Grissini

Classic Italian Breadsticks

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes twenty-four

    15 inch

    breadsticks

Appears in

If you go to a fine restaurant in the Piemonte area of Italy, you won’t find bread on the table when you sit down, but you will find three or four 2½ to 3-foot (75- to 90-cm) long breadsticks. They’re a specialty of Piemonte, particularly the town of Asti, and they’re the perfect thing to accompany the rich and delicate food of the region. Good breadsticks are easy to make: Everything goes into the food processor and they are made in no time. You may use either olive oil or lard as the fat in the dough. The breadsticks are excellent with olive oil, but the flavor of the ones made with lard is superior in my opinion—they have a crunchier texture and a more rustic flavor. You’ll notice that the dough is made with both warm and cold water. Warm water is necessary to dissolve dry yeast, but the addition of the cold water afterward prevents the dough from overheating while being mixed.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or lard
  • teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
  • cup warm water, about 110°F (45°C)
  • cup cold tap water
  • 2 jelly-roll pans lightly dusted with cornmeal

Method

  1. Combine the flour, salt, and oil or lard in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse 10 to 15 times to incorporate the fat.
  2. Whisk the yeast into the warm water and add the mixture to the bowl. Pulse very quickly 2 to 3 times. Add the cold water and pulse until the dough forms a ball. Pulse continuously for 10 seconds.
  3. Invert the food processor bowl over an oiled bowl to turn out the dough. Carefully remove the blade and transfer any dough on it to the bowl. Turn the dough so that the top is oiled. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  4. Scrape the risen dough to a lightly floured work surface and fold it over on itself several times to deflate. Replace the dough in the bowl and cover it again. Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
  5. When you are ready to bake the grissini, set racks in the upper and lower third of the oven and preheat to 325°F (160°C).
  6. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and scrape it onto a floured work surface. Press the dough to deflate it and shape it into a square. Use a bench scraper or a knife to cut the square of dough into 4 equal smaller squares. Working with 1 square of dough at a time, cut through the center to make 2 rectangles, then cut across twice to make 6 pieces. Set the cut pieces of dough to your left. Repeat with the remaining squares of dough to make 24 equal pieces.
  7. Place one of the prepared pans to your right. Roll one piece of the dough under the palms of your hands, pressing fairly vigorously, to make a thin pencil-like strand about 15 inches (38 cm) long. Arrange it on the pan and continue with the remaining pieces of dough placing 12 on each pan. If the dough is sticky, flour your hands, but not the dough or the work surface.
  8. Bake the breadsticks (they don’t need to rise first) for 12 minutes, then switch the bottom pan to the top rack and vice versa, turning them back to front at the same time. Continue baking the breadsticks until they are evenly golden and crisp, 10 to 20 minutes longer.
  9. Cool the breadsticks on the pans on racks.

Serving

Serve the breadsticks along with other bread for a meal, or with hors d’oeuvres. In Parma, they wrap transparently thin slices of prosciutto around breadsticks as a little nibble with drinks before dinner.

Storage

Keep the breadsticks loosely covered with plastic wrap on the day they are baked. Store them between sheets of wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. In a cool place, they’ll stay fresh for a week or two.

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