The Great Grissini

Bread sticks are one of those items you can walk right by in the grocery store without giving them a second thought, but if they are included on the dinner table or buffet they are simply irresistible!

In the process of cleaning out the basement, I uncovered a box of old magazines (Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Country Living, MS Living, etc.). Wondering why I had kept them in the first place, I snuggled down on the couch and began going through them. I came across several recipes that I will save for future reference including (not one, but) two recipes for “grissini.” Grissini, originally thought to have been created in the 14th century, are pencil-sized breadsticks of crisp, dry bread from in Turin and the surrounding area in Italy.

Reading the recipes, I began yearning for the crispy crunch of a good breadstick. Being a bit familiar with bread recipes, I took my favorite aspects of both recipes (and adding a few of my own) and came up with the following recipe. The result was magnificent! I even enjoyed the few leftover from dinner with black coffee the next morning – Molto Bene!

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 2/3 cups bread or all-purpose flour   
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

Add sugar to the warm water to dissolve. Water should be warm to the touch; not hot. Hot water will “kill the yeast.” Add the yeast to the sugar water to proof. If the yeast does not start to bubble within five minutes, discard the yeast and start over with cooler water. Once proofed, add the olive oil to the yeast water.

Mix together dry ingredients and add slowly to yeast mixture. Stir together until a dough starts to form, then add to your KitchenAid with the dough hook and allow to mix and knead until smooth and elastic. If you do not have a bread mixer, turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead by hand until smooth and elastic which should take about 5 minutes.

Shape dough into a ball, return to mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. (I spray the top of the plastic wrap with cooking spray so the dough doesn’t stick.) Set the bowl in a warm, draft-free place and let rise until doubled in size; about 1 hour.

Lightly flour your work surface again and gently deflate dough before beginning to shape into long thin rolls; grissini. Lightly flour hands and pinch off nobs of dough approximately the size of a ping-pong ball and knead gently for about 1 minute. Roll each nob into a long thin roll about the diameter of a pencil.

Transfer grissini to a parchment-lined baking sheet, making sure to leave space between each strip. Once the tray is full, set aside and allow to rise again for about 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the bread sticks in batches on middle shelf until golden brown which should take about 15 to 20 minutes depending on your oven. Rotate trays halfway through baking. Let cool completely before serving.

This recipe makes a generous number of grissini which is fine at our house because they get eaten fairly quickly. The grissini can be frozen after baking and kept in the freezer for a month or two. To reheat, simply wrap them in aluminum foil and heat in the oven until heated through (5-10 minutes depending on how many are in the foil packet.)