Breadsticks, also known as Grissini, firstly appeared in the Piedmont region of Turin, Italy.
This unique type of bread dates back to the middle of the 14th century. The origin of the word is Piedmontese and is derived from “grissa”, a term for the loaf. Its particular form seems to be linked to the local economic conditions of Turin during the 14th century that required the sale of very light and crispy bread, a characteristic obtained thanks to low thickness-length ratio and from a somewhat “heavy baking” which removes most of the water contained in the dough.1
Breadsticks have different names depending on the country, here are some examples:
- “Grisín” in Argentina
- “Grissini” in Italy
- “Colín” in Spain and Chile
- “Palillo de pan” in most latin countries
How is a breadstick made
Typical formulation of crispy breadsticks
(based on flour weight)
|Bread flour from hard wheat
(plastic at room temperature)
|Instant Dry Yeast
||Only for brushing or dipping baked product
|Sesame seeds or Parmesan cheese
||Only for sprinkling on top of baked product
Producing breadsticks at a large-scale with a high level of uniformity requires balancing the amylase activity in the wheat flour by supplementing with diastatic malt or fungal alpha-amylase. This is due to the absence of added sugar in the formulation to support yeast metabolism and to maintain fermentation or proofing times consistent, batch after batch.
In the artisanal process, the freshly mixed dough is cut into strips, rolled between the fingers, pulled into shape and then baked in a preheated oven to obtain the final product. In a more industrial setting, dough is formed very similar to laminated products.
- Dough mixing. Incorporate dough ingredients at low speed for 2 min. Switch to high speed and continue mixing to full gluten development. This usually takes 8–12 minutes at a final dough temperature of 26°C (79°F). Stronger flours with higher protein content usually call for increasing water absorption or mixing times.
- Bulk fermentation. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 90–120 minutes at room temperature.
- Dividing: Scaling weight per dough piece 25 g
- Sheeting / rolling: Roll each piece into a log that is roughly 25 cm long and 0.5–1.0 cm wide
- Baking and decorating. Place dough pieces on a baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush dough pieces with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, sesame seeds or herbs (e.g. rosemary, oregano, basil). Bake the sticks in a preheated oven at a temperature of 250°C (482°F) for 15 min or until light golden and crisp.
- Keep in mind that dough pieces expand during baking, so allowing sufficient space between adjacent sticks is crucial for excellent results
- Cooling. Remove product from sheet and allow it to cool at room conditions to an internal temperature of 32°C (90°F). Cooling usually takes 15 to 20 minutes to reach the final temperature.
- Packaging or serving
Making breadsticks may sound easy. However, if not properly formulated or scaled, it could result in poor quality products with a dense texture which is far from the pleasant experience the customer is looking for.
Unlike other yeast-leavened baked goods like pan bread with specific volumes of 5 to 7 mL / g, breadsticks are much heavier products that do not require as much dough expansion from carbon dioxide production, so leavening or proofing stages during production are shorter.
Main characteristics of breadsticks:
- Specific volume: 1.3 – 2.5 mL / g
- Moisture content: < 10.0%
- Flavor: savory, spicy or salty
- Texture: crispy, crunchy
- Pagani, M.A., Lucisano, M., Mariotti, M. “Italian Bakery Products.” Bakery Products Science and Technology, 2nd Edition, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 2014, pp. 685–721.