Recipe from A Country Cook’s Kitchen by Alison Walker (Rizzoli, 2012)These are simple to shape and bake. With no need for butter, they are an easy bite-the-end-off bread for buffets, barbecues, and picnics. Make up your own savory, sweet, or spicy variations to fit what’s on the menu.
SHAPING AND PROOFING ABOUT 45 MINUTES
COOKING 8 TO 10 MINUTES
Makes about 20 breadsticks
- ½ cup fine polenta
- 1 recipe rested Basic White Dough (see below) made with organic unbleached white bread flour
- ¾ cup Parmesan (freshly grated)
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 Preheat the oven to 475°F. Dust one or more large baking sheets lightly with polenta, and put the remaining polenta in a flat dish.
2 Turn the risen dough gently out of its bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. Shape it into a large rectangle about 16 x 12 inches, lightly stretching the dough into a fairly even thickness. Scatter over the grated cheese, going right up to the edges, and dust evenly with cayenne pepper.
3 Fold one long edge over the middle third of the dough and bring down the other one over the top to make a three-layered dough sandwich.
4 Cut the roll into strips ¾ inch wide, or a little less, using the scraper. Dip the cut edges of one strip lightly in the polenta, then twist it like barley sugar, at the same time pulling gently to lengthen it, and lay it on the prepared baking sheet. Twist up the remaining pieces of dough the same way and lay them side-by-side on the baking sheet, leaving enough space between them to allow for rising. Cover and let proof until almost doubled in volume.
5 Mist the oven (see page 12) immediately before and after putting the breadsticks into the oven. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden and crisp. These are best eaten the day they are baked, but can be frozen and revived in a hot oven.
Basic White Dough
Once mastered, this basic recipe will enable you to create a variety of delicious breads and rolls with different toppings and glazes.
PREPARATION 15 MINUTES
RESTING AT LEAST 1 HOUR
Makes enough for 2 medium loaves
- 7 cups organic unbleached white bread flour
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- scant 3 cups warm water
1 Put the flour in a bowl and stir in the yeast, mixing it well with the flour. Next add the salt and mix to distribute it.
2 Pour in three-quarters of the warm water and use a scraper to mix, adding the remaining water in one or two batches. As soon as the dough comes together and there is no loose flour in the bowl, turn the dough onto a clean surface to knead. Scrubbed wood is ideal, but any smooth hard surface is fine.
3 Gather together the dough using the scraper and, without flouring the work surface, slide your fingers underneath it, leaving your thumbs on top. Pick up and pull the dough toward your body, lifting your hands to stretch it. Slap it down, throwing it away from you, then fold the dough remaining in your hands over the lower portion, trapping in air. Repeat the action of lifting, stretching, and folding for about 5 minutes until the mixture is transformed from a sticky mass into a dough that feels alive in your hands. At first you will need to scrape it together from time to time, but as the gluten develops it starts to behave as a single, fairly cooperative entity.
4 Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Shape it into a ball by bringing the edges to the middle, one at a time, and pressing them firmly into the center. Turn the ball over and tuck it in.
5 To rest the dough and give it its first rise, lightly flour a bowl and put the dough into it, seam-side down. Dust the top lightly with flour to help prevent a skin from forming, cover it with a clean cloth, and place somewhere warm and draft-free for about 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in volume. Now it is ready to shape, proof (the second rise), and bake.