Breaking (virtual) bread together

soft bread sticks

Breathes there a soul who doesn’t feel a visceral pull towards crusty bread?

Crusty white bread, in particular. Crusty white bread dipped in a really tasty olive oil. C’mon, admit it; your mouth is watering. Grab a virtual bread stick with me here, and let’s break bread together.

Your bread stick is warm, out of the oven for maybe 10 minutes, just enough time so you don’t burn your fingers. It’s been baked in olive oil—top, and bottom—so its crust has a faint crackly edginess; each bite releases a shower of crumbs and a burst of incredible flavor.

But wait—there’s more.  We’re dipping our bread sticks, you and I, in a really compelling flavored olive oil. Maybe extra-virgin olive oil packed with freshly crushed garlic. Or one of John Boyajian’s imaginative dipping oils (below). Maybe even bagna cauda… And if you’ve never enjoyed this  cream, garlic, butter, and anchovy dip, served warm in its own little fondue pot—I tell you, Mr. Man, you have yet to experience Heaven on earth.

Bring the bread stick to your lips, being careful not to let any oil drip on your clothes. Take a bite. Feel transported to a lively Tuscan trattoria. Or maybe a little bistro not far from the Seine.

Or perhaps your backyard deck, the sun setting in a golden haze through the spring-bright leaves. Warm air, soft as a baby’s cheek.  The smell of new grass. Summer spread out before you like the Promised Land…

WHOA. Don’t you feel better? I sure do. Thanks for joining me in this virtual dining experience. Now let’s get into the kitchen and make some REAL bread sticks.

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This is what precipitated this post: these utterly sumptuous dipping oils, from the Boyajian company. We’ve had a long and happy relationship with John Boyajian, the same fellow who provides us with our orange and lime oils, and our garlic oil and balsamic vinegar. Great products all; produced by people who care about doing a good job.

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And here’s a topping we use regularly: Pizza Seasoning, a mixture of dried herbs, garlic, onion, and spices, blended with a touch of salt. It’s delicious atop pizza (or course), or focaccia, breadsticks, or any kind of flatbread.

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We’re going to take one of my very favorite easy bread recipes—Blitz Bread—and turn it into soft, fat breadsticks. To start, everything goes into a mixing bowl: water and olive oil; salt, King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and instant yeast. Plus Pizza Dough Flavor; not a must-have, but a wanna-have for sure.

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Beat for 1 minute at high speed, using your stand mixer or an electric hand beater. You’ll have a very sticky dough.

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The recipe calls for you to bake this bread in a 9” x 13” pan. Instead, I’m using a half-sheet (18” x 13”) pan, in order to make a thinner bread, more suitable for cutting crosswise into bread sticks. First we’re going to spray the pan with non-stick vegetable oil spray (as usual, I grab the EverBake)…

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…then drizzle with olive oil. Why the spray and the oil both? Each does a different job. The spray keeps the bread from sticking; the olive oil gives it flavor.

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Here’s the prepared pan.

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“Flow” the dough into the pan. Yes, it really is this sticky.

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Scrape all the bits out of the bowl; don’t ant to waste any.

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Oil or wet your fingers, and press this very malleable dough into the corners of the pan. Don’t make yourself crazy; get as close to the corners and edges as you can, without stressing about attaining that final 1/2” or so.

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So I thought, how about if I score the bread to make breadsticks? So I grabbed my favorite pizza wheel, and scored the dough crosswise in 1” strips. Love this pizza wheel; other wheels give me the heebie-beebies with that rolling metal blade so close to your thumb. This blade is acrylic. You can roll it across your thumb, your palm, anyplace, and it won’t cut you. But it absolutely cuts dough and pizza crust.

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Score! Cover the pan, and let the dough rise at room temperature for 60 minutes, till it’s become puffy.

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Sprinkle on Pizza Seasoning…

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…and bake.

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Once it’s golden brown, remove from the oven. Let it cool for about 10 minutes on the pan, then cut in half lengthwise.

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The score marks didn’t do much—i.e., the bread wouldn’t come apart on its own—but they were still visible enough to provide a good cutting guide as I used a pair of scissors to cut strips.

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Put the strips back on the pan, and bake in a 350°F oven till the sticks are as crunchy as you like. For just a tiny bit of outer-crust crunchiness, and complete softness inside, bake for only about 5 to 8 minutes. Bake longer for crunchier sticks. How long? Up to you. This bread is so easy to make, it doesn’t matter if  the sticks aren’t exactly the way you like them first time around. they’ll still be totally delicous; and you can amend your baking time next time around.

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Now, pour some of that awesome dipping oil into a bowl…

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…dip, and enjoy.

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I feel a party coming on…

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Soft Bread Sticks.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Pizza Hut, 5-piece bread sticks, $3.29

Bake at home: Soft bread sticks, 7 pieces,* 43¢

*Since Pizza Hut bread sticks are a bit longer than homemade,  I figured an equivalent serving.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Kathleen

    Wow, these look so yummy. Will have to put this recipe into my to make in the future file, which, by the way, is getting pretty big. I just recieved my new catalog today and I love your new hair cut, it’s very becoming on you.

    Kathleen, thank you so much for the compliment! It’s summer, time to go short- :) PJH

    Reply
  2. annmarie

    Great stuff! Got some extra pizza dough that I think can be worked into bread sticks. Any tips or recipes for making your own dipping oil?

    Olive oil + dried spices/herbs – maybe a pinch of salt if you like. If you use fresh garlic, keep any leftovers in the fridge. Other than that, let your imagination be your guide, Annmarie… PJH

    Reply
  3. Sandy

    I`ve been using 100% whole wheat flour for everything for 30 years. I love it, but my teeth are not so good anymore and I need to find ways to make things that aren`t so chewy. King Arthur bread flour does help. I don`t want to use half and half…don`t like white and unbleached flour.

    Reply
  4. Dana Booth

    Hey there,

    These were so tempting to look at that I made them as soon as I saw the tweet :) Mine are good, but not as good as yours look :( I miss SAF yeast. Haven’t been buying it since w/s&h it’s twice as much as the bulk I buy (not instant :( ). Once I get a job, I’ll be back with SAF. Since I didn’t have the instant yeast, I used my active dry yeast, adding 1/2 tsp and allowing for about 1-1/2 hrs rise time. oh. I also don’t have “pizza dough flavor”

    That being said the recipe was still worth making and super EASY! This will become a regular it was so fast to put together and hardly any work.

    A few questions:

    1) What changes would you have made if you were using active dry yeast instead?

    2) What kind of flavor is “pizza dough flavor”? Does it really make that big of a difference?

    Thx for another great recipe!

    Dana

    Hi Dana – Good luck on the job search… Hope you’re successful soon. For active dry yeast, let it dissolve in water first, and start growing – 15 minutes or so. Allow more time for rising. Pizza dough flavor makes a flavor difference – it adds yeastiness and cheese flavor. But no difference in texture. PJH

    Reply
  5. cecilia

    There is a 60 minute rise time in the recipe that I did not notice in the blog. I would love to make these with my KAF sourdough starter. Any suggestions?
    HI Cecilia,
    We haven’t tried this with sourdough, but you can start experimenting. Try taking out 1/2 cup of the water, and 2 teaspoons of the yeast, and using 1 cup fed starter. You’ll need to keep an eye on the hydration, adjusting liquid or flour. Sounds like the flavor would be great though. Let us know how it works out for you. ~MaryJane

    Reply
  6. Maureen

    These look so good. Could I adapt this to my bread maker (I’m so spoiled)?

    Well, I think so, Maureen – just let it go through the knead cycle, then scoop it into the pan and continue from there. Should be just fine. PJH

    Reply
  7. Leigh Anne Wilkes

    I don’t see a baking temperature and time listed for the first bake?

    It’s there in the actual recipe when you click to it, Leigh Anne – 375°F for about 25 minutes. – PJH

    Reply
  8. Kimberly D

    I only have a hand held mixer, which comes with the typical blades and ones that look like curly Q’s, what blades would I use? (some day a stand mixer) I too am looking for work.

    Hi Kimberly – use the regular beaters, unless the dough seems to get too clogged up in them. Then switch to the “curlicues.” Good luck with the job search – you’re not a Web engineer, are you? We’re looking for one here at King Arthur… PJH

    Reply
  9. Teresa

    Mmm, they look terrific and quick! I am going to make these tomorrow.

    I don’t have pizza dough flavor either, but will substitute with some dried herbs, garlic, and grated Parmesan cheese.

    Reply
  10. MaryEllen

    These look great! One question- the recipe has a 60 minute rise, the blog instructions go straight into the oven, which is correct?

    Good catch, MaryEllen. The dough should rise – I’ve amended the blog to match the recipe. Got carried away with those pizza wheel pics! Thanks- PJH

    Reply
  11. Leila

    LOVE the Blitz bread recipe, and probably make it at least once a week in some form or another. Thanks for the great reminder to try it as breadsticks! These look great.

    Reply
  12. Hannah

    This was so yummy!!! I made it for supper tonight and it was raved over:) I did leave out the Pizza Dough flavor and it was still good. We made the oil dip out of extra virgin olive oil and lots of fresh garlic – so delicious!! I love reading this blog and like how you all do each step with a picture! One thing for sure whenever I make something off of here I KNOW it will turn out!

    Reply
  13. Sue

    My mouth was watering as I read this! I love breadsticks!! My husband thinks he has a corner on making them. Mostly, I let him think that, but I just might whip these up some day.

    Reply
  14. Joseph

    Wow, I am thinking about having these for breakfast!
    Though in all actuality I will definitely bake these Friday night for company!

    Reply
  15. Kathleen Y

    I made these this afternoon. I was concerned because the sticky dough didn’t seem to rise a great deal but once in the oven, they puffed up nicely. Next time I’ll drizzle a little more olive oil over the top and sprinkle kosher salt over the top. They go great with that afternoon drink!

    Ah, here’s to trusting the process. I’m glad you shared your concern over the sticky dough and the eventual victory, as well as the upcoming changes you will make. Enjoy! Irene at KAF

    Reply
  16. Teresa

    I couldn’t wait until today and made these last night. I have a metal pizza cutter and thought I’d give it a try. Turns out it made the baked bread easier to cut. They came apart quite easily with a little help with scissors.

    They smell so good while baking and taste terrific. I used the combination of herbs and Parmesan cheese in the dough and on top. We had to make an effort not to eat the whole thing! Yum!

    Reply
  17. Jennifer

    Could you make these with the white whole wheat flour? I have a hard time eating white flour now! White whole wheat should work well here. Just increase the liquid slightly -by 1 or 2 tablespoons, probably. That’s my favorite flour now, too. Mary @ KAF

    Reply
  18. Angelina

    HI PJ,
    I made these today and they were great!!! I love them even better without the second rise (saves time, :)). I left some on the counter and they were crunchy like breadsticks. Yum Yum. Thanks for the recipe!!!

    Reply
  19. Bina

    I always thought you were not supposed to cut bread till it was completely cooled as it would make it gummy. Is that a problem with this recipe? I’m dying to try it with some dips.

    This one you can cut, Bina, as it’s going back into the oven, rather like a biscotti. And yes, it makes great dipping bread – PJH

    Reply
  20. Joni M

    I made these the other day and couldn’t decide if I wanted them crispy or soft, so after I cut them, I put half on another sheet and baked them for 5 minutes longer and the other half for 10 more minutes. So after they all cooled of course I had to have one of each…yummy–and at this point I liked them both equally! But then because I was taking them on our weekend adventure, I put the soft ones in one zipped bag and the crunchy ones in another and away we went. I was so surprised when we got to our destination the next day to find that they ALL were soft again even though they were completely cooled before I bagged them. We ended up putting them all back in the toaster oven and got them the way we wanted them. So all this being said–they do change overnight if you seal them up in a plastic bag, so if you want the crunchy version, be prepared to freshen them up again. These were really good as I used both the pizza seasoning and the pizza dough flavor, and I’ll be making them again soon to share!

    Joni – try storing the crisp ones in a paper bag rather than plastic – or re-crisp, as you discovered. Re-crisping is always best, as they get right back to their original state… PJH

    Reply

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