When you have a kid, you assume certain things, things like you can influence the kid’s behavior. The practical side of you points out that the influence may be significant in the first few years and less so as the years go by. But you expect to have some control on your kid. Then the Gods and your mother laugh at you when the dear kiddo turns out to be a person of her own as early as a year old and you are staring dumbstruck. I always thought I could influence my daughter’s food habits. I figured I would provide her with a good variety right from the beginning helping her to have a diverse palette and score one over genetics. But that was not to be. She inherited her palette from her father and my mother and so loves the typical traditional south Indian food of sambhar and rice and pickle. I tried hard to get her to like bread and cheese. Okay, okay, it was pizza. But how can a kid not like pizza? She can if she has a father who stoically takes his wife for an Italian dinner and a grandmother who grumbles when she crosses a pizza parlor. The daughter, being polite, would take a single bite, declare it wonderful and then, much to my dismay, refuse to touch it again. Finally, during this mega marathon, she has liked quite a few of my preparations with today’s dish being her favorite. She actually came for seconds, thirds and many after. Hurrah!
Today’s dish has a rather interesting history. It originated in Torino in Piemonte, a region of northwest Italy. The most popular origin story is linked to the health problems of Duke Vittorio Amedeo II of Savoy. It was invented around the end of the 17th century by a baker, Antonio Brunero who was commissioned to create something that the young duke could digest. Antonio decided to take a part of the dough use to make ghersa, a typical bread of Torino, and stretch it out into long, thin strips. Once baked, the thin bread sticks were crisp and easy to digest. In the France of Louis XIV someone attempted an imitation, by getting to Paris two craftsmen from Turin, but the air and water of the Seine were not so good and the results were modest. Napoleon sent regularly imperial couriers in Turin to stock the grissini because they seem to relieve his ulcer and called them ‘little sticks of Turin’.
They were initially the length of a pencil but nowadays they are popularly used as table center pieces during dinner and each stick is sometimes a foot long. They are crisp all the way through and can be flavored with various herbs, seeds, and spices. They are most commonly wrapped with paper-thin slices of prosciutto for a classic presentation, but they’re equally delicious served just as they are.
Country – Italy
Makes 15-16 breadsticks
Recipe adapted from here
WHAT WE NEED
Whole wheat flour 1/4 cup
Warm water 6 tbsp
Honey 1/2 tsp
Instant yeast 1 scant tbsp
All purpose flour 3/4 cup
Extra virgin olive oil 1 1/2 tbsp
Salt 3/4 tsp
Flavoring of your choice – dried rosemary, thyme, oregano, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, sesame seeds, etc.
- Mix all the ingredients together till combined together
- Knead for 5-7 minutes in a mixer or till smooth and shiny
- Shape the dough into a ball and keep it in a greased bowl and cover with cling wrap until doubled in volume
- Line the baking sheet with parchment or grease it well with olive oil
- If you are making more than one variety of breadsticks then divide the dough into as many equal parts. I divided the dough into 2 parts for 2 different flavors
- Mix your chosen flavoring into the dough and knead for a couple of minutes. If you are mixing any seeds like sesame, etc then don’t mix into the dough
- Roll out each part into a rectangle. The length of the rectangle is decided on how thin you can roll and the size of your baking tray
- Cut the dough into finger width straight lines and roll each one into a rope ensuring they do not tear away in the middle
- If you are adding seeds, then spread it as a straight line upto the length of your bread sticks
- Roll over each rope on the seeds which will stick on
- Place the ropes on the baking tray 1/2″ apart and let them rest for 15-20 minutes
- Preheat the oven to 220C
- Bake for 5 minutes and then rotate the pan once and bake again for 4-5 minutes or till it is golden brown in colour
- They can easily blacken because the sticks are thin. So keep watching the oven once the pan has been rotated
- Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container upto 3 days
These sticks can be served with soup or a dip of your choice. They are also perfectly tasty when you just bite into one of them.
This is my post for the Mega Marathon under the letter ‘G’.