Every long car trip to grandma and grandpa’s house included grissini – wonderfully crunchy Italian breadsticks. We would no sooner pack the car when we’d make our first stop — a small Italian community north of us.
The first stop was Barrato’s — an Italian meat market. There we would buy several pounds of Barrato’s homemade Genoa hard salami.
Oh that smell!!
Then the next stop would be Fossi’s — an Italian bakery. There we would pick up several round loaves of homemade Italian bread and several sacks of his crunchy breadsticks. The formula for those wonderful breadsticks was a secret — he didn’t share it with anybody.
For years I tried to duplicate those breadsticks — no success. The breadsticks I made would taste good — they just ended up tasting like long rolls of baked bread. Mamma and papa loved the treats that we’d bring. They especially loved the salami and breadsticks. Papa liked to dunk his breadsticks in his coffee or his minestra like Pasta e Fazoi.
There was a rule for car trips — no food was to be eaten until the big highway.
Interstate 74 was about 45 minutes away — you can imagine the challenge of keeping eager hands away from the food when the car was redolent with the aroma of bread, breadsticks and salami. Every five minutes, ” Are we at the big highway yet?”
Those were the days when you could put the seat down on the station wagon.
Pillows . . . blankies. . . toys . . . books . . . filled the back.
The kids had a virtual playground in the back of the wagon plus they had room for a picnic.
Time flew by.
The 4 1/2 hours in the car seemed like nothing at all.
There were a lot of crumbs on the blanket in the back but there were still enough grissini, salami and bread left to share with grandma and grandpa.
The recipe for making grissini is quite simple — it’s basically a bread recipe that we knead and then let rest for 5 minutes.
We then shape and stretch the dough into a 14″ x 4″ rectangle by pressing the dough down with one hand and then pulling it with the other hand. If the sides get too wide, scrunch in to keep it an even 4″ width. You do this at both ends.
We used our fingers to rub olive oil over the entire surface of the dough and then covered with plastic wrap.
We let the dough proof for 1 hour at room temperature. The dough will get nice and puffy and when we gently press on the dough our finger leaves an imprint.
We preheat the oven to 450° F. We rub the dough again with olive oil and we cut the dough into 4 equal parts.
We decided to put an Italian Seasoning on our grissini and we made it ahead of time. It has a nice spicy taste without being too hot. We liberally sprinkle the seasoning on top of one of the quarters — making sure that it covers completely to the edges.
We cut the quarter into 6 strips. The dough is very soft and it is easy to stretch to a 14-16″ length. We rubbed a little bit of olive oil on the work surface and that made the rolling easier.
Right before we lay the breadsticks on the baking sheet, we give the strip a twist. We do this by placing our palms on the ends of the strip and bringing one hand toward us and the other hand away. This is a push pull motion.
Don’t try to save time by putting two baking sheets in at a time or by crowding the breadsticks on the sheet – you won’t get the desired results.
The trick is rolling and baking just the right amount of dough at a high oven temperature.
We bake for 10-12 minutes turning the sticks at 6 minutes so that they brown evenly.
I wish I would have discovered this crunchy recipe before my parents passed away . . .
. . .I would have made grissini for my mamma and papa every week.
- 1 cup warm water (105-115 F)
- 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoon) active dry yeast ( If you use instant yeast -- just add instant yeast to the dry ingredients )
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup semolina flour
- 2 teaspoon honey
- 2 teaspoon salt
- Topping of choice
- In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water whisking until dissolved. Let stand 5-10 minutes until foam appears in the center. Now stir in the olive oil -- it won't incorporate but that's okay. Add the honey.
- Whisk together the flours, salt ( instant yeast if you're using it instead of the active dry.)
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet. You can use the stand mixer with the dough hook or you can knead by hand. If kneading by hand you may need to use an additional 2 Tablespoons of flour.
- Continue kneading for 10 minutes - the dough should be smooth. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
- Shape and stretch the dough into a 14" x 4" rectangle by pressing dough down with one hand and pulling the end with the other hand. Press and stretch from the other end. Make sure the dough stays at a width of 4". Repeat the process until the dough is 14" in length.
- Brush the dough with olive oil and let it rest on your work surface. Cover the top and sides with plastic wrap. Let the dough proof for 1 hour at room temperature. The dough will be puffy and a finger will leave an imprint when you press into it.
- Preheat oven to 450 F.
- Remove plastic wrap from dough; brush with olive oil again.
- Cut dough into 4 equal parts. Work with one quarter dough at a time, covering remaining dough with plastic wrap.
- Sprinkle with topping of choice -- we chose Italian Seasoning. Make sure the topping covers completely to the edges. Lightly press the topping into the dough.
- Cut the quarter piece into 6 strips.
- Stretch and roll out the dough into 14-16" strips. The dough is very pliable and easy to work with.
- When you reach the proper length twist the strips. You twist the dough by simultaneously rolling one hand forward and one had back.
- Place the strips on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake 10-12 minutes until light brown. For even browning turn the sticks at 6 minutes.
- Cut and roll the next quarter of dough while these bake.
- To get the proper chew you need to bake one pan at a time.
- Instead of the Italian seasoning ,flavor toppings can include: coarse salt and coarse black pepper, or sesame seeds, or Parmesan cheese, or poppy seeds, or sun dried tomato, or fennel seed and salt.
- Adapted from an old Cuisine recipe.
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 Tablespoon dried basil
- 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 Tablespoon red pepper flakes
- 1 Tablespoon granulated garlic
- 1 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Put all the ingredients in a small food processor and pulse several times.
- Use 2 teaspoon of this mix per dough quarter.
- We really didn't measure the quantity on the dough. We just eyed it until we thought it was enough.
- Adapted from a Cuisine Magazine recipe.
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