Taralli are the ultimate southern Italian Easter pastry; they come in at least a dozen different varieties, sweet and savory, large and small, made with olive oil or lard (butter for the sweet ones today), leavened with yeast, baking powder, or just eggs. Yeast-risen taralli are boiled before baking like bagels, then baked on racks so they become shatteringly crisp. The ones here are a particular favorite of mine, based on a recipe shared by Marie Ciampi about 15 years ago. I used it in my book, Cookies Unlimited, and make them every Easter.
TARALLI DOLCI DI PASQUA
Makes 16 large taralli
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 cup sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners' sugar
4 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon lemon juice or anisette
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Multi-colored nonpareils, optional
2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans covered with parchment paper
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set racks in upper and lower thirds.
2. For the dough, combine the flour and baking powder, stirring well to mix.
3. Whisk the eggs in a bowl, then whisk in all the remaining ingredients in order. Fold in the flour mixture.
4. Turn dough out on a floured surface and knead lightly to mix. Separate into 16 equal pieces. Roll each to an 8-inch rope, then press the ends together to make a circle. Place 8 on each pan.
5. Bake the taralli until well risen, firm, and golden, about 30 minutes. Cool on racks.
6. For the icing, combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat gently until lukewarm. Brush over the tops of the cooled cookies. Sprinkle with multi-colored nonpareils, if desired.
NOTE: You can make the taralli smaller if you like; just divide each piece in half again to make 32.