In the Italian village of Barolo, grissini is stretched by hand one-by-one in what is a labour of love in a family-run bakery.
Panetteria Filli Cravero stands unassumingly among the shops and apartment blocks in Barolo, in the Piedmont region in north-western Italy.
It’s a quiet morning when brother and sister team, Guglielmo and Daniela, open their doors to our tiny Australian tour group. We crowd into the kitchen, surrounded by shelves and boxes of already-made grissini – thin, dry breadsticks traditional to Italy. Earlier in the morning, Daniela and a co-worker spent three hours stretching 100 kilograms of grissini.
“Every one is stretched by hand,” says Serena Destefanis, our Traveller’s Collection guide. “Not rolling, not pressing, they stretch.” If the grissini is pressed instead, it will become hard, Serena explains in her thick Italian accent.
When all of the dough has been made into narrow strips, it is placed on trays and put into the large oven in the corner of the kitchen. The grissini is cooked in 12kg batches for 20 minutes on 270C.
At Panetteria Filli Cravero, 10 flavours of grissini are made but the one with fresh rosemary is the favourite.
Daniela, a stocky woman with greying hair and a large smile, hands around a plate of rosemary grissini made that morning.
“It’s beautiful,” chorus the ladies in our group. “Delicious.”
During the making of the dough, 70 per cent of the composition is water, Serena explains. Not all of the water evaporates during the cooking process, meaning that if the grissini absorbs the humidity of the room in which they are stored, they will turn soft. If this happens, you can put the grissini in a microwave for about two minutes and it will become crisp again, she says.
Grissini will keep for about six months in a sealed container, which allows Daniela and Guglielmo to export their product internationally. Although the bakery also sells bread, the pair is known for their aromatic grissini.
The siblings have been working in the bakery together for about 32 years. Before then, the bakery was used as the public “oven” and is said to be the oldest oven in the region.
Serena explains that during the 1920s, under Benito Mussolini’s reign, every village was required by law to have a public oven (bakery) that could be at the disposal of the Italian army. It was also used by residents, with every family making their own bread and using the oven to bake it.
When the village baker retired, the bakery faced closure, so Daniela and Guglielmo bought it, keeping the village “oven” alive. Now, the charming pair open their business to visitors and locals wanting to learn the traditional handmade way of making grissini. It’s a pleasure to learn about their lives and they’re just two of many welcoming Italians we meet during on our gourmet food and wine tour of the Piedmont region.
As we say “arrivederci”, Daniela pushes a large bag of grissini into my arms, smiling large as we head back out into the autumn sun of Barolo.
IF YOU GO
GETTING THERE: Barolo is in the far north-western corner of Italy, about two hours south-west of Milan Airport. A number of airlines fly from Australia to Milan, including Emirates, Etihad and Singapore Airlines.
STAYING THERE: Visiting Panetteria Filli Cravero is part of The White Truffles of Alba tour by The Traveller’s Collection. The tour is seven days and includes visits to cheese and hazelnut farms, markets and wineries. Accommodation is in hotels with a minimum of four stars and the guide is English speaking. The tour costs $2293 per person twin-share for the October 1, 2015, departure (conditions apply). For more, visit thetravellerscollection广西桑拿,广西桑拿网, or call 1300 702 818.
PLAYING THERE: The bakery has an Italian language website grissinicravero广西桑拿,. For more on what to do while visiting Italy, check out italia.it/en.
*The writer travelled as a guest of The Traveller’s Collection