Il Grissino: its history and curiosities
The name Grissino derives from the Piedmontese word "ghersa", which indicates the classic traditional bread with an elongated shape.
The birth of this typical Turin is closely related to its history. It is said that the little Vittorio Amedeo Francesco di Savoia (1666-1732), the future king, was particularly frail and had difficulty digesting the breadcrumbs. When the infant was two years old (1668), the doctor of the future Vittorio Amedeo II, called Doctor Pecchio di Lanzo, asked the baker Antonio Brunero to produce a light and more digestible bread. Brunero thought it best to modify the bread in use over time (the "ghersa") by reducing the crumb by pulling and thinning it until it becomes a well-cooked stick with a crunchy crust and very little water.
It was natural to call it Ghersin or small ghersa.
Then there is a second, less and less fascinating explanation of the origin. It seems that in the second half of the 1300s, when bread was sold by the unit and not by weight, due to the inflation that hit Piedmont, the "grissia" (the typical form of bread) became increasingly light and thin enough to become " gherssin "(small bread).
It involved the intervention of four bakers. The Stiror (the one who iron), the Tajor (the one who cuts), the Coureur (the one who puts) and the Gavor (the one who takes away). The stiror stretched the dough, the tajor reduced to dough, after handling the first, into pieces of about 3 cm. The Coureur placed the sticks on a long and narrow shovel and introduced them into the Piedmontese oven (working with poplar wood). The last gavor had the task of extracting the sticks from the oven and breaking them in two.
The oldest and most traditional form of the breadstick is the "rubatà". It is 50/70 cm long up to 80 cm. Hand-worked from the knotty dough therefore it is called so because the term means rolled. The rubatà of Chieri (a municipality bordering Turin) is included in the list of traditional Italian agri-food products of the ministry of agricultural, food and forestry policies.
The type of processing allowed, as early as the eighteenth century, mechanized production.
This "crust-only bread" is made with only 00 flour, water, yeast and salt. Recently, products called "olive oil, water-based, soft breadsticks (added animal fat) are marketed, but their duration is limited.
Flavored breadsticks for example with sesame, fennel, chilli, rosemary, saffron, cumin and others.
Breadsticks with walnuts, olives, truffles etc. up to the sweet variants with chocolate with sugars or caramelized (personally to the latter we recommend some rubatà and a couple of squares of dark chocolate). Breadsticks can be produced using wholemeal flour, buckwheat, kamut, spelled, bran, corn and rice instead of plain flour.
Of note is the production of gluten-free breadsticks for celiacs.
The breadstick in a short time from its invention became the basic ingredient of the "supa barbetta". Typical dish of Waldensian cuisine in Piedmont where this crunchy stick replaced the stale bread used previously.
Supa Barbetta ingredients (4 people): 500 g of breadsticks, 1 liter of meat broth, 100 g of toma cheese, 50 ml of tomato sauce, pepper, cinnamon, cloves.
Distribute in layers, sprinkling as everything cooks for about 1 hour at the end sprinkle with plenty of Grana Padano.
The breadstick quickly became a guest of all tables, both modest and noble.
-Princess Maria Felicita of Savoy (1730-1801) loved the new bread so much that she was known as the "breadstick princess".
-King Carlo Felice even ate them at the theater, so much so that Massimo D'Azelio portrayed him in such a way "with dexterity he swallowed holding them by one of the heads with two fingers and ironing the other quickly quickly with his teeth".
-In the France of Louis XIV an attempt was made to imitate him, bringing two Turin artisans to Paris, but the water of the Seine and the air were not as good as those of Turin and the results were modest.
-Napoleon Bonaparte fascinated by the flavor of the Turin breadstick organized periodic transports between Turin and Paris in order to always have them fresh, calling them "le petits batons de Turin elegants et savoreux".
-Maria Luisa of Austria instead broke them in broth.
It seems that, in his beloved palace of Venaria, Vittorio Amedeo II wanders among the halls accompanying himself with a basket of his dear breadsticks.