January 15, 2009

Grissini (Crisp Italian Breadsticks)

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

cumin seeds

nigella 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.


Asha said...

Beautiful little sticks for soups Aparna, good job. Glad you liked my Goan dishes, I was little nervous about unfamiliar dishes. They tasted very good though! :)

Uj said...

Nice sticks for soups Aparna.. They look crisp and perfect

Happy cook said...

I love these sticks with soups, only thing i can't stop eating them while having soup and then i am so filled that i don't eat my main dish.
So now a days i don't use them at often.
These looks so yumm.

Susan/Wild Yeast said...

Beautiful grissini! Always a hit at parties, I've found.

Bharti said...

Mm...crunchilious. They look great Aparna.

Smitha said...

looks so crunchy, must be a party favorite

Curry Leaf said...

Beautiful and perfect Aparna,Perfect as themselves or with soup.The info on their origin is very interesting.

Soma said...

Looks so perfect. My kids snack on sticks like these, & I have them even without soup.

arundati said...

fabulous breadsticks aparna... wow!

Ashwini Kenchanna said...

Perfect bread sticks. My daughters favourite snack.. Can have them any time for snack..

Joy said...

Wow, these look so good!

Vanamala said...

This is lovely...nice pic

anudivya said...

How nice! And I love the little background you gave... :)

Sandy Smith said...

These looks absolutely delicious! I love that your recipe incorporates whole wheat flour - can't wait to try these. Thank you!

Ivy said...

We call these gritsinia in Greece and usually have them as a snack, mostly with sesame seeds. Yours look delicious. The only thing bad about grissini is that you just can't have only one.

HoneyB said...

I could be snacking on these right now! Love the photo!

Jude said...

I like how anything goes on grissini. Always a crowd pleaser because it's so fun to eat.

Raaga said...

Can you send some over please? Its too cold here for me to do any yeasty baking... please :-)

Sunshinemom said...

I could enjoy nibbling on these anytime! Even a chai will be good! Why wait for soup? How about passing me some?

sra said...

Enjoyed reading about how Grissini came into existence. I'm at home, taking a small break for Pongal, back at work tomorrow.

Mary said...

These are just beautiful and the history you provided made for very good reading.

Poonam said...

great...shall give a try..this is new to me!!

Cham said...

These sticks work well for any soup! They are perfect golden crisp stick!

Elra said...

I make a lot of bread, but never thought of making bread sticks. Now, I am absolutely tempted.

aquadaze said...

Interesting history...these bread sticks sound like the perfect thing for my daughter to munch on. And hey, thanks for visiting my blog, hope to see you there regalarly :)

A_and_N said...

Aparna! :D I will surely try this.

BTW I tried the eggless chocolate and orange mousse when I had guests. OMG, it was killer. Aaah, now guess who is the better cook at home :D

Aparna said...

Since you are non-vegetarian you should try out the non-veg Goan dishes. I am told that they are very good. :)

Same with me, HC. But I eat these when I crave crunchy snacks. A good way to control the calories!

I didn't know that, Ivy. But you're right. You can't stop at one.:)

I would if I could, Raaga. Better idea, why don't you come over. You can escape the cold too.:)

Great with chai, Harini. Sure, but maybe you should come down here. Its not very far! :)

Happy Pongal, Sra (belated I know). You need the break, I guess. Enjoy it.

You're welcome, Aquadaze.

That's good news! We enjoyed it too here. I can't resist chocolate anyways!
Better cook? I'm not getting into that argument.:D
Try these breadsticks too.

Sig said...

Love those cute little bread sticks, and the cute little story too :)

Rajani said...

nice story - i love the spices youve combined - nigella, sesame and pepper - v. different. did the others like it?

Aparna said...

Rajani, my husband said they were "ok" but Akshaya and I made short work of them!!

Passionate About Baking said...

Look absolutely great. These have been on my to-do list for ages. Can't wait for the weather to warm up...YUM!!