Sunday, 15 March 2015

Breadsticks AKA Grissini

My gang are addicted to these simple breadsticks at the moment, declaring them to be ‘so much nicer than the ones you buy’ and demanding that I bake batch after batch of them to satisfy their seemingly insatiable hunger for them. Don’t misunderstand me, they are also still firmly welded to their chocolate addictions and can’t understand why I would bother cooking or baking anything that doesn’t include it. So in the general scheme of things, I am happy that they will set aside their chocolate obsessions and demand that I bake breadsticks.
 
The dough for these breadsticks is very similar to the one I use when baking a white loaf and if anything is just that slight bit dryer to the touch when it has first been mixed together. The dough is enriched with olive oil but other than that, the dough is mixed, kneaded, proved in the normal way. Differences obviously emerge in how the dough is shaped as, rather than being shaped into a loaf or rolls, it is rolled into long, pencil-thin lengths and left to rise for a second time. The key thing when making these breadsticks is to make sure that you do roll them out pencil thin as they will expand during the second rise and also upon meeting the heat of the oven. When baked the breadsticks should be no more than 1cm thick… any thicker and I find they don’t crisp up enough. They don’t have to be rolled out into a perfect cylinder and to be honest; I actually think a few variations in thickness along the length looks quite attractive.
 
The basic dough can be flavoured with finely chopped herbs or ground spice, or you can do as I have done here and keep it very simple, merely flavouring them with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of good quality flaky sea salt. I use Maldon Sea Salt but there are some great flavoured sea-salts for sale these days and one of them might be nice to use for a change.
 
When they are baked and cooled, I like to serve these sticks in a tall jug alongside a range or charcuterie and dips as a makeshift antipasti platter. This is wonderful to serve before a dinner party or if guests are expected and is a little more upmarket than crisps or peanuts in bowls. My children like to eat them as they are and within minutes of them coming out of the oven, you can hear them happily crunching away!
 
Normally when baking a loaf of bread, I recommend whacking the oven up to its highest temperature setting, but here the aim is to dry the breadsticks out, so they are cooked at a lower temperature for slightly longer than you would expect considering their skinny qualities!
 

Ingredients:

225g strong white bread flour
1 level tsp of fine sea salt
7g fresh yeast
125ml water
20ml olive oil
To finish:
Olive oil for drizzling
Flaky sea salt or poppy seeds for sprinkling
 

Method:

1. Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and mix with your hands to distribute the salt. Crumble in the yeast and mix through the flour. Make a well in the centre and add the water and olive oil. Bring everything together with your hands to create a dough.
2. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and feels silky and springs back when prodded.  Place into a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Set aside to prove for approximately 1 hour or until doubled in size.
3. Turn the dough out of the bowl after it has proved and knock back, removing the air., Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a rectangle about 15cms x 40cms with the short edge facing you. Using a sharp knife cut 25-30 strips just over 1cm thick.
4. Taking one strip at a time and using booth hands, roll the dough out working from the centre out and moving your hands in opposite direction along the length, to create a pencil thin strip about 25cms long and 1 cm thick.
5. Place the strips side by side on a large baking sheet (use a second tray if necessary) lined with non-stick baking parchment, leaving space between each breadstick so that they can rise without sticking to each other. Leave aside to rise for about 30-40 minutes until almost doubled in size.
6. About 10 minutes before you want to bake the breadsticks, preheat the oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4.
7. Drizzle a little olive oil over the breadsticks and sprinkle with flaky sea salt or poppy seeds. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the bread sticks are golden brown and cooked through.

Makes approximately 30 x 25cm long breadsticks.