Everybody loves bread sticks or grissini, as they are
called in Italy. Fun and quick to make, they add a homemade touch to a cheese
plate or a rustic accent to a simple pasta dinner. Oh come on, do you really
need me to tell you when it’s a good time to eat a breadstick? No, I didn’t
250 g flour (about 1 ¾ cups)
125g water (scant 2/3 cup)
8g fresh cake yeast (1 Tablespoon)
5g salt (1/2 teaspoon)
12g honey (1 teaspoon)
1 or 2 baking sheet pans and some parchment paper
Yield: approximately 22 breadsticks about 8 inches long
Life is simpler, clean up is easier, eliminate cabinet clutter,
and your recipes are more accurate if you use a scale.
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and knead for about 5
minutes or until you have a yielding but resilient ball of dough. I use bread flour, but you could
probably use all-purpose flour and get good results. Seek out cake yeast. It
gives much more reliable results than dried, powdered yeast. Cake yeast comes as a
fresh block of yeast; it’s not yeast that you use to make a cake rise. I get
mine at an Italian food store, but I also saw it at Dean & Deluca’s the
other day, so it’s around. Whole Foods probably carries it.
When your are finished kneading, wrap the dough ball tightly
in plastic wrap and let it rest for about 15 minutes. An old Italian chef
taught me this trick, and I’m a little fuzzy on the science, but something
about the compression aids in hydration and gives you a more pliable dough that
doesn’t tear or shred as easily.
While the dough is resting, choose some flavorings for your
breadsticks. Today I used: chopped walnuts, black sesame seeds, dried oregano,
fennel pollen. Other possibilities could be: grated cheese, grated cheese with
smoked chili powder, fresh thyme, chopped olives, a smear of spicy tomato
sauce. Let the contents of your kitchen be your inspiration. Less is more….use
just a bit of topping, don't cover the whole thing in cracked peppercorns, ok?
Unwrap the ball of dough and roll it into a long tube, about
1 ½” in diameter. Don’t be too concerned if this long tube isn’t precisely even
or round. You’re going to cut off chunks to make the individual bread sticks so
you can adjust the bread stick size as you cut the chunks. One thing you need
to do is keep all the bread sticks a fairly even thickness so they all bake at
the same speed. I have seen some very creative breadsticks being made in some
of my classes and it just breaks my heart to discourage creativity, but
enormous renderings of body parts cook much slower, so you wind up with either
your body parts are underdone or your sticks are burnt.
Place a small amount of topping on your work surface and gently
pat the seasoning into the round ‘coin’ of dough that you cut from the tube. Using
both hands, gently roll the coin into a breadstick shape; as your hands are
rolling the breadstick, extend the dough lengthwise. As you do this, the
topping gets rolled and incorporated into the breadstick. When you have enough of one flavor of
breadstick, clean up the board and move on to the next flavoring, otherwise you
get bits and pieces mixed in and wind up with a tomato-walnut-black sesame
Lay the little guys on a baking sheet that has been lined
with a sheet of parchment paper, leaving an inch between the sticks. If you
like a bit of salt, sprinkle a touch of salt over the raw breadsticks and give
them a little roll to set the salt crystal into the surface. Just before going
into the hot oven, I usually spritz the sticks with a bit of water, which increases
the overall crunch factor.
After about 10 minutes in the oven, give the sticks a roll
in the pan to expose their underbellies.
Total baking time is anywhere between 25-35 minutes, they’re
done when they are golden brown. They may still feel a bit soft to the touch,
but they crisp up as they cool. Every oven has hot spots, so depending on where
you place the tray it will affect the cooking time so it helps to rotate the
trays while they are baking.
If you are not planning to serve the grissini that day, you
can freeze them in a zip lock bag. When you need some, put them into a
350F/180C oven for a few minutes until they are warm and crunchy. Arrange the
grissini in a pretty glass jar, and watch them disappear.