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 bread sticks 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.