Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fresh Soft Breadsticks

Serve breadsticks in a unique glass
This is mostly a passive recipe that requires a few minutes of your attention at the start and finish and rewards you with a batch of warm breadsticks.  Sprinkled with some grated Parmesan cheese, they make a simple soup or spaghetti dinner special or a nice coffee treat when dredged in a bit of cinnamon sugar.  Topped with some coarse salt, they will remind you of soft pretzels.  Serve them at a cocktail party with a honey-mustard sauce.  If you have never worked with yeast doughs, this is a good starter recipe. 

Soft Breadsticks Dough
Makes about 36 breadsticks

1 cup water, 100-110˚F
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (1 packet)
large pinch of sugar
3 cups bread flour
optional toppings: grated Parmesan cheese, cinnamon sugar or coarse salt

  1. Start dough up to an hour and a half before you want to serve bread sticks.  Add 1 cup of water, 100-110˚F, to a large bowl.  Sprinkle yeast and sugar over water and stir lightly.  Let mixture sit for 5 minutes to allow yeast to bloom.  If you do not see a bloom cap forming over water within 8 minutes, your yeast may be old.  You will need to start again with fresh yeast.
  2. When yeast has bloomed, stir in 2 cups of flour.  Turn a wooden spoon upside down to use the handle as a good mixer.  
  3. When flour is incorporated, turn dough onto a floured board and begin to need, adding the last cup of flour in as you go.  On drier days, not all the flour will be required.  Knead dough for 8 minutes, until dough is elastic and no longer sticky.  Don’t worry too much if you are new to the process and not sure of the texture.   This is a very forgiving dough. 
  4. Place dough in a medium bowl that has been lightly oiled.  Cover with a dish towel and place in a non-drafty spot at least 70˚K (near the stove works well).  Let dough rise 50 minutes, until doubled in size.
  5. Preheat oven to 400˚F.
  6. Punch down dough and let rest 15 minutes.  This will make the dough easier to roll out.  On a floured counter tip or board, roll out dough to into a large rectangle about 12” X 16”.  
  7. Cut dough in strips about 1/2 inch wide to make 32 strips.  Twist the strips and fold them in half so that the two ends twist around each other or leave them long for a dramatic effect.  Lay each strip on a lightly oiled cookie sheet.  
  8. For breadsticks, brush strips with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese before baking. For cinnamon sticks, brush with melted butter and cover with cinnamon sugar (2 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon) before baking. For soft “pretzels,” brush with water and baking soda (dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in a 1/4 cup water) and sprinkle with coarse salt before baking.  
  9. Bake at 400˚F for 15 minutes, until nicely browned.  Remove from pan and cool just a few minutes before serving. 

Leftover breadsticks don’t keep well.  If you have leftovers or want to make a batch ahead, store them in the freezer and reheat them uncovered in a oven or toaster oven at medium temperature (300-350˚F) or about 10 minutes.