Thursday, 18 June 2015

Sourdough breadsticks

Sourdough breadsticks

Sourdough bakers, this post is for you.
If you are, like me, always looking for new recipes and techniques for using this amazing natural leavener and also don't like to throw away the part of sourdough you don't refresh, please go on reading.
Since I have been given some "precious" mature sourdough few months ago, I started reading and studying (books, websites, blogs and whatever I found) in order to use it at its best. And also experimented a lot to come up with my own favorite recipes. I have to say that I've already fine tuned the recipes for focaccia (and pizza too) and pita bread - when you make the same recipe at least once a week, you can say it doesn't need much improvement - while for bread I'm still in search for THE recipe - I'm pretty happy with a couple but the "wow factor" is still missing. I'm a perfectionist, so if the taste is good but what I make doesn't come out pretty all the times as well I feel that I still have to work.
And this is the point where I am with bread: good but not always beautiful as I would like. I'll keep you updated on the progress, if any!
Sourdough breadsticks

But in the meantime I can share a recipe that I particularly like: grissini (the Italian name for breadsticks) made with non-refreshed sourdough. I came across it by chance, browsing an Italian website named Dissapore focused on everything about food: news, information, curious facts, restaurants and also recipes and cooking techniques.
One of the recent topics was a sort of lesson on sourdough (that's called pasta madre in Italian) by a talented Italian baker and sourdough expert, Renato Bosco - if you travel to Italy and in particular visit the North Eastern area, a stop at his pizzeria Saporè near Verona can be an enjoyable choice. And in his talk he suggests to use the part of sourdough that you don't refresh to make these breadsticks instead of throwing away. I loved the idea and tried, and liked so much that I made several times introducing also some personal variations to further improve the result and test possible variants on the basic recipe.

The main addition I made to the basic recipe I read is extra virgin olive oil, that Bosco doesn't  mention but gives to these grissini a softer and more pleasant texture along with the peculiar flavor of EVOO, that will be different depending on the variety used. If you don't like extra virgin olive oil (is there anyone who doesn't like EVOO?) or want a different flavor, you can use another vegetable oil or even melted butter.  

Before going to the recipe a clarification is necessary though.
If you decide to give this recipe a try - well deserved in my opinion - do not expect as a result those friable, buttery, rich breadsticks that can be found in stores and, at least in Italy, many bakeries. Being made with just sourdough, flour, salt and a bit of oil, if using, they will have more a bread-like texture with the unique, sour taste typical of sourdough. Playing with additional ingredients it is possible to modify both the texture and flavor, even if I love them in the basic version maybe just covered in sesame seed or sprinkled with flaky salt: adding to the dough chopped olives and / or sundried tomatoes they will get a Mediterranean taste and a softer texture, sesame seeds or chopped nuts give some crunch bringing also a fat component in the dough, grated cheese makes them richer, dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, mint or the Middle Eastern zataar) enhance the flavor, and so on depending on inspiration  - there is no limit to creativity here.
I'm going to describe the basic version that is the mother of all possible variants.

A final note: this recipe doesn't and can't prescribe the exact amount of the ingredients as everything depends on the type of sourdough used (for the expert the hydration level) as well as on the flour and, very important, external temperature and humidity.
So you'll have to work carefully adding a little flour at a time until you get the right consistency: a soft, smooth, non-sticky ball of dough.
But home bakers know what I mean.
Sourdough breadsticks

Sourdough breadsticks 
Transfer the non-refreshed sourdough in a mixing bowl and sprinkle with a little flour. Add a pinch of salt. a little extra virgin olive oil and mix, at the beginning with a fork or a whisk then with your hands, adding a sprinkle of flour at a time until you get a small ball of non-sticky, smooth dough.
To make the dough smooth you can also mix it rapidly in a electric mixer (though I do everything by hand) adding a little more flour if it's still too sticky.
At this point transfer the dough onto a lightly floured counter, divide into even pieces (of about 25 to 30 g each) and roll them with your hand into logs of about 10 - 12 cm length.
If you want to cover them with sesame or other small seeds, place a clean towel or cheese cloth on the counter and sprinkle with some water; place the seeds in a plate. Roll the breadstick on the wet towel then in the seeds and transfer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Preheat the oven to 150 °C.
After 15 minutes, when the dough will be less "elastic", stretch each breadstick from the ends until about 20 - 25 cm long. 
Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until firm and lightly golden.
Try to consume these breadstick the same day they are prepared as they don't keep very well. If you have some left place them in a airtight container and consume within the day after.
If you want to flavor or enrich the dough with olives, dried tomatoes, nuts , cheese,  herbs, or spices add the chosen ingredients along with the flour.

1 comment:

  1. The strongest and fearless person is the one who knows his/her mistakes and still seek for guidance and forgiveness. Have a pleasant day and keep on smiling. Visit my site for more information.