Fennel seed Taralli (Italian olive oil crackers)
Crisp, biscuit-like Italian crackers, taralli taste best baked until dry and golden-brown: the toastiness brings out and complements the flavors of the spices and fruity olive oil. Baking them atop a drying rack helps ensure an even browning all around, but if you don’t have one, dry the taralli briefly on clean kitchen towel and bake them on a parchment-lined sheet. You can omit the fennel seed and replace with 1 ¼ tsp. coarsely ground black pepper if desired, or leave the dough plain.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup bread flour
2 1⁄4 tsp. Kosher salt, plus more for simmering
1 cup white wine
1⁄2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 1⁄2 tsp. fennel seed, toasted and cooled if desired
1. Place a large drying rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet; set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, add the flours and salt and stir briefly with a fork to combine. Add the wine and oil and mix with a fork until a crumbly dough begins to form.
3. Turn the mixture out onto a clean work surface and knead into a ball (mixture will be dry). Continue kneading until the dough feels moist and springy, about 5 minutes. Add the fennel seed and knead briefly to distribute, 1-2 minutes more. Drape the dough with a towel and set in a bowl to rest for 30 minutes.
4. Using a sharp paring knife, cut a very small (about ¼ oz.) piece from the dough. Wet your fingertips very lightly in a small bowl of water, then roll the dough piece into a thin snake about 3-4 inches long (the water on your hands will help create a smooth shape; but do not overwet dough as it will prevent the taralli ends from sticking). Wrap the dough around your index finger and press together the ends to seal, twisting slightly like a twist-tie. Transfer back to the drying rack and repeat with the remaining dough until you have about 12-20 taralli.
5. Meanwhile, fill a medium saucepan with enough water to reach about 5 inches up the sides of the pot. Bring to a simmer, then season generously with salt; bring back to a simmer. Add the prepared taralli, then let cook, checking to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot, until the taralli naturally float to the top, 2-3 minutes. Carefully remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to the drying rack atop the baking sheet (you can place the taralli relatively close together; just check to be sure the prettier sides of the taralli are facing up). Let dry while you repeat steps 4 and 5 with the remaining dough and taralli.
6. Preheat the oven to 400°. Dry any remaining water from the baking sheet and bake (the rack should still be set in the baking sheet and the taralli should be atop the rack) until golden, 30-35 minutes.
7. Remove and let cool completely. Taralli will dry and crisp further while cooling. Store in an airtight container.