BREADSTICKS…HOW CHEESY CAN YOU GET?!

Cheesy Bread Sticks!

If you ask my son Dean “He Who Shall Not Be Named In Print”, there are only two reasons to visit his mama: croissants and bread sticks. I am way too lazy to make a batch of croissants right now, but I would be happy to pass along my recipe for bread sticks.  Since I have a batch of tomato sauce bubbling on the stove at this moment (the last of the season), it sounds like a pasta and bread stick night to me!

Crispy cheese puts these bread sticks over the top.

I have to be honest here – this isn’t a difficult recipe, but it does take some time. Start it early in the day, because it has to rise twice, and you don’t want to rush it. Actually, if you have time to let it rise slowly in a cool space, the finished product will be even more flavorful.

I’m all about texture, so my favorite bread stick is crunchy, salty, and has little bits of almost-burned cheese clinging to it. If you prefer soft pizza-take-out style bread sticks (excuse me while I make an ugly “I’m going to barf” face,) you can use the same recipe with just a slight variation in technique. This recipe makes about 36 bread sticks, so if that’s more than you need, here are a few options:

  1. You can make them all and stuff yourself silly.
  2. You can use just half of the dough for bread sticks and roll the other half into a big ball, let it rise, cut an “X” in the top, and bake it as a crispy loaf of French bread.
  3. You can form all of the dough into bread sticks, and then freeze half of the unbaked sticks for another day. (When you’re ready to use them, place them on a cookie sheet, cover them with a towel, and allow them to thaw completely and rise a little before preheating your oven.)
CHEESY BREAD STICKS
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Ingredients
  • 2½ cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 6 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar or jack cheese, grated (more if you love cheese!)
  • ½ cup fresh Asiago or Parmesan cheese, grated (or a "3 Italian" type cheese mixture)
  • Garlic Salt
  • Cornmeal
  • Cooking spray
Instructions
  1. In a large mixing bowl, stir sugar into warm water and stir in the yeast. Let sit until bubbly (about 5 minutes). Add 5 cups of flour, the olive oil, and the salt.
  2. Beat with electric mixer, using paddles, until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 5-6 minutes.
  3. If you prefer to knead by hand, put the remaining cup of flour on the board and knead for 7-8 minutes. If you have a sturdy stand mixer and prefer to let the machine do the hard work, switch to your dough hook, add the remaining flour and let it knead for 5 minutes. Your finished dough should be smooth and elastic.
  4. Place the dough into a large greased bowl. Turn to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.
  5. Punch down the dough, turn it over, and let it rise again until doubled (about an hour and a half.)
  6. Heat oven to 450 F.
  7. Sprinkle 2 cookie sheets with cornmeal and set aside.
  8. Punch down the dough. Working with half of the dough at a time, place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll into a rectangle, keeping it fairly thin...no more than ⅓ inch thick, and about 6 inches wide. Sprinkle with half of each type of cheese. Lightly shake garlic salt over the top of the cheese. Using the rolling pin, gently roll the cheese and salt into the surface of the dough.
  9. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut dough into 1inch strips.
  10. For soft bread sticks, arrange the strips of dough on the cookie sheet, keeping them about ½ inch apart. (They will touch each other when they rise, but are easy to pull apart after baking.)
  11. For crusty bread sticks, twist the dough as shown in the photograph below. They'll stretch a little as you twist, so they'll turn out longer than 6 inches.
  12. Allow the bread sticks to rest for 15 minutes. Spray with an oil spray (I used a canola spray), sprinkle with any leftover cheese, and bake 10-12 minutes for soft sticks, 12-14 for crusty sticks.
  13. Remove from pan and cool on rack. (If you really want to go for it, you can brush them with butter and sprinkle them with coarse salt at this point!)
  14. While the first batch is cooling, start rolling out the second half.

Cutting the strips of dough.

Twisting dough for crunchy bread sticks.

Dipped in marinara sauce or garlic butter (or just eaten plain) these cheesy sticks will disappear quickly. Put a couple of them at each place setting in a flute glass, to show them off. If you do end up with leftovers, a quick warm-up in the oven or microwave will bring out their flavor.

Enjoy!

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