Anyone who’s been into homemade bread for some time surely must have heard of the Simili sisters. They are the authors of a famous book on Italian breads and pastries, Pane e roba dolce. Well, recently I was so lucky to have a friend of mine lending me the book. These gorgeous Italian breadsticks are inspired in the recipe for grissini torinesi stirati. Leafing through the book (which is in Italian, of course) I found this recipe for grissini, where this paragraph almost made tears roll down my cheeks:
I grissini risulteranno abbastanza irregolari, con parti sottili che diventano croccanti e tratti più grossi che mantengono ancora una certa morbidezza, ma questa è proprio la loro peculiare caratteristica.
Oooooooh, pure poetry. That means:
The breadsticks come out quite uneven, with thin parts that are crisp and with thicker sections that still retain some tenderness, but this is exactly what characterizes them.
Just that, that varied consistency, crunchy and soft in one piece, was what I loved about the breadsticks we used to buy when returning home from school in the former bakery of Cea Bermúdez, a place that oozed one of the most fantastic smells that I can remember. Like almost all bakeries in the centre of Madrid, it closed many years ago. In Madrid grissini are called colines.
I‘ve modified this recipe for grissini Torinesi stirati of the Simili ladies in that they use the direct method with one single fermentation, and I made a preferment, then fermented the dough in bulk, followed by a brief final proofing. That’s the method I most usually follow. I’ll have to try their method some time to see the difference.
- 500g bread flour
- 290g water
- 5g dry baker's yeast (15g fresh yeast)
- 10g salt
- 1 tsp malt
- 50g olive oil
- Semolina for the counter top
- Olive oil for moisting the dough
- Prepare a poolish with 100g flour, 100g water and all the yeast. Leave it to ferment until doubled in volume and frothy.
- Add the remaining water, flour, salt and malt; knead a little. Add the oil and continue kneading by hand or machine, although there's no need to get a fantastic gluten development. Make a ball, place it in an oiled bowl, cover and let proof until doubled in bulk, more or less.
- Deflate the dough on the counter, thoroughly sprinkled with semolina (1), and flatten it into a rectangle about 30x10cm. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with more semolina. Then leave to ferment for a short while, 45 minutes or so, covered with plastic or a damp cloth.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220°C/ 200°C (fan).
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper and cut dough strips of just over 1cm wide, pick them and gently stretch them to the length of the tray (2). Allow some space between them (not much really) and bake 15 to 20 minutes depending on your oven, watching the last few minutes of baking to prevent burning.
- Remove the grissini to a rack to cool, cut another batch and bake on the same paper sheet. Proceed until finishing the dough.
- To get them more evenly browned, you can turn them around in the last few minutes of baking, although this has the effect of warping the grissini. But we love warped grissini too, no prejudice here.
(2) You can also twist the sticks a little.
(3) The preparation time does not include fermentation, as the time depends on the ambient temperature as well as on the quantity and quality of the yeast.
Swallow the grissini unceremoniously and without remorse, accompanying an appetizer, or a soup, or whatever you prefer. I‘ve kept the breadsticks simple, but before baking them they can also be sprinkled with herbs, grated cheese, sesame seeds, poppy seeds or whatever you can think of.
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