When in Greece, you will see Kritsinia in many places/spots as you sight-see, travel through the city or to the countryside. Kritsinia are bread sticks that often covered in sesame seeds or with an array of edible seeds. You may find Kritsinia at one of the many farmer’s markets that set up in neighborhoods in the city and in towns. They will also be found at patisseries and bakeries: there’s a bakery on almost every corner in Greece at least one in every village.
Kritsinia will be found sold on the streets by vendors who will also sell Koulouria, the ringed snack that’s also very popular amongst Greeks. The periptera (kiosks) that are found on almost every street corner in Greece sell Kritsinia amongst the other snacks, drinks, candy and anything else one can stuff into a grab bag. Why, you’ll find Kritsinia sold at supermarkets and made by one of Greece’s large biscuit makers.
Bread is an integral part of the Greek diet and I don’t see this changing much in the near future. Kritsinia may be offered as part of a breakfast with some cheeses. Kritsinia are definitely a snack food; pop two or three (or four) in your mouth to hold you over ’til lunch. I’ve seen Kritsinia appear at parties or afternoon coffee (tea) gatherings and even at the beach!
Kritsinia are not expensive and the variety that’s available seem to expand each time I go to Greece. My favourite Kritsinia (Kritsini is the singular form) are generously coated in sesame seeds and flavour-wise, they are definitely savory with some sweet undertones. My take on Kritsinia contains sea salt (ONLY sea salt is used in Greek cooking), honey and some tahini to accentuate the sesame seed theme. To make the Kritsinia more colourful, I’ve added some black sesames seeds into the mix with the more familiar white sesame.
Borrowing from the technique I used to coat my Koulouria last September, I’ve once again diluted some Petimezi with water to be used to coat the Kritsinia and ensure the sesame seeds stick well on them. Petimezi is a grape syrup made from the must of grapes and although there recipes to make your own Petimezi (I’m crazy enough to do it one day), the ready-made stuff in jars is just fine. You will definitely find it in Greece, some Greek grocers/delis will carry it outside of Greece as well. Middle-eastern and Turkish shops will also sell Petimezi. You may have to ask for a grape molasses or syrup but they will also carry it.
This recipe is easy and one you can get the kids to help you with. Make the dough, allow it to double in size and then call the kids in to help roll the dough into pencil shapes then coat them with the sesame seeds. You’ll love the Kritsinia, the kids will love making them (and eating them) and you’ll have a healthy snack on hand around the house. Here’s another reason to cut some of the crap from your weekly shopping list. Here’s to your health….with Kritisina!
(makes about 40)
1 tsp. of active dry yeast
2 Tbsp. of honey
3/4 cup of tepid (warm) water
1/4 cup Tahini
3/4 tsp. of fine sea salt
1 3/4 to 2 cups of all purpose flour
2 Tbsp. of Petimezi (grape molasses) diluted in 1/4 cup of water (or just water if you can’t find Petimezi)
1 1/3 cup of sesame seeds
1/4 cup black sesame seeds
Pre-heated 350F oven
- In a large bowl, add the honey, tahini, yeast and tepid water and gently mix then allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add the salt and 1 1/2 cups of the flour and begin kneading with your hands (you may use a food processor). Keep on adding flour while kneading until the dough becomes smooth and no longer tacky (sticky). Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow for the to double in size (60 – 90 minutes).
- Place your dough on a lightly floured work surface and simply flatten in with your hands. Cut the dough into 20 pieces and roll each piece into a ball (about the size of a walnut). Using your hands, roll the ball of dough into about 11-12 inches in length and to about the thickness of a pencil. Cut in half (repair the cut ends) and reserve on a tray. Continue to roll-out the remaining balls of dough and form and cut the Krtitsinia.
- Prepare your dipping station: one bowl with the white and black sesame seeds mixed and another bowl with the Petimezi and water mixed in. Pre-heat your oven to 350F (middle rack) and place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking tray.
- Dip each Kritsini in the Petimezi mixture and then place in the bowl with sesame seeds then roll in the seeds and place on your parchment-covered baking tray (keeping them as straight as possible). Do not allow more than 15 minutes to pass until they are baked as they will continue to rise ( you want thin breadsticks).
- Place in your pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes or until just golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an air-tight container. Serve with coffee or tea, as a snack or breakfast and pair with cheese.
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