When Zach and I lived in Dupont Circle, we could rarely afford a night out. Two entry-level nonprofit salaries tend to equal a lot of shoestring dinners at home. But every so often we’d venture down 19th street to our favorite Italian red-sauce joint.
Far from “authentic Italian,” our old haunt has a red-checked tablecloth aesthetic, crunchy grissini on the tables, and an Americanized vibe. But at that time in our life it fit the bill, literally.
These days we make it into Dupont less often, but on occasion still like to stop by for a plate of linguine and clams and a trip down memory lane when we find ourselves nearby. No matter how old we get, what we achieve, or how much more we know now, it’s nice to feel 22 again. To remember the bright-eyed and broke part of ourselves that never really vanishes completely.
There is no doubt better Italian to be found in restaurants closer to our current home in Alexandria and I often find myself drawing on Italian flavors in my own kitchen, like this recipe for homemade grissini, when cravings for our once regular date spot set in.
I’ve adapted a recipe from Carol Field here with my own toppings of choice. I find grissini to be a touch bland and the addition of an everything topping to be a welcome flavor boost.
Summary: Adapted from The Italian Baker by Carol Field. Yields about 20 grissini.
- 1 3/4 tsp instant yeast (I used Rapid Rise)
- 1 Tb maple syrup
- 1 1/4 cup warm water (about 100 deg. F)
- 2 Tb olive oil, plus more for brushing the dough
- 3 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- everything topping (equal mix of: poppy seeds, sesame seeds, kosher salt, dehydrated onion)
- In the bowl of your mixer, combine the yeast, syrup, and warm water. Set aside until the yeast blooms (becomes foamy/bubbly), about 10 mins.
- Using the paddle attachment, mix in the 2 Tb of olive oil then add the salt and flour. Mix with the paddle until a rough dough forms. Then switch to the dough hook and knead on low about 3 mins. The dough should be elastic and smooth.
- Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead lightly a few times. Shape dough into a long, flat rectangle about 14×4 inches. (I got mine to about 12 inches long, just do the best you can). Brush with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap and a dish towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
- 30 mins before the dough is finished rising, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and lightly coat 2-3 rimless baking sheets with oil or nonstick spray. Brush the dough with a little more olive oil and coat the top heavily and evenly with your “everything” mix and press the topping gently into the dough to stick.
- Now we’re going to cut the rectangle into sticks for our grissini. Using a bench scraper or sharp knife, divide the dough into 4 equal sections along the long side. You’re basically turning your rectangle into 4 little rectangles.
- Then, cut each section into 5 strips. Carol Field describes them as looking like “fat fingers.” Pick up a strip and holding each end with your fingers, pull/stretch gently to about the width of your baking sheets. Don’t be afraid if they stretch a bit unevenly, just have fun with it.
- Arrange stretched grissini about 1 inch apart on baking sheets and place in the oven. Bake about 10 minutes, then rotate your baking sheets if the ones near the bottom of the oven are getting browned too quickly. Continue to bake another 5-10 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack.
Grissini are best if eaten the same day but can be rejuvenated after 1-2 days with a spritz of water, wrap in foil, and warm for 5-10 mins in a 200 degree oven.
Preparation time: 1 hour(s) 30 minute(s)
Cooking time: 20 minute(s)