Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crunchy Seedy Breadsticks

I love holiday food. It's different from usual meals, with more rich, creamy, comfort-food qualities. But the one thing that's often missing from that special-occasion plate is crunch. It's all nice homey food, but I like a little texture as well.

Breadsticks to the rescue. These are a perfect companion to the buns in the bread basket, and they'd be welcome with the appetizers as well.

As much as I love a fluffy dinner roll, there's so much other food on the holiday table that a roll seems like a lot of food to commit to. Breadsticks are smaller - almost just a nibble - so it's easy to make room on the plate for one. Or two.

Not only are these breadsticks crisp, they're filled with seeds that add even more texture. And since these are dry crispy breadsticks, you can make them ahead of time and they'll last for a long time afterward. No need to worry about getting them eaten with the rest of the leftovers, these can wait for you to get around to them.

When I make breadsticks, usually I don't bother trimming the edges of the dough before I cut the sticks, which means the ends of the breadsticks are always a little knobby looking. This time I decided to be neater about it, since there were for a holiday.

These bake at a low temperature for a long time, so they dry out before they brown. The slow baking also eliminates the need rearrange the breadsticks as much during baking.

Crunchy Seedy Breadsticks
Makes 4 dozen breadsticks

1 1/4 cups water
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
3 cups (13 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1/4 cup instant mashed potato flakes
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons seeds*
1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine the water, yeast, and roughly 1/3 of the flour in the bowl of your stand mixer. Stir to combine, and set aside until it is bubbly, about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining flour and the potato flakes, and knead with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add the salt, oil, and seeds, and continue kneading until it is combined and the seeds are well distributed.

Form the dough into a ball and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Return it to the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside until it has doubled in size, about an hour.

Flour your work surface and have 3 baking sheets ready. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Turn the dough out onto your work surface and knead it very briefly, then form it into a rough square. Roll it to approximately 11 x 20 inches. With a pastry cutter or pizza cutter (or a knife, but a rolling cutter is easier) trim the edges so they're straight. You'll use those scraps as well. After trimming, mine was about 9x18 inches.

Cut the dough into 9-inch long strips, about the thickness of a pencil, and place them on baking sheets leaving them a room between to expand a little during baking. You should need about 3 baking sheet to fit them all. You can twist the breadsticks, or leave them straight.

When you're done with all of the uniformly-shaped breadsticks, cut the scraps as well, combining smaller pieces if needed.

Bake at 275 degrees for one hour, rotating the pans and moving them to different racks as needed for even cooking. After an hour, they should be dry and crisp; a sample should snap in half and be completely dry in the center. If they haven't browned to your liking, raise the heat to 325 and bake for another 4-7 minutes, watching carefully to make sure they don't over-brown.

Let the cool completely on racks, then leave them even longer before you store them in any sort of closed container - any residual moisture can make them soft. I usually let sit for several hours, if not overnight, before I store them, or I store them in bakery bags that "breathe," so there's no change of dampness.

*I used one teaspoon each of toasted sesame seeds, brown sesame seeds, black sesame seeds, nigella seeds, poppy seeds, and white poppy seeds. Use any combination of your favorites.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.