Grissini: breadsticks for grownups.

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Snap, crackle, pop! Captain Crunch. Extra crispy Kentucky fried chicken… Seems like food companies are always playing on our addiction to snap-crackle-pop-crunch-crisp in our foods. Think potato chips. Crackers. Oreos. And the whole range of “munchies” (popcorn, pretzels, granola bars, peanuts) that’ve become a serious part of our on-the-go culinary culture. When it comes to most of us, any time is crunch time.

Sure, there are advocates of smooth as well. Who doesn’t love a silky crème brulée? Or the sinuous curve of thick hot fudge oozing over a scoop of vanilla ice cream? Creamy mashed potatoes, anyone? Still, there’s something about the sound a potato chip makes when you bite into it that gets your munchie mojo flowing… bet you can’t eat just one!

Italian-, Chinese-, and Mexican-American food are probably America’s three most popular ethnic cuisines. But when it comes to baking, Italians have added more dishes to our popular culture than the other two combined. Pizza and Italian bread (and its sibling, garlic bread) are as ubiquitous as McDonald’s. Biscotti, mostly due to their exposure in Starbucks, are getting there. If you live in an urban area, you’ve no doubt enjoyed cannoli, focaccia, and panini. And, if you’re a certain age, your very first exposure to Italian food may well have been Stella D’oro breadsticks.

Talk about crisp: you look up crisp in the dictionary, you’re going to see a picture of these light-as-air breadsticks. Perfectly straight, perfectly smooth, they’re the Wonder Bread of breadsticks. Still, there are those of us who loved them… till we learned to make our own.

Grissini, breadsticks native to Turin in the foothills of the Italian Alps, are similar to that long-loved supermarket version—but with a literal twist. Grissini dough is often twisted as it’s shaped, and sprinkled with seeds for color and flavor. They’re a more flavorful, more interesting breadstick; a breadstick for grownup tastes, especially if you add assertive seeds like anise or fennel. And, they’re surprisingly easy to make.

Never mind rolling out log after log of dough; honestly, I’m too lazy for that. Instead, I shape the dough into a rectangle, sprinkle with seeds, cut it in strips, and give each strip a twist before laying it on the baking sheet. A short rise, a short bake, and there you have it: crunchy, crackly, snapping-crisp Thin ‘n’ Crunchy Italian Breadsticks, a.k.a. grissini. Here’s how:

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Put the following ingredients in a mixing bowl:

2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon Pizza Dough Flavor (optional,  but tasty)
1 tablespoon King Arthur Easy-Roll Dough  Improver OR Baker’s Special Dry Milk OR nonfat dry milk
3 cups (11 ounces) King Arthur Italian-Style Flour*
3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons olive oil

*Substitute King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour for half of the Italian flour, if desired. Or substitute King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour for the Italian-Style Flour, adding 2 tablespoons additional water.

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Mix the dough…

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Then knead till it’s smooth. As you can see, it’ll be quite sticky.

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Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl or measuring cup. If you use a measuring cup, you can easily determine how much the dough has risen.

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See? The dough’s just about doubled in size.

You can also make this dough in a bread machine set on the dough cycle, if that’s your preference.

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Lightly grease a work surface (I’m using a silicone rolling mat here). Divide the dough in half.

Working with one half at a time, pat/roll the dough into a 9” x 13” rectangle. Brush it with egg white beaten with cold water; this’ll make the seeds stick.
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Sprinkle the dough with seeds, as many or few as you like. If you don’t like seeds, leave ’em off. I happen to like seeds – particularly our Artisan Bread Topping, a crunchy, tasty blend of flax, toasted sesame, black caraway, midget sunflower, poppy, and anise seeds.

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I’m using a pizza wheel to cut 3/8”-wide crosswise strips. Notice the acrylic blade on the pizza wheel; it’s safe for non-stick surfaces. At last, a pizza wheel that’s sharp enough to cut, but not sharp enough to harm your pan (or you!) Those metal pizza wheels always made me nervous, with their exposed blade. This one, you can run back and forth across the palm of your hand with impunity – yet it cuts pizza and dough just fine.

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Once you’ve cut a strip, grab it, and twist, as though you were wringing a washcloth. Repeat with all the dough strips…

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…and space them on a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let them rise for 30 to 60 minutes…

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…until they’re nice and puffy. Bake the breadsticks in a 425°F oven for 12 to 14 minutes.

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Voilà! Grissini.

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Look at these pretty sesame ones; nice, huh?

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And here’s a whole bunch of ’em, with different assortments of seeds. I like to serve these with drinks before dinner. Add some olive oil for dipping, if you like.

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Thin ‘n’ Crunchy Italian Breadsticks.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Marjorie

    Hi,

    This breadsticks look great, and I finally decidt to make it today. I followed the recipe exactly except replacing the flour with KA white whole wheat since I don’t have the italian flour (also without the pizza favor since I don’t have it ). I use the Kitchenaid mixer and the dough is not sticky as yours at all. I added at least 1/8 cup more warm water and it still is not soft and sticky as yours. It just look a like a regular dough.
    It is resting now and I hope it still works like yours. Is it the flour that made the difference. Please advise. Thanks, Marjorie

    Reply
  2. PJ Hamel , post author

    Hi Marjorie – Yes, replacing low-protein Italian flour with high-protein white whole wheat definitely makes a difference. You were right in adding more water; the higher the flour’s protein, the more water it needs to become a nice dough. Hopefully your grissini came out just fine – they’re probably denser and perhaps not as crisp as the ones made with Italian flour, but I’ll bet they disappeared nonetheless!

    Reply
  3. Marjorie

    Hi PJ and am glad comments are showing up now. I really enjoy this bakers’ banter. Learning a lot and doing a lot of baking now. Yes, the breadsticks were dense and I had to prolong the baking time to make it crunchier and this made the breakstick turned brown….. But they were still very good!! I will definitely get the right ingredients and follow the recipe next time. Thanks!

    Reply
  4. Teresa

    Hi- I’m not sure if this is too late to post. I was wondering if all purpose flour have the same protein level as the white whole wheat. What adjustments do you suggest for all purpose flour? I also don’t have Italian flour. Thanks!
    All purpose flour has a lower protein content than white whole wheat flour but you can use them interchangeably as long as you add a tablespoon or two more of liquid. You can use all purpose instead of the Italian style flour, but once again, make sure you add a bit more water. Molly, King Arthur Baker

    Reply
  5. dhoffman1

    Could you use your Pizza Blend Mix for the bread sticks?
    Yes, you can use most any pizza crust recipe to make breadsticks instead, just change the shape. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  6. Gertilda

    I can’t wait to try these, I probably will tonight with the unbleached all purpose (since that’s what’s in the house) and seasame seeds. What are your suggestions for storing these? Do they need to be airtight to maintain the crispiness, or can I leave them out? Thank you!
    Keeping these stick airtight will help them stay crisp. Enjoy! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  7. peaceinbaking

    Is there a sweet version of this? I am just thinking of a little extra something to dip into hot fudge or even frosting. I can’t wait to try the savory side of things though!

    Sure – just leave out the Pizza Dough Flavor, and sprinkle with a bit of coarse sugar instead of seeds. Great idea! PJH

    Reply
  8. Alan

    For those of us luddites without a standing mixer, can this be made by kneading instead? How would we adjust the recipe and/or procedure. Thanks!

    Sure, Alan, knead away. No adjustments necessary, simply knead until the dough consistency matches that in the photos. Enjoy! PJH

    Reply
  9. Amy2Marie

    I made these Friday night and they were just FABULOUS! My husband and I probably ate 3 a piece right out of the oven. I had made them for a lunchon on Sunday, so we cooled them and stuck the rest in a ziplock bag and hid them so we wouldn’t eat them all.

    But Sunday when we pulled them out they were no longer crispy. Not soft enough to be breadsticks, but no longer crunchy. They were still good, but not half as good. Any ideas on storage? We are a family of three and don’t eat everything on day one.
    Hi there,
    Try storing in a paper bag rather than plastic. That should help maintain the crunch better. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  10. Jerry From Rochester

    suggest starting the yeast with the sugar and water and after it starts to work adding it to the dry ingredients. Also, add more liquid that in the recipe. I substituted half the water with a dark belgian beer and man oh man were those breadsticks delicious!

    Jerry, the beer addition sounds outrageous! Thanks for the suggestion… PJH

    Reply
  11. Jerry from Rochester

    Try this to have really cool looking bread sticks: Cut the strips 1/2 as wide as usual and then take 2 of the strips and braid them together making a licorice like twist. I just tried it and they look really great. Took a little practice

    Nice – sounds very festive, Jerry. How about rolling one of the sticks in seeds, for a bi-color effect? Thanks for sharing – PJH

    Reply
  12. jerry from Rochester

    Well i made them again so delicious. The guys came over to watch a little football, we broke out the tub of fresh butter and the b..sticks. What a party !!!!!!

    Reply

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