This week’s Great British Bake Off was all about bread and the themes were English muffins, bread sticks and showstopper loaves. I was immediately excited to try the bread stick challenge because it’s something I’ve wanted to make for a while. Like one of the contestants, Ruby, I don’t have a mixer at home and made mine by hand also (which was surprisingly enjoyable!)
I’m not sure how or why I came up with beer and black pepper, but as soon as I did, I couldn’t wait to try it. The beer gives it a dark, bitterness whilst the black pepper injects a kick of flavour into your taste buds. I loved the combination! At first, I was tempted to use a nice English dark ale but because this is based on an Italian recipe, I decided to go for Peroni Doppio Malta (double malt) which gives a really nice strong, dark flavour.
I wasn’t that bothered about my Grissini turning out perfectly straight or all the same size and length but my first batch were pretty ridiculous. They came out 3 times bigger than they should have been and resembled arthritic fingers. But I’m glad I decided to make them in 3 batches because it gave me the opportunity to perfect them. And I was very happy with the 3rd batch coming out not too wonky and with the perfect “snap” and crunch.
Things I learned from GBBO:
- Olive oil is perhaps a better choice over butter as butter tends to make things soft (although Glenn sort of proved this wrong!)
- The right oven temperature is key to the perfect consistency.
Things I learned from my own attempt:
- Make the bread sticks thinner than you’d like them to be, to allow for expanding in the oven.
- Bake in a few batches to test the outcome as you go along.
- 65g (1/2 cup) wholegrain flour
- 180ml (3/4 cup) strong beer
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tbsp dried active yeast
- 165g (1 + 1/2 cup) plain flour
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil + extra for the bowl
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- In a large bowl, mix the wholegrain flour, yeast, beer and honey. Stir with a wooden spoon so it's well combined and leave it to sit for 10-15 minutes.
- Then stir in the plain flour, 3 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp of salt. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead for 5 minutes or so until it becomes elastic, smooth and glossy looking.
- Now transfer the dough into a smaller bowl, coat in a tiny bit of olive oil and cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for an hour. It will double in size so make sure there is enough room in the bowl!
- Once the dough has double in bulk, preheat the oven to 220C/fan 200C. and line 2-3 baking trays with greaseproof paper. (I used one baking tray and cooked them in 3 batches.)
- Turn the dough out onto a board (doesn't need to be floured because of the olive oil) Add the remaining salt and the black pepper to the dough and knead in well. Then shape into a rough rectangle shape.
- Using a sharp knife, cut about 1/2 an inch of the dough off and roll into a very thin, long sausage shape. Bear in mind they will expand in the oven so make them a little thinner than you want them to turn out.
- Keep the sticks about 1/2 inch apart on the baking tray to allow them room to expand. Bake for 10-15 minutes, turning half way.
- Let cool and store in an air-tight container for a few days. Enjoy!