BLUE WINDOW | Food Travels in the Alps | Grissini / Grissino Stirato / Ghersin Stirà (stretched breadsticks)

Grissini / Grissino Stirato / Ghersin Stirà ITALY stretched breadsticks

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Stretched breadsticks – petits bâton in France, grissino in Italy, flûte in Switzerland – are associated with the alpine regions of Piedmont, Savoy and Vaud, the former kingdom of Savoy and identified specifically with Turin, the former capital.

History is divided on their origins. The popular legend associates the breadstick with the court of Savoy in the late 1600s. Future king Vittorio Amedeo II was unable to digest the heavy bread of the era. His despairing mother consulted the court doctor Teobaldo Pecchio Lanzo. He consulted the court baker Antonio Brunero. Between them they devised a bread that would be well-baked, light and easy to digest. Brunero achieved this by kneading the dough longer than usual, by stretching it into a long thin shape and baking it until it was crispy.

There is an earlier legend, back to the 1300s when the local bread known as gherssa or grissia was taxed according to the shape instead of the usual method of weight, and this led to bakers making elongated loaves – gherssin in the Piedmont dialect, grissino in Italian – similar to the French baguette.

The truth is somewhere in the middle and located in the mid-1600s when milling techniques improved the quality of the flour and allowed bakers to stretch their gherssa dough into longer, thinner string-like shapes. This new form of bread appealed to the nobility who called it panbiscotto. It would have been made with soft wheat flour in contrast to the long loaves made with rye and barley flours.

These days the debate is about the content, whether it should be enhanced. The basic recipe contains wheat flour, water, yeast and salt. It can also contain fat, lard or vegetable oil. And some recipes are now using white spelt flour. 

This is the Turin breadstick, made with oil and dressed with semolina flour.

500 g 00 soft white wheat flour / white spelt flour
250 ml water, warm
45 ml + 30 ml olive oil
15 g salt
15 g yeast
Semolina flour

Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Sieve flour into a large bowl, add three tablespoons of oil, salt and yeast liquid. Knead into a smooth dough, leave to rise for an hour, degas, leave for second hour. Divide dough into 40 g pieces, shape into 10 cm long sticks, brush with oil and roll in semolina flour. Stretch to the length of your baking tray, place on parchment paper on the trays, leave to rise for 30 minutes covered. Preheat oven to 200ºC. Bake for 10 minutes, until they take on a golden-brown colour.

More here.