Breadsticks are so much more than just an entry point to dinner. They deserve to be as respected as the meal itself, because when they’re baked just right, you’re going to want to eat the whole batch and skip the entrées altogether.
So how exactly do you make a breadstick reminiscent of the best Italian chain restaurants’ — that is, perfectly chewy on the outside and fluffy on the inside? It doesn’t take a whole lot of extra time or effort. The key is a simple pantry staple: olive oil.
To achieve an easy-to-form dough that bakes up with a mouth-wateringly soft crumb, ATK’s The Savory Baker cookbook includes a recipe for Parmesan Breadsticks that calls for a mix of all-purpose flour and a generous amount of extra-virgin olive oil.
Why olive oil? As the dough, formed into breadsticks, bakes in the oven, the oil acts as a tenderizer, coating the strands of gluten in the bread and preventing them from binding and forming a strong gluten network.
Yes, that’s a lot of technical science talk. But what does it really mean for you?
It means that the breadsticks that you pull out of the oven will be slightly crumbly, a little chewy, and entirely delicious. And what makes these particular breadsticks so delicious is the inclusion of Parmesan in the dough in addition to the grated flakes that are sprinkled on top, creating a truly cheesy and savory experience.
You can follow the recipe below to make these delicious snacks.
Total time: 50 minutes, plus 2¼ hours rising, resting and chilling
4 cups (20 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1½ cups water, room temperature
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1½ cups), divided
1 large egg lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and pinch salt
Whisk flour, yeast, salt, and onion powder together in bowl of stand mixer. Combine water and oil in 4-cup liquid measuring cup.
Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add water mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about two minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium-low and knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl but sticks to the bottom, about eight minutes. Reduce speed to low; slowly add 1 cup Parmesan, ¼ cup at a time; and mix until mostly incorporated, about two minutes.
Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand until Parmesan is evenly distributed and dough forms smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container; cover tightly with plastic wrap; and let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours. (Dough can be refrigerated for at least 8 hours or up to 16 hours; let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before shaping.)
Press down on dough to deflate. Transfer dough to clean counter and divide in half. Stretch each half into 9-inch log, cut each log into nine equal pieces (about 2 ounces each), and cover loosely with greased plastic.
Working with one piece of dough at a time, form into rough ball by stretching dough around your thumbs and pinching edges together so top is smooth. Place ball seam side down on clean counter and, using your cupped hand, drag in small circles until dough feels taut and round. Cover dough balls loosely with greased plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.
Line two rimmed baking sheets with greased parchment paper. Stretch and roll each dough ball into 8-inch long cylinder. Moving your hands in opposite directions, use back and forth motion to roll ends of cylinder under your palms to form rounded points.
Arrange breadsticks on prepared sheets, spaced about 1½ inches apart. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise until nearly doubled in size and dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, about 30 minutes.
Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 500 degrees. Gently brush breadsticks with egg wash and sprinkle with remaining ½ cup Parmesan. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets halfway through baking. Transfer breadsticks to wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm.