Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Breadsticks 101

I am a little late with today's posting but, better late than never. I thought I was getting a pass for Christmas this year because my husband Marc is on call Christmas day and my daughter Lauren is in Las Vegas where they just opened the Wynn's new casino Encore, so she can't come home, and the boys weren't coming home. Of course, the best laid plans...

Jeff and Steven called to say they are coming home, so I am now scrambling for a Christmas Eve, Christmas Day menu. I know the boys love breadsticks because we always make mussels marinara with spaghetti on Christmas Eve and they love to dip the breadsticks in the sauce. So, this morning, I was making breadsticks, tomorrow, the grocery store!

These breadsticks are very easy to make and once you make them, you will never buy store-bought breadsticks again. They are very versatile, you can use them in a bread tray, use them as an appetizer with some prosciutto wrapped around them, dip them in a cup of coffee, and if you are really decadent, smear them with butter and just munch away!

I've had this recipe since I was in high school (which trust me, was a very long time ago) and they have been served at every Thanksgiving dinner in our family since. When I am feeling really nice, I'll make them just because...

I always have to hide some, so they will make it to the table for the holidays.

Enjoy...the aroma as they bake will fill your house with love!!!


1⅓ cups warm water
2 packages active dry yeast
3 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoon sugar (level)
½ cup vegetable oil (Wesson)
4 cups Gold Medal flour

2 egg yolks and 1 tablespoon water for an egg wash (add more as needed)
Natural (not hulled) Sesame Seeds (about 1-1½ pounds or about 3-3½ cups)

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar, wait a few minutes, then add the salt and turn mixer on and off quickly to blend. Add the oil, and half the flour. Beat vigorously under smooth. Mix in the remaining flour. Knead in bowl or on a floured cloth covered board until smooth. If you do it in a Kitchen Aid mixer (use dough hook) or a Cuisinart (use dough blade), you don't even need to knead the dough; just follow the directions above except instead of beating vigorously, turn on mixer and mix the first addition of flour. Then, add the last two cups of flour and process until the dough forms a ball. It makes perfect dough almost every time. Once in a while depending on weather conditions the dough may be a little sticky when you remove it from the mixing bowl. If that happens add 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour more (add one at a time) and mix or process again. The dough should not be sticky but medium firm. Cover the dough and let the dough rise until double in bulk. Punch the dough down once. The dough will be very elastic and easy to stretch and roll.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Pinch off a small amount of dough and roll into a pencil shape. (I make them between 4 to 7 inches long and but don't make them much wider than a pencil). Dip into an egg wash mixture, and then roll in sesame seeds. Continue until ALL the dough is USED. Place on a cookie sheet sprayed with PAM®, 1-inch apart. I use disposable aluminum cookie sheets. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. The amount of time you need to bake them will depend on how thick you roll them and how crisp you like them (This depends on how accurate your oven temperature is too.) Start checking after 20 minutes. After baking about 15 minutes rotate the cookie sheets top to bottom and front to back; bake for remaining 15 to 20 minutes. I find it best to do two cookie sheets at a time and rotate them midway. Makes about 6 dozen small or 3 dozen large.

Ingredients you will need to make the breadsticks:

Here are the tools you will need to make the breadsticks:

I use a Kitchen-Aid, but I have also used a food processor with a dough blade. You will need cookie sheets and some PAM or something to clean your pan. I use disposable cookie sheets, but regular cookies sheets are fine...I am just lazy!

You will need the dough hook attachment, measuring cups ( I use a one cup and a 2 cup, just makes things easier) and a measuring teaspoon and tablespoon.

You will need Sesame Seeds too. Make sure that you get the natural sesame seeds (they are dark brown) as opposed to the hulled ones (which are very pale white in color.)

Place the two packets of yeast ( I like Fleischmann's Rapid Rise, but you can use whatever yeast you prefer) into the mixing bowl or bottom of your food processor. Then add the warm water (make sure the water is warm and not hot or it will kill the yeast, it shouldn't be hotter and 110 degrees, in other words, you can test it on your wrist, you should feel warm, and not hot)
to the yeast. You will immediately begin to smell the aroma of the yeast.

You will start the see the yeast bubble a little

Add the sugar

and the yeast will really start to develop and you will see the bubbling (which is the fermenting of ethanol and carbon dioxide, yes, I was once a chemistry major). This is called proofing the yeast, and will let you know that the yeast is good and not old and expired (you can also look at the dates on the package too - don't use yeast that expired in 1995 and expect your dough to rise.) Basically, the sugar speeds up the process of the fermentation. All those bubbles means the yeast is working...

Wait a few minutes, and then add the salt (salt slows down the fermentation process)

Put the dough hook attachment on and turn the mixer on and off quickly to combine the yeast, water, salt and sugar

Add the oil

Then add half of the flour

Turn the mixer on (I use a medium speed, too high and you will send the flour everywhere) and mix until well blended.

The mixture will be loose and lumpy.

Add the rest of the flour

You will see the dough starting to come together

It will turn into solid mass, probably adhere to the dough hook, when where is basically, no flour on the sides of the bowl, it is down. Depending on the climate, you many need to add a little more flour (add slowly, one tablespoon at a time), the dough should be solid, and just tacky, not too sticky to the touch.

Gently take the dough off the dough hook, and form into a ball

Place the dough ball back into the bottom of the bowl - note the level of where the dough is in the bowl

Cover the bowl with a clean towel (not the one you used to shower with this morning, a clean terry dish towel will do very nicely) and then go to lunch, clean your closet, run some errands, whatever... In about 1-2 hours, your dough will have doubled in bulk. Compare the level of the dough in the bowl now.

If you had a frustrating day, now is the time to take out your frustration on the dough (just kidding) gently begin to punch the dough down

Do this a few times (don't get carried away)

Now would be a good time to preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Place your sesame seeds in a flat dish with a little edge to it. I find the solo platters work well for this purpose, but use whatever you want

Make the egg wash - separate the yolk from the whites and place the yolks in a bowl. By the way, if you don't have an egg separator, don't sweat it - you can use your hands to catch the yolk and let the white fall between your fingers, or my preferred method is to use the eggshell itself...take the yolk from one half of the shell and pour it back into the other half until all the white has fallen off, repeat as many times as you have to. I would have done it this way, but I needed a third hand to take the pictures :) Here is a hint when separating eggs, especially if you need both the white and the yolks - set out three bowls, use one to separate the egg, pour the yolk in the second bowl, and then the white in the third bowl and repeat for as many eggs as you have to separate. This way if you break one egg, you don't contaminate all the rest.

A square or rectangular shape works well for this, but if all you have is a round dish, go for it. Add about 1 tablespoon of water to the yolks (I just fill half the eggshell with water and use that)

Whisk the eggs and water together

Spray the cookie sheets with PAM

Now you are ready to made the breadsticks...
Using the tips of your finger pull off a small piece of dough

Roll the dough between the palms of your hands

into a pencil like shape

Roll in the egg wash

and then in the sesame seeds

Place on the prepared cookie sheet about 3/4 to 1 inch apart

Place the sheets in the oven and set timer for 15 minutes,

then rotate the sheets, top to bottom and front to back, and set timer for another 10 minutes. Start to check to see if they are nicely brown. The baking time will depend on your oven temperatures, because take it from me, not all ovens are created equal, and how big you shaped the breadsticks, and how crisp you prefer them. We like them crunchy here so I usually end up cooking them for 30 minutes.

Enjoy...To give away, you can package them in disposable paper loaf pans (available at Sur La Table) lined with paper doilies, or we just put them in baskets to serve with our dinner. Bring on the mussels marinara with spaghetti on Christmas Eve...

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