These Italian breadsticks, grissini, are deliciously snappy on the outside and a little soft on the inside.  They are gentle on your teeth and not at all rock hard like some bread sticks can be. Displayed attractively on a dining table, the long and slender grissini adds panache to a dressed table. Try making these for your upcoming festive spread. Serve them alongside cheeseboards, antipasto or wrap some parma ham around it. Use them as a dipping stick to dip into almost anything! Nutella is great!! I prefer the plain ones but my guests prefer the ones with a cheese coating. Those disappear faster than I can bake them!

Grissini, Breadsticks

Prep: 10 minutes 
Cook: ~20 – 25 minutes
Inactive: Approximately 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours rising time
Level: Moderately easy
Makes: ~20 sticks
Oven Temperature: 400F (200C). Position one oven rack  at middle rung and the other rack, one notch below the middle.
Can recipe be doubled? Yes
Make ahead? Cheese coated grissini will not keep well. Plain breadsticks or those sprinkled with dried toppings like sesame or poppy seeds keeps well up to 5 days. Store in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the dough
2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose/plain flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast*
1 Tablespoons full cream milk powder**
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup water
For the cheese coating (enough to coat half the recipe of dough, ~ 10 breadsticks)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese or cheese of your choice
1 Tablespoon rosemary snipped tiny or replace with dried herb of your choice
Pepper and a little salt to taste***
3 Tablespoons olive oil for coating
* I use SAF Instant.
** This gives the breadsticks flavour and prevents them from being rock hard. To substitute, replace 1/3 cup of the 1 cup of water with fresh milk.
***  Depends on how salty your cheese is.

Method

Using a mixer
1. Combine all dough ingredients into mixer bowl and attach dough hook to beater shaft.
2. Start mixer at low speed to prevent the flour from flying out of bowl and all over the kitchen counter. Work up to medium high speed gradually.
3. If the mixture does not seem to be coming together to form a dough, with the machine running, add 1 Tablespoon of water and let the machine go at it for 1 minute. Work in more water the same way if required. Err on the side of a more moist dough. If there is dough stuck to the sides of the bowl. Scrape down.
4. If the dough is too wet, add 1 Tablespoon of flour and let the machine work it in for 1 minute. Add more flour the same way if required. Again, err on the side of a more moist dough.
5. It usually takes 7 to 10 minutes of machine kneading before I am happy to shape the dough into a ball. At this point, the sides of my bowl would be relatively, though not entirely cleaned of dough and the dough would have gathered up on the hook. It would look pliable, smooth and feel a little sticky. You are working towards being able to gather up the dough to form a relatively smooth looking ball. Oil/butter your hands to shape dough into a ball. Pull loose ends under the ball and pinch them down. Do not be tempted to over flour the dough as you might end up with breadsticks that are too dry. A little sticky is good.

6. Before returning dough to mixer bowl, oil/butter the bowl. Cover dough with plastic wrap or tea towel and let it rise in a warm place until almost double in size. It might take anywhere between 1 and 1 and 1/2 hours, depending on how warm it is.

Working dough by hand
1. Place dry ingredients on a flat working surface or in a very large bowl. Create a well in the centre of dry ingredients. Pour water into the well and work it in slowly into the dry ingredients. You should have one pile of straggly mess. Empty contents onto clean work surface.
2. To start kneading, you have to work with pushing the dough out with the palm of your hand and pulling it back with your fingers.
3. At any point, if the dough is too dry or wet to work, you can add 1 Tablespoon of water or flour and work it in completely before adding more water or flour. Err on the side of a moist and not a dry dough. Your kneading surface should be clean with no dough stuck on it. You will know you are doing well when you find yourself working with a smooth elastic ball that can be stretched easily without snappy apart too quickly. Knead another 5 minutes.
4. Pick the dough up, oil/butter your hands if the dough is a little sticky (it should be a little sticky) and shape into a round ball, tuck loose ends under the dough. Do not be tempted to add more flour.
5. Oil/butter your bowl which should be large enough to allow the dough to almost double in size. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or tea towel and let it rise in a warm place until almost double in size. It might take anywhere between one to 1 and 1/2 hours, depending on how warm it is.

After rising – time to shape into breadsticks
1. To make cheese coating easier to adhere, pulverised it in a food processor to a fine powder.
2. Turn on your oven to 400 F (200 C). One oven rack should be positioned at middle and the other oven rack positioned at one notch below middle.
3. When the dough has risen to almost double its size, stick your finger in flour and poke the dough slightly. It should leave the indentation you made. Punch dough down and without much kneading, transfer the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a rough 3/4″ (2 cm) thick rectangle.

1. If you want to coat half the breadsticks with cheese. Prepare the set up in the image above. Olive oil in one tray and the rest of the coating mix in another.
2. My oven has a longer length compared to most oven so I can make longer breadsticks.  I divide the dough into 20 strips by marking it with a bench scraper or knife. If you have an oven with a shorter length, then you have to divide the dough accordingly, my guess is 24 strips.
2. Start off first by rolling out plain bread sticks.  Only use half of the dough as you want to keep the remaining half to coat with cheese.
3. Cut off one strip of dough at a time. Roll each strip to fit the length of your tray. Set the bread sticks about 3/4″ (2cm) apart on a baking tray lined with silicon mat or parchment paper. Cover with a tea towel and let these plain breadsticks rise about 10 minutes before putting them in the oven.

4. To coat the remaining dough with cheese, similarly cut off one strip of dough at a time and roll them out to fit the length of your baking tray.
5. Lift up the dough, place in tray of olive oil and coat lightly. Then roll them in the cheese.
6. Set them about 3/4″ (2cm) apart on a baking tray lined with silicon mat or parchment paper. Cover with a tea towel and let these plain breadsticks rise about 10 minutes before putting them in the oven.

Baking

Both uncoated and cheese coated breadsticks trays can be placed into oven to bake at the same time. It does involve a bit of tray and rack rotation to avoid breadsticks burning.

The uncoated breadsticks
1. As soon as you finish rolling and coating the cheese breadsticks, the oven should be hot enough for you to put the uncoated breadsticks into the oven. After 10 minutes of baking, rotate the baking tray. Check back on it in ~ 7 – 10 minutes.
2. Press on it. It should feel crisp with just a slight give. If it is not quite there, let it bake for another 3 to 5 minutes and retest. It should be a light golden brown.
3. When these breadsticks are done baking, transfer them to a cooling rack.
4. Should the tops of the breadstick look like it is turning too brown, transfer to the lower oven rack that you had set up in the oven. This would likely mean swopping trays with the cheese coated tray of breadsticks.

The cheese coated breadsticks
1. Place the cheese coated breadsticks into the oven on the lower oven rack as the middle rack would most likely be holding the tray of uncoated breadstick. Let it bake for 10 minutes.
2. After 10 minutes of baking, transfer tray to middle rack to get the cheese to brown and bake for another 7 – 10 minutes to get them golden brown. This likely means swopping trays with the uncoated breadsticks.
3. Watch that the cheese does not burn. As soon as they feel crisp when you poke it, remove from oven and cool on a cooling rack.

Serve the cheese coated breadsticks immediately. Plain ones can be stored in airtight containers.

Tips

Toppings for breadstick?
What about, white/black sesame seeds? Poppy seeds? A little black mustard seeds? A mixture of fennel and white sesame seeds? Many ways you can top bread sticks. I like mine plain as I tend to serve them with a pate, alongside antipasto or with a cheeseboard. I don’t like too many flavours clashing. You top and serve them as you wish. Either way they will be good.

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

A cheeseboard. Great for those upcoming parties. Setting up a cheeseboard for your guests to enjoy while you attend to those last minute cooking details will keep your guests happy and you sane!

 

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