Taralli dolci

Taralli dolci, or “Nana’s Cookies”

In Campania, dessert, snack by Frank Fariello19 Comments

This is a recipe near and dear to my heart. It was one of Angelina’s signature dishes. When I was a kid, our family called these “Nana’s Cookies”, and I really thought that only my nana made them. Well, just as I found out that the honey balls Angelina made for Christmas were  actually called struffoli, it turns out that these ring-shaped cookies are a typical Campanian delicacy called taralli dolci, or sweet taralli. (The better known taralli are savories typical of Puglia, made with fennel seed or cracked black pepper.) These cookies, without the anisette or lemon zest flavorings, are called ciambelline biscottate in other parts of Italy.

Taralli dolci are typically eaten at breakfast with your morning coffee, or for a sweet mid-afternoon snack. They also go well with sweet wine, as a light dessert. In either case, they are perfect for dipping into your beverage.

These cookies are quite easy to make, especially if you have a standing mixer, taking no more than an hour from start to finish. They last a good week in a glass or metal container, so you can make them over the weekend and enjoy them with your morning coffee for the rest of the week—assuming, that is, you can pace yourself…

Ingredients

Makes approximately 24 cookies

Dry ingredients:

  • 300g/10 oz flour
  • 100g/3-1/2 oz sugar
  • 4g/3/8 tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • 175ml/3/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • Anisette, sambuca or other liqueur (optional)

Directions

Put all the dry ingredients into the bowl of a standing mixer and blend them together with the paddle attachment on slow speed. Add the wet ingredients and mix again until all of the ingredients are well incorporated and have formed a dough.

Transfer the dough to a countertop or pastry board. Bring the dough together into a ball and knead it gently for a few moments. Grease the countertop with a bit of oil if you find the dough is sticking. Now take a handful of the dough and roll it between your hands to form a smaller ball. Roll the ball back and forth with your two hands until the ball forms a ‘cord’ of dough about the thickness of your middle finger, as if you were going to make gnocchi.

Take a four inch length of the cord and tie it around to form a ring, gently nudging the two ends together. Now place the ring-shaped cookie onto a cookie sheet.

Repeat until you have used up all the dough, making sure that the cookies are well spaced on the cookie sheet, since they will expand as they bake.

Place the cookies in a moderate oven (180C/350F) on convection bake for about 20 minutes or so, until nice and golden brown. Let the cookies cool on a baking rack before eating.

Notes

Angelina always made these cookies ‘plain’,  just like this, but if you like, you can brush the cookies just before baking with an egg wash (beaten egg thinned out with a bit of water or milk) to give them an attractive sheen. It is also common to top taralli dolci after baking with frosting made with confectioner’s sugar melted in water.

Many modern recipes call for butter rather than oil. If you want to try them this way, use 100g (about one stick) of butter, added to the dry ingredients before the wet ones, and mix it with the dough until the flour has obtained the texture of sand. Then add the rest of the wet ingredients (minus the oil, of course) and proceed in the same way. The butter gives the cookies a slightly sweeter flavor and are quite nice, if not quite the flavor I remember as a child.

The liqueur is, as mentioned, optional, but it really does add an extra something. The cookies just don’t taste quite right to me without it. Some cooks also like to add a few drops of vanilla extract, but I would not add both at the same time—that would be just too much going on.

It should be obvious, but although the ring shape is traditional, you can choose to make these cookies in any shape you like.

Post scriptum

And now a very special treat:

Many years ago my Dad recorded a video of Angelina making these cookies in our kitchen. She is doing it the old fashioned way, making a ‘fountain’ with the dry ingredients and incorporating the wet ingredients by hand. You will also see that she made her cookies two ways, the ring-shaped kind explained above and in ‘twists’.

Click here to enjoy the only video of the master at work, making taralli dolci, her signature cookies!

Taralli dolci, or “Nana’s Cookies”

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 60 minutes

Yield: Makes 24 cookies

Taralli dolci, or “Nana’s Cookies”

Ingredients

    Dry ingredients:
  • 300g/10 oz flour
  • 100g/3-1/2 oz sugar
  • 4g/3/8 tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • Wet ingredients:
  • 3 eggs
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • 175ml/3/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • Anisette, sambuca or other liqueur (optional)

Directions

  1. Put all the dry ingredients into the bowl of a standing mixer and blend them together with the paddle attachment on slow speed. Add the wet ingredients and mix again until all of the ingredients are well incorporated and have formed a dough.
  2. Transfer the dough to a countertop or pastry board. Bring the dough together into a ball and knead it gently for a few moments. Grease the countertop with a bit of oil if you find the dough is sticking. Now take a handful of the dough and roll it between your hands to form a smaller ball. Roll the ball back and forth with your two hands until the ball forms a 'cord' of dough about the thickness of your middle finger, as if you were going to make gnocchi.
  3. Take a four inch length of the cord and tie it around to form a ring, gently nudging the two ends together. Now place the ring-shaped cookie onto a cookie sheet.
  4. Repeat until you have used up all the dough, making sure that the cookies are well spaced on the cookie sheet, since they will expand as they bake.
  5. Place the cookies in a moderate oven (180C/350F) on convection bake for about 20 minutes or so, until nice and golden brown. Let the cookies cool on a baking rack before eating.
http://memoriediangelina.com/2013/07/28/taralli-dolci-or-nanas-cookies/
Frank FarielloTaralli dolci, or “Nana’s Cookies”

Comments

  1. Nicole

    Hi. I’m hoping you can help me. I’m trying to make these for Easter this year. From what I understand, they are suppose to be equally chewy and crunchy, much like a pretzel, correct? In the photo they look like an actual cookie, is this a different Taralli then I am looking for? Thanks!

    1. Author
      Frank

      These are actually fairly crunchy/crumbly (meant to be dunk in coffee) rather than chewy. Among southern Italian cookies with a more chewy texture are those made with marzipan and pinoli nuts. Not aware of taralli with that texture, but the variety of Italian cookery is so vast…

  2. rosa

    Franco, me lo avevo immaginato che tu fossi Napoletano…..tua nonna e nata in Apice, io sono nata in Avellino…..LOL.. I remember making strufoli with my nonna in Italy and this
    past Christmas I made “Chiacchiere” che bei ricordi. I’m new to your blog, I just discovered it this evening, and I have a feeling this is the one site that I will check out daily. Mi devi
    scusare se ho fatto degli errori In “Italiano” ero bambina quando siamo emigrati in Canada.
    Auguroni ….. ciao Rosa

    1. Author
      Frank

      Hi, neighbor! Sorry for the late reply, it seems I only saw your message just now! Anyway, thanks for your comment. So happy to have you as a reader. F

  3. Andrea

    Hi Frank,

    some days ago I just casually found your blog and I have already read many posts.
    First of all I have to say two things:
    1. Thank you for all the things that you share with other people, like me.
    2. My sincere compliments for your very good knowledge of Italian couisine (I’m from Naples and, like you, a passionate chef)

    I’m not used to say such things often but you know “date a Cesare quel che é di Cesare”…

    Anyway… back to Nana’s cookies, I have a question. I tried to do them yesterday and I’m quite satisfied with the result (the flavour is really like the home made cookies of my childhood).
    The question is: in the video it seems that the dough need some kneading, is it right?
    I was somehow reluctant to knead it too much since it would probably make the final consistency more gummy (due to gluten), so I added a bit more flour.
    Just to know, how do you proceed? Kneading or not?
    And another final question: do you let them become hard in the oven (biscottare) or let them a bit soft?
    Thank you again

    PS: sorry for my bad English

    1. Frank Fariello

      Dear Andrea,

      First of all, your English is perfect! And thanks so much for your kind words. The video does show some (brief) kneading, but I would do just enough to form a consistent dough, no more, for the reasons you say. As for letting them harden, yes. Not ‘rock hard’ but quite firm. They should certainly not be soft. In our family we always used them to dunk in coffee, and a soft coffee would just fall apart!

      Thanks again for your comment!

      Frank

  4. Simona

    Nice recipe and great video. I agree with the anisetta: where it is used, it gives a special flavor that cannot really be replaced.

  5. Adri

    What a wonderful article, and the video is a treasure. It tugged at my heartstrings, so I can only imagine what it means to you. Frank, you do us all a great favor by keeping to tradition and sharing it with the rest of us. Your site is a vast compendium of “the old ways.” Your respect for what came before shines through and is a lesson for us all. Never change, amico. Never change

  6. duespaghetti

    Starting with a family recipe and then discovering its name(s) and history within Italian cuisine is a delightful experience! The video is just priceless. At Stefano’s mom’s house, breakfast offerings are also much more likely to be simple and homemade rather than store-bought, processed and package.

  7. Chiara

    qualunque nome abbiano le trovo deliziose inzuppate nel cappuccino o nella cioccolata ! Buona settimana Frank, un abbraccio !

  8. ciaochowlinda

    Sometimes simple is the best. I’m so pleased to have watched that video. What a treasure for you to have this and to have shared it with your readers. She really had a great technique. I can’t wait to try these cookies.

  9. Jody and Ken

    Had Puglian taralli during a trip last September–and loved them. Now I’m going to have to try the sweet version. Ken

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