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Grissini - Italian Breadsticks
Grissini are very thin, crisp breadsticks that originated in the Piedmont region of Italy. The story goes that in the 1860’s, Victor Emanuel II, the first king of a united Italy, had a young son who was a weak child and a poor eater. The king consulted his personal physician who suspected that the young prince might have a digestive disorder. The court baker was asked to produce a light, crisp bread which would be easy to digest. The baker produced a pencil-thin crispy breadstick called ghersino, a smaller version of ghersa, which was long thin bread. We now know these breadsticks as grissini. We are not told if the bread improved the prince’s health but the new creation became much imitated by other bakers. Soon the bakers were vying with each other as to who could make the longest and thinnest breadsticks. Grissini bought from the little bakery on the corner can be as much as 28 inches long. Now grissini have a permanent place on every Italian table and are produced not only by local bakeries but in high-tech food factories.
Grissini can be served as an appetizer or as part of an antipasto platter. Sprinkle them with any spice, herb, or seed that you desire. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, grissini will last for several weeks. To re-crisp, place the breadsticks on a baking sheet in a 350 degree F. oven for 5 to 10 minutes.
Makes about 40 breadsticks
2 teaspoons dry yeast 1 cup water (105 -115 degrees F), divided 1 teaspoon sugar 3-1/2 cups flour 2 teaspoons salt 3 tablespoons olive oil
Semolina for dusting the baking pans Egg glaze: 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water Toppings: Chopped fresh rosemary, coarse salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds
Sprinkle the yeast in 1/2 cup of the water. Stir in the sugar. Let sit for about 5 minutes; the mixture should begin to bubble.
Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the dissolved yeast and the olive oil. Use a wooden spoon to combine the ingredients. Stir in additional water until a firm, sticky dough forms. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Cover the dough with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
Knead the dough again for about 5 minutes. Roll the dough into a 12 x 14-inch rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick. Cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Sprinkle the paper with some semolina.
Using a pizza wheel, cut the dough into 1/4-inch strips. Place the strips about 1/2-inch apart on the baking sheets. Brush the strips with the egg wash. Sprinkle one or more of the toppings.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Transfer the grissini to wire racks to cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Grissini will keep well for several weeks.