Once in the mouth, the bite meets a crumbly, fragrant and spicy paste, thanks to the use of cloves and cinnamon.
Tarallo is closely linked to religion, so as to give life to sayings still used today in the Apulian dialect. As Felice Giovine says, during the Good Friday processions behind the statues and processions there were the carts of vendors of dried fruit, lupines, pumpkin seeds, the so-called spassattìimbe. Along with them, there were also the sellers of large taralli covered with icing (in dialect, scelèppe). Latecomers approached these merchants asking where the procession went. In response, they said "Tarall'e zzucchère!", As if to say: "Buy a tarallo that I will give you information". As Giovine explains: "Since then if someone asks any information from a true Bari, he will answer" tarall'e zzucchere "".
How to make taralli at home
Marco Lattanzi of the Il Toscano Bakery (Three Loaves of Puglia in the Gambero Rosso Bread and Bakers of Italy guide) gives us the recipe for making durum wheat re-milled Taralli with fennel seeds at home.
1 kg of re-milled durum wheat semolina, 350 g of white wine («The better the wine, the better the taralli), 350 g of extra virgin olive oil, 20 g of salt, 25 g of fennel seeds wild (slightly chopped).
Pour salt, wine and oil and with a whisk create an emulsion. The more stable the emulsion, the more stable the mix will be. At this point put the flour and fennel seeds in the mix and mix everything until all the ingredients are incorporated to create a uniform mass. Leave the mass to rest for 5-10 minutes and begin to spread taking masses of tufts and creating rounded snakes with your fingers. The diameter must be about half a centimeter. They must not be too thick, otherwise they will not cook inside. Turning them with your fingers, the circle is formed, which we will then place on the pan. Once the taralli are formed, bring 3 liters of unsalted water to the boil. Dip the taralli – about 20 at a time – and when they start to rise to the surface, put them to dry on a tea towel. The longer they stay to dry, the better. After one night (or even 2-3 hours), when they are dry, they are placed in the oven at 200 degrees for a time ranging from 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the power of the oven, or until golden brown. They cool down and are then ready to be eaten.
Text by Stefania Leo
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