Breadsticks

MAKES: 50 to 100

TIME: A day or so, largely unattended

In Piedmont, Italy where breadsticks are called grissini you wouldn’t bother to adorn these with anything. But their slightly sweet flavor is also good with a sprinkling of poppy seeds or sea salt right before baking. To make them rustic looking, roll the strips of dough lightly on the countertop they’ll get skinny and crooked. If you want a more professional appearance, cut them with a pastry wheel or use a pasta machine (see Step 4).

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour

2 teaspoons instant yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

1/2 cup semolina flour or cornmeal

Combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a food processor; pulse once or twice. Add the oil and pulse a couple of times. With the machine running, add 1 cup warm water through the feed tube. Continue to add water, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture forms a ball. It should be a little shaggy and quite sticky.

Put a little oil in a bowl and transfer the dough ball to it, turning to coat well. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 1 hour in a warm place. Reshape the ball, put it back in the bowl, cover again, and let rise in the refrigerator for several hours or, preferably, overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400В°F. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets with olive oil and sprinkle very lightly with semolina flour or cornmeal.

Cut the dough into 3 pieces; keep 2 covered while you work with the other. To roll by hand: On a well-floured surface, roll a piece of dough out as thinly as possible into a large rectangle, about a foot long. Use a sharp knife or pastry wheel to cut the dough into roughly 1/4-inch-thick strips (slightly smaller is better than slightly bigger).

To roll with a pasta machine: Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness by hand. Put it through the machine at the largest setting, then cut it using the fettuccine setting and cut the strips into 1-foot lengths.

Transfer the strips to the baking sheets, spaced apart, and brush with olive oil. Bake until crisp and golden, 10 to 20 minutes, then cool completely on wire racks. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Variations

Herbed Breadsticks. Add to the dough mixture 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, thyme, or sage along with the olive oil.

Parmesan Breadsticks. Try dipping in tomato sauce: Add up to 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese to the food processor along with the flour in Step 1.

Olive or Dried Tomato Breadsticks. Darkly colored and full flavored: Before beginning to make the dough in Step 1, use the food processor to pure 1/2 cup pitted olives (green or black) or dried tomatoes along with the olive oil (instead of adding it after the flour). Then add the dry ingredients to the processor and proceed with the recipe.

Sesame Rice Breadsticks. Fun to serve with Asian dishes: Replace 1 cup of the flour with brown rice flour. Sprinkle the breadsticks with light or black sesame seeds before baking.