Mr. Chalmers and I made taralli last night to use as teething biscuits. I served them at a party once, and my friend Tara, from New Jersey, was so excited to see them—her mom, she said, had given them to her and her sisters to gnaw on because they're hard and crunchy, relatively crumbless, and the fennel seeds have a slight numbing effect. I looked up dozens of recipes for regular teething biscuits, and decided to go ahead and make real taralli instead, as most of the other biscuits were loaded with unhealthy stuff like sweeteners, and one used shortening—I figure the bug'll have enough sweet shortening-based foods when she's older, she sure as heck doesn't need them now. So here's the recipe, adapted from Michele Scicolone's quite excellent The Antipasto Table.
Taralli: In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup warm water and 1 tablespoon dry yeast. Stir in 3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (a bit more if using White Lily), some fennel seeds (recipe says 2 tablespoons, but I used half that because of the baby—?), 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil. I also added about 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal. Knead for 10 minutes, let rise till doubled, then cut dough into 4 dozen little pieces. Roll each piece into a thin rope, shape into a circle, and bake on lightly greased cookie sheets at 375°F. for 45 minutes, or until browned and crisp. Usually, instead of fennel I use lots and lots of cracked black pepper.
We started rolling these out late, so I just left them in for half an hour, then turned off the oven and went to bed. They were nice and hard the next morning. Next time I'll use part whole-wheat flour if I can remember to buy some, and will cut back on the salt (for the baby).
The bug loved the one I gave her, but this picture can't even begin to capture the mess that damn taralli made. I had to put her in the sink to wash her down, then change all her clothes. Teething biscuits will be a once-in-a-while thing for her, I think. Overall, though, I think it works well: they are very hard, they don't break apart until she's really soaked it through, and they don't disintegrate into crumbs like stale bread does.