A specialty of Turin, Piedmont, grissini -- crunchy, long breadsticks -- are usually part of an antipasto or appetizer, where they are served with paper-thin slices of prosciutto or other salumi, cheese, olives, and other nibbles. And they're very easy to make at home -- perfect for your next party.
These breadsticks are shaped by pulling rather than rolling, which makes for a wonderfully airy crunch. Once you master the original, why not coat the sticks in poppy seeds, sesame seeds, mixed seeds, or even dried herbs instead of semolina? Or you can leave the semolina out if you prefer smooth, plain grissini.
The recipe and proportions for traditional grissini are pretty standard. You could also use all-purpose flour for this instead of bread flour, but the extra protein content in bread flour adds great elasticity to the breadsticks. That way, when you are shaping (pulling) the dough, you won't risk it breaking. The following recipe is adapted slightly (mostly in the method) from Carol Field's recipe for Grissini Torinesi from The Italian Baker. —Emiko
about 25 breadsticks
1 3/4 teaspoons
active dry yeast (12 grams fresh yeast)
malt syrup or sugar
1 1/4 cups
(310 ml) lukewarm water
olive oil, plus extra for brushing
3 3/4 cups
(500 grams) bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons
(85 grams) semolina, for dusting and rolling
In a large bowl, combine the yeast, malt syrup, and water. Let sit for about 10 minutes, until the yeast dissolves and becomes foamy. Stir in the olive oil, then add the flour and combine until it comes together into a dough. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth, soft, and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes if doing this by hand (3 minutes if in a mixer). Add in the salt towards the end.
Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough into a rectangle about 14 inches (35 centimeters) long, then fold into thirds for a width of about 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 centimeters). Place, seam down, on a well floured surface. Lightly brush or spray the top with olive oil, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and let rise (in a warm spot, if possible) until doubled, about 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 450º F (230º C) and lightly oil a baking sheet. To shape the grissini, with a sharp knife, cut the loaf crosswise into pieces that are 3 to 4 inches long and about the width of a finger (a bit more than 1/3 inch or about 1 centimeter wide). Place the semolina on a plate or wide, shallow bowl and roll the dough gently in the semolina to lightly coat. Without disturbing the side of the dough that has just been cut, using your thumbs and forefingers, gently pull the piece of dough from both ends. Stretch to the width or length of your baking sheet. Place on the prepared baking sheet and continue with the rest of the dough.
Bake until the breadsticks are golden, about 11 to 15 minutes, depending on how thick or thin your breadsticks are. Remove from the oven and cool on baking racks.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.