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Sicilian lemon taralli

Fragrant biscuits, small crown shaped and glazed with lemony icing sugar. I tell you, they raise the dead!

ingredients for 20 pieces (total cost about 4,5 € with organic ingredients)

For the frolla dough

  • 250 g pastry flour
  • 50 g butter
  • 65 g superfine sugar
  • zest from 1/2 organic lemon
  • 1 egg (50 g)
  • 60 ml milk
  • 4 g baking powder
  • 2 g ammonia
  • a pinch of salt
  • 15 ml lemon juice

for the glaze

  • 150 g icing sugar
  • 10 ml water (or milk)
  • 20 ml lemon juice
  • lemon zest from ½ organic lemon
  • 10 g finely grated pistachio and 5 g poppy seeds

I wonder, how come the Italians make so many sweets for the Feast of the Dead on November 2. And how it is possible that they are all so absolutely delicious!! Lemon taralli – another Sicilian jewel – is one of those preparations, and they are, indeed my favourite!

Most Italian biscuits are based on the frolla dough, with little adjustments and alterations according to each kind of biscuit. In the case of Sicilian Taralli, as you may notice, we use less butter and more milk. We also use a rather big amount of ammonia, which provides them with a characteristic softness and crumbliness at the same time. In order for the ammonia to evaporate completely during cooking and to ensure that its unpleasant aftertaste will vanish, we need to bake these biscuits in a rather hot oven – 200 o C on static function, or 180 C degrees on fan function.

So, to prepare them, we begin by mixing the sugar with the lemon zest and set it aside to let the sugar absorb zest´s essential oils. We sieve the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and we add the butter, already softened and cut into small dice. We mix at medium-low speed, until a resembling small bread crumbs mixture is obtained. We add the sugar-zest mixture and we continue mixing to fully incorporate. We also add the egg, salt, ammonia, baking powder and lemon juice and we continue mixing, until all ingredients are well blended. Finally, we pour in the milk little by little and we continue mixing, until the dough comes together.

If you don’t have or don’t wish to use a stand mixer, you can sieve the flour in a wide mixing bowl, mix it with the sugar-zest mixture, add the butter in dice and rub between your hands until bread-like crumbles form, then add the rest of the ingredients (except for the milk) and blend with your hands to combine. Finally, pour in the milk little by little and work the dough, until fully absorbed.

We transfer to a floured working surface and start kneading with our hands, until we obtain an homogeneous soft and pliable dough. To form the taralli we divide the dough in 40 equal parts (about 12 g each – the total weight of the dough should be a little less than 500 g) and roll them briefly between our palms to form small balls. We roll each ball to about 15-20 cm long sausages. We then twist together pairs of sausages and we form a bun, joining the two ends.

We arrange the shaped taralli on a baking tray covered with double parchment paper, leaving a reasonable space between them, in order to allow them to puff and spread. A silicon baking mat (silpat) works even better compared to parchment, because it protects the taralli bottoms from browning too much due to the high heat of the oven.

We bake in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until well browned and settled. Be sure not to undercook them, because if so, the ammonia will not evaporate, as we already mentioned.

We remove the biscuits from the oven and transfer them on a wire rack to cool a bit. We lower the temperature of the oven to 130 o C (110 o for fan function).

While the biscuits are cooling, we prepare the glaze, by sifting the icing sugar in a bowl and adding the water (or milk) and lemon juice little by little, while stirring with a whisk, until well combined. We add the lemon zest and we stir to incorporate. We should get a whitish thick, yet still pourable liquid.

As soon as the glaze is ready, we take each biscuit (which must be completely cool) and we deep its top side into the glaze. We place it on a wire rack (so that the icing can drip) over a baking tray. We should work very rapidly because the glaze will harden very quickly, and then it will be unspreadable. Once we have deepened all the taralli, we generously sprinkle them with finely grated pistachio or poppy seeds.

We return the glazed biscuits to the oven for another 4-5 minutes, so that the glaze dries and settles, we then remove them and let them cool completely on a wire rack. If we have used milk for the glaze, you ‘d better store the biscuits in the fridge.


Published in DESSERTS