Grissini are crisp and crunchy breadsticks which are supposed to have origins in the Italian city of Turin during the 17th century. There are many stories about this but the most popular story attributes the invention to one Antonio Brunero who was the court baker to Carlo Emanuele II, the then Duke of Savoy.
Apparently, the Duke’s son, Vittorio Amadeo di Savoia, was unwell and not able to digest food very well. So the Duke summoned his baker and asked him to make a light, crisp, and easily digestible bread. The result was the “Ghersino” which was a smaller version of the “Ghersa” which was a long, thin Torinese bread. The ghersino soon became Grissini, and the two most popular types today are the Grissini Stirato (straight grissini) and the Grissini Rubata (hand rolled grissini).
There are now many variations to the original recipe and Grissini can be very crisp or a bit soft like bread and be flavoured with a variety of seasoning including sesame seeds, cumin seeds, herbs, pepper, cheese or even caramelized onions. The original Torinese Grissini however is handmade, thicker and longer with a texture that is more like bread.
Grissini are an intrinsic part of Italian meals and served as appetizers, with wine, or soup or as a snack.
There seem to be different ways of shaping these bread sticks. One is to pinch off small bits of the dough and roll them out into thin ropes. The other way is to cut the dough into slightly thicker strips which are stretched out a bit to make them thinner. Otherwise the dough can be rolled a little thinner and then cut into narrow strips which are baked as they are without further shaping. To give the breadsticks an uneven and rustic look they can be twisted slightly before baking.
All recipes for Grissini have flour, water (or milk), yeast, salt and a little bit of oil. All the other ingredients are variations depending on who is making them. So here is the recipe I put together with my own variations.
¾ cup warm milk
1 ¾ tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp olive oil
1 ¼ tsp salt
1 tsp mixed dried Italian herbs
freshly crushed black pepper
white and black sesame seeds
Add the sugar and yeast to the milk, mix and allow to prove.
Put the flours, olive oil, salt, and herbs in the food processor bowl. Add the yeast mixture and pulse a few times till a soft and elastic dough forms. Add more a milk (or water) if required. The dough can be kneaded by hand too.
Divide the dough into 2 and place in a well oiled bowl, coating both balls of dough. Cover and allow the dough to rise.
Remove one ball of dough and place on a lightly oiled surface. Roll out into a thin rectangle (as thin as you can comfortably roll out; the thinner the better). Alternatively, to make rolling out the dough easier, you can divide the ball of dough into two again and then roll out each into a small rectangle about 9” to 10” by 5” to 6”. This is what I did.
Lightly dampen the top of the rectangle with water and sprinkle with crushed black pepper and seeds of your choice. Lightly run the rolling pin over the dough rectangle to push the seeds into the dough. If you use egg, brush the grissini with lightly beaten egg and then sprinkle the seeds/ herbs on as this will ensure they stick to the grissini.
Using a pizza cutter cut the dough lengthwise into strips which are one third an inch wide. Place the strips on a greased sheet and allow them to slightly puff up (about 10 to 15 minutes). If you would like to you can slightly twist each strip before placing on the grease sheet. This makes prettier looking grissini/ breadsticks.
Bake the grissini at 210C for about 15 minutes till they are nice and golden brown in colour. Cool on a rack. Store the grissini an in airtight container. This recipe gave me about 3 dozen 9” long grissini.
Serve with soup or a dip or eat them just as they are. For me they are the perfect evening snack to satisfy my cravings for savoury and crunchy food without the calories!
My Grissini are on their way to feature in Susan’s YeastSpotting at Wild Yeast.