Sourdough grissini must be the next sourdough discard recipe on your list. What makes them special is the use of lard. Flavourful sourdough discard and lard together take these sourdough breadsticks to the next level. An unmissable item on your festive table!
Grissini (Italian for breadsticks) are amazing. They have the crunch and flavour of crackers, but in this lovely thin and long shape. If you’re a charcuterie board lover you can’t miss grissini on your next one! The way they pair with all kinds of cheese is perfect. And how about wrapping them with proscutto slices? Trust me, you need more sourdough grissini in your life.
As a born and raised piemontese I will once again state how proud I am of my culinary heritage (you may have noticed me bragging the same on other Piedmontese recipes). Grissini come from Piedmont, but they have become popular all over Italy. If you’ve ever eaten at a restaurant in Italy you’ll know that the bread basket that comes first always features grissini. And it’s impossible to leave them alone while waiting for your meal to arrive.
In their most simple variation, grissini feature no fat. The basic recipe is a yeasted dough that gets rolled out and cut into strips. The strips are then hand pulled and baked until crispy. Simple grissini are not more caloric than a slice of bread. But you can add fat to your grissini dough and this is where things get more interesting (and higher in calories).
Olive oil is generally the number one choice of fat added to grissini. Its flavour is what most people associate with the Mediterranean cuisine. Although not adding much, the fat of choice helps lift the overall flavour and make your end product recognisably yummier.
Originating in Piedmont, olive oil was most likely not a go-to ingredient in the old days. Butter and lard were definitely two more available choices of fat. Lard in particular is used in one of my favourite grissini types, grissini del Roero. Roero is a region in Piedmont that, beside my favourite grissini, also produces my favourite white wine, Arneis.
Sourdough grissini recipe
To make my sourdough grissini I have used the grissini recipe from Wild Yeast Blog. I have adapted it to make my grissini more similar to my favourite Roero grissini from back home. If you’re not a fan of lard and you’d rather stick to the original thing, please refer to my colleague’s recipe. As usual, please refer to the recipe card below for quantities.
- Lukewarm water
- Sourdough starter (either discard or recently fed starter)
- Cornmeal flour for dusting.
If you’re missing the key ingredient, here’s how to make your own sourdough starter!
- Combine the flour, water, sourdough discard and salt in a bowl and mix with a spatula to incorporate.
- Melt the lard and pour it into the dough as it’s coming together. Be careful to add it little by little since it’s hot.
- Tip the content of the bowl over a well-floured surface and work the dough with your hands. Knead for about 3 minutes; the dough should be soft and tacky. That is to say slightly sticky but not so much that it will stick to the table. Place the dough ball back in the bowl and cover with cling film. Let rest for 2 hours in a warm place, performing a set of stretch-and-folds after 40 and 80 minutes.
- Take the dough out of the bowl and onto your floured working surface. Roll it out and stretch to form a square measuring 35*35 cm (14*14 inches). Be careful not to press it too hard with the rolling pin, but try to stretch it with your hands as much as possible.
- Fold the dough in half towards yourself so that the face-up side is now folded inwards.
- Cut out the dough every 1-1,5 cm creating thin strips. I have used a knife, but a pizza cutter works just as fine.
- Take each strip between your fingers and gently pull them to double their length, while also lightly twisting them. Transfer the hand-pulled strips to a sheet pan dusted with cornmeal flour.
- Melt some more lard and brush it onto the breadsticks. Gently push each grissini to the side to lightly roll them on the cornmeal so it will stick to all sides.
- Bake the sourdough grissini for 30 minutes in the preheated oven at 200°C (390°F), or 190°C if fan-forced. I recommend to work in batches and turn the tray halfway through the baking time.
Here’s the famous Georgian bread Khachapuri Adjaruli with sourdough starter.
Sourdough grissini recipe tips
I have made two batches of this recipe while testing, with sourdough discard and with some starter that had been previously fed. Both work just fine. And both have their own set of advantages:
- An older sourdough starter that needs to be fed always produces some discard that I’m always sorry to trash. This is the perfect way to use some of it. Also, an older starter usually has a more acidic quality that translates in a lovely flavour.
- A freshly-fed starter at its prime may lack the acidic notes of discard but will produce fluffier grissini as they bake. The grissini in these pictures (made with starter discard) grew less compared with the batch I made with fed starter 4 hours later.
Cornmeal is the traditional finish of grissini del Roero. I have used a fine white corn flour, but if you have coarser polenta go for it! In general, just as in bread baking, you want to dust your baking surface with something different than flour, as flour absorbs the liquids too much. Another great alternative is durum semolina.
For a deeper golden hue to your sourdough grissini you may allow a couple more minutes of baking time. Baking time may vary depending on thickness. Authentic homemade grissini are quite irregular, so too long a baking time may result in overbaked thinner parts. The perfect grissini are crunchy and crispy throughout. Thicker parts may have a softer core. Just leave them out to air dry overnight and they will get the perfect texture.
History of the Italian breadsticks
Grissini were invented in Italy around 1670 as an alternative to regular bread for the Duke of Savoy when he was a child. History credits Antonio Brunero as the baker who supplied the noble family this delicacy. But it is believed that the people of Piedmont were already eating crunchy long breads before that date. Brunero just made grissini famous because he had a VIP client.
The history of grissini reminds a little bit of the history of pizza Margherita. Just like grissini, even pizza Margherita was first created for a member of the Savoy family. The year was 1889 and the baker went by the name Raffaele Esposito. While he takes the credits for creating the topping that launched modern pizza, flatbreads with various toppings existed in Italy long before that.
Now that you know all about grissini it’s your turn to bake some. Make sure to add a batch of sourdough grissini on your table the next time you need to make something with sourdough starter discard. I love them with some Italian cold cuts and cheeses as part of the antipasto but I will never say no to grissini dipped in Nutella. You should try for yourself and let me know what you think about that!
For some other delicious starter ideas try also:
- Baked goat cheese with figs and prosciutto
- Mini tomato mustard tarts
- Eggplant ricotta dip
- Garlicky mushroom crostini
Sourdough grissini with lard
Lard grissini with sourdough discard. A flavourful variation of the Italian breadstick recipe.
- 340 g flour
- 200 g water lukewarm
- 228 g sourdough starter freshly fed or discard
- 50 g lard divided
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp cornmeal
Combine the flour, water, sourdough starter and salt in a bowl and mix with a spatula to incorporate.
When the dough is coming together, melt half of the lard and add it little by little.
Transfer the dough to a well-floured surface and knead for about 3 minutes; the dough should be soft and tacky.
Place the dough ball back in the bowl and cover with cling film. Let rest for 2 hours in a warm place, performing a set of stretch-and-folds after 40 and 80 minutes.
Take the dough out of the bowl and onto your floured working surface. Roll it out and stretch to form a square measuring 35*35 cm (14*14 inches).
Fold the dough in half towards yourself so that the face-up side is now folded inwards.
Cut out the dough every 1-1,5 cm creating thin strips. Take each strip between your fingers and gently pull to double their length, while also lightly twisting them.
Transfer the hand-pulled strips to a sheet pan dusted with cornmeal flour. Melt the rest of the lard and brush it onto the breadsticks. Gently roll each grissini so more cornmeal sticks to its surface.
Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven at 200°C (390°F), or 190°C if fan-forced. I recommend to work in batches and turn the tray halfway through the baking time.
Baking time may vary depending on thickness. Allow a couple more minutes for a deeper golden hue, but do not overbake. The perfect grissini are crunchy and crispy throughout. If some grissini have a softer core leave them out to air dry overnight.
Nutrition facts are an estimate and in this recipe they're calculated per piece.