How to Make Italian Grissini Breadsticks

Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn

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Are you familiar with grissini? A far cry from their soft, chewy pizza parlor cousins, grissini are long, thin, Italian-style breadsticks.  They are crisp all the way through and can be flavored with various herbs, seeds, and spices to complement whatever else you may be serving.  You can wrap them with paper-thin slices of prosciutto for a classic presentation, but they're equally delicious served just as they are.  Read on for the recipe and technique for this easy-to-make, dramatic addition to your next party.

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Grissini are made with a simple pizza crust-like dough that's heavy on the olive oil, which gives it its flavor and texture and helps to create a very easy-to-work with, pliable dough. You can purchase pre-made pizza dough from the grocery store to make grissini, but this homemade dough is so quick and simple to put together, you can easily whip up a batch from scratch. 

It's also very easy to add variety to your grissini.  Chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary or thyme, and seeds, such as poppy seeds or sesame seeds, are a classic addition.  A simple salt-and-pepper flavoring is nice, too, and you can experiment with different kinds of salts, such as smoked salt.  (See recipe notes for more on how to add flavored salt.) For this recipe, I also added a small amount of whole wheat flour for a little more flavor complexity.

Your grissini can be as long or short as you want, limited only by the size of your baking pans.  When you roll them, be sure to allow them to be uneven and wobbly. This will only add to their charm!

Grissini make a dramatic, graphic centerpiece if served up in a large glass or vase placed in the center of your table.  People can't resist reaching for one of the long, wonky sticks and crunching away.  Be careful though, as they can sometimes encourage playful antics such as baton twirling, symphony conducting and sword flights! You can also serve them with cocktails or wine before dinner, accompanied by other classic antipasti such as olives, cheese, and cured meats.

The best thing about grissini is that they are meant to have a free form, rustic look, so you don't have to worry about making them look perfect.  The more wonky and mismatched, the better!

How to Make Italian-Style Grissini

Makes about 2 dozen

What You Need

Ingredients

1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
3/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon honey
1 package (1 scant tablespoon) active-dry yeast
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons good extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Oil for the bowl
Optional additions:  sesame seeds; poppy seeds; chopped thyme, sage, or rosemary; sea salt or flavored salt; coarse ground black pepper

Equipment
Measuring cups and spoons
Stand mixer (or mixing bowl)
Wooden spoon
Small bowl
Tea towel or plastic wrap
Baking sheets
Parchment paper
Sharp knife or bench scraper
Cooling rack

Instructions

  1. Proof the yeast. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the whole wheat flour, water, honey and yeast.  Stir with a wooden spoon to combine and let sit for 10 minutes.  The mixture should be foamy and show some liveliness.

  2. Add the remaining ingredients.  Add the all-purpose flour, olive oil, and salt. Mix on low speed with the dough hook attachment until combined, and then on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes until the dough is smooth and shiny.

  3. Let rest.  Remove the dough from the mixer bowl and transfer it to a small bowl.  Drizzle a tiny amount of olive oil over the dough and roll it around until it has been coated.  Cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap, and let sit undisturbed in a warm place for one hour or until doubled in bulk.

  4. Preheat the oven and prep the baking sheets.  When the dough is ready, preheat your oven to 425°F and line 2 or 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

  5. Divide dough (optional). If you would like to make several different varieties of grissini from a single batch, punch the dough down and divide into portions.  For this post, I made plain, rosemary and black sesame seed grissini, so I divided the dough into three pieces.

  6. Shape the dough.  For plain grissini, shape the dough into a rough, flat rectangle.  Slice a finger-sized piece from the long length of the rectangle with a sharp knife or a bench scrapper.  Roll it into a long, irregularly shaped snake and place on the baking sheet.  Continue with the remaining dough, placing the dough snakes about 1/2" apart.  

    Note:
     The dough contains enough olive oil that you shouldn't need flour to roll it out.  If, for some reason, it is sticky, sprinkle a small amount of four on your surface before rolling.

  7. Add flavor to the grissini (optional.) To add herbs, knead about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh herbs into the dough and roll into snakes, as above.  To add seeds, make the snakes as above.  Measure out a couple of tablespoons of seeds and coax them into a long, thin line — as long as your snakes but fatter.  Lay your snake over the seeds and press gently to make the seeds adhere.  Place snakes on the baking sheet.  Pick up one end and twist several times to create a swirl.

  8. Let the grissini rise until puffed. Let the grissini rest for a few minutes before baking, so they puff up a bit, about 15 minutes.

  9. Bake the grissini. Place the baking sheets with grissini into the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes.  At 5 minutes, rotate the pans and check their progress.  The grissini are quite thin, so they will burn easily!  Keep an eye on them and take them out when they are golden brown.

  10. Cool and store.  Carefully move the grissini to a cooling rack to cool.  Once they are cool, store them in an airtight container (for up to 2 to 3 days) until ready to serve.

Recipe Notes

  • If you want to add coarse salt or flavored salts to the outside of your grissini, decrease the salt by 1/2 teaspoon while making the dough.
  • To make the grissini dough without a stand mixer, mix it by hand in a mixing bowl and then knead it on the counter for about 10 minutes.  You may need to sprinkle on a little flour at first.

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(Images: Dana Velden)

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