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Italian Breadsticks

2:00 PM, Nov 12, 2012   |    comments
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italian

breadsticks

Makes 24 to 36 breadsticks, depending on thickness

 

Anyone who knows me knows I love breadsticks and that I've written

about them in several of my books. I first learned about how the

real breadsticks of Piemonte are made from Vogue food critic Jeffrey

Steingarten, who described the process he had seen in a bakery while on a

visit to Asti in Piemonte about 20 years ago. Those traditional breadsticks

were made with some dough saved from the day before, mixed into that

day's breadstick dough, providing better flavor and ease of handling. I've

developed this recipe, which uses a quickly risen sponge to mimic the effect

of old dough in the mix.

 

SPONGE

½ cup/112 grams room-temperature tap water,

about 75°F

2 teaspoons/6 grams fine granulated active dry

or instant yeast

1 cup/135 grams unbleached bread flour (spoon

into a dry-measure cup and level off)

 

DOUGH

½ cup/112 grams room-temperature tap water,

about 75°F

All of the sponge, above

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups/270 grams unbleached bread flour

1½ teaspoons/9 grams fine sea salt

Cornmeal for the pans

Three cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans dusted

with cornmeal

 

1. For the sponge, whisk the water and

yeast together in the bowl of an electric

mixer. Use a rubber spatula to stir in the

flour smoothly. Cover the bowl with plastic

wrap and let the sponge ferment until it

more than doubles in bulk, about 1 hour.

2. For the dough, stir the water into the

sponge, then stir in the oil. Use a rubber

spatula to stir in the flour.

3. Place the bowl on the mixer fitted with

the dough hook and mix on low speed until

the dough comes together evenly, about 2

minutes. Stop the mixer and let the dough

rest for 10 minutes.

4. Sprinkle in the salt and mix the dough on

medium speed until it is smooth and elastic,

about 2 minutes. Scrape the dough into an

oiled bowl, turn it over so that the top is

oiled, and cover with plastic wrap. Let the

dough ferment until it doubles in bulk, 30 to

45 minutes.

5. Once the dough has fermented, set racks

in the upper and lower thirds of the oven

and preheat to 350°F.

6. Scrape the risen dough onto a floured

work surface and form it into a thick square.

Use a bench scraper to cut the dough in

half; cut each half into 12 to 18 pieces,

depending on whether you want thin or

thicker breadsticks.

7. Brush away any flour on the work surface

and roll each piece of dough under the palms

of your hands to the length of your baking

pans. Place the breadsticks on the prepared

pans as they are formed, placing 12 on each

pan for thinner ones and 8 on each for thicker.

8. Bake the breadsticks without proofing

them until they are crisp and golden, 20 to

25 minutes. If you only have room in your

oven for 2 pans at a time, cover and refrigerate

the third pan so it doesn't proof while

the other breadsticks are baking.

9. Cool the breadsticks on the pan. Use a

dry brush to remove the cornmeal if any is

stuck to the bottoms of the breadsticks.

Serve the breadsticks the day they are

baked on a shallow platter or standing up in

a short cylindrical glass vase. Store leftover

breadsticks on a clean jelly-roll pan slipped

into a large plastic bag that's twisted closed.

If they soften, reheat at 350°F for 5 minutes,

then cool.

 

QUICK CHANGES

SESAME BREADSTICKS: These are shorter and thicker than traditional breadsticks to

make adhering the sesame seeds easier.

• Divide the dough into 24 pieces and roll each piece 8 inches long. Cut in half to make

4-inch lengths. Line them up on the left side of your work surface as they are formed.

• Place a shallow bowl filled with 1 cup water to the right of the breadsticks, and a

small roasting pan holding 2 cups white sesame seeds to the right of the bowl. Place

2 jelly-roll pans lined with parchment paper to the right of the seeds.

• Use your left hand to drop 6 of the breadsticks into the bowl and gently shake it so

that the outside of all the breadsticks is wet. Use the same hand to lift them out of the

water without stretching them and place them on the sesame seeds. Use your right

hand to sprinkle the tops of the breadsticks generously with the seeds and lift them

to the prepared pan, arranging them about 2 inches apart all around.

• After all the breadsticks have been coated, let them proof for 15 minutes, then bake

them as above until golden and dry, 20 to 25 minutes.

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