Tutto finisce a taralli e vino. It's an old Pugliese saying that means no matter what the argument, it can all be resolved over a glass of wine and a handful of taralli, little rings of semolina dough, sometimes flavored with fennel seeds, crushed red chiles, black peppercorns, or only with the olive oil that goes into them. You can serve them at any time - with a glass of wine or an aperitif before dinner, with coffee at breakfast, with a substantial salad at lunch, to hungry children looking for a snack between meals, whenever it seems suitable. This recipe was given to me by Paola Pettini.
What makes these delights special is that they are dipped in boiling water before going into the oven.
2 teaspoons dried yeast
1 cup dry white wine, warmed to about 100 deg F.
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups semolina flour
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, warmed to about 80 deg. F.
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fennel seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar; or 1 tablespoon crushed black peppercorns; or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, if desired
SCATTER the yeast over the warm wine and leave for several minutes, then stir to mix well. Put in a large bowl with all the other ingredients, adding seasoning if you wish. Use your hands to mix the ingredients well, then turn out onto an unfloured board and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Return to a clean, dry bowl, cover the dough with plastic wrap or a dampened towel, and let rise for 30 minutes or longer in a warm place.
DIVIDE the dough into small pieces. Take a piece and roll it with your hands on a work board into a long, slim pencil about the thickness of your little finger. Cut the pencil into lengths of about 4 inches and bring the two ends of each length together and join them to make a round doughnutlike shape. Continue until you have used up all the dough.
PREHEAT the oven to 375 deg. F. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and drop the taralli in, a few at a time. Have ready a folded kitchen towel. When the taralli rise to the surface, skim them out and drop on the towel to dry.
ARRANGE the boiled taralli on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown and crisp.