Breadsticks are one of those foods that sound weird but make a lot of sense once you think about it. Almost everybody likes bread (except people allergic to wheat) and there's lots of variety available. Plain bread, rye bread, wheat bread, marinara sauce, tomato sauce, cheese sauce, no sauce, seasoning, no seasoning...

jeremy from #everything reminds me that Papa John's has several tasty sauces with their food. With their pizza you get garlic butter sauce that you can use to dip your pizza crust. With their breadsticks you get that plus cheese sauce and tomato sauce. The tomato and cheese sauces are usually cold, which frankly puzzles me.

Truly, breadsticks are the perfect food.

Traditionally, breadsticks are simply rods of white bread, perhaps slightly thicker than one's thumb. Often deep-fried, sometimes seasoned, and served with whatever sauce happens to be on hand, they are popular appetizers in pizzerias (usually since you can just use extra pizza dough for them).

The restaurant I work at doesn't really believe in tradition -- or at least, not American tradition (half the staff immigrated from eastern Europe, including the owner). So as the pizza chef, it's my job to make our version of the humble breadstick. Here's the recipe; enjoy.


Ingredients:

pizza dough -- we make our own. How you choose to produce your dough is up to you. Divide it into balls of roughly 22.5 ounces. Each ball will make sixteen pieces, so be careful not to make too much...

flour -- lots of flour. It's not used to cook, really, but to keep things from drying out and to make life a little easier.

extra virgin olive oil -- though olive pomace oil will work in a pinch.

chopped rosemary -- to preference. Not too fine, not too coarse.

sea salt -- to preference; you could conceivably get away with table salt (though I don't want to think about it), but go for the real thing if it's at all possible. The restaurant uses Alessi brand.


The process:

Preheat oven to 550 degrees (or as high as it'll go; lower temperatures will just mean it takes longer to cook).

Flatten your dough. Dump the ball in flour, press it down on your counter, and go after it with a rolling pin. By the end of this part, it should be roughly circular and about a foot in diameter.

Now, if you're feeling adventurous and have a high ceiling (without a fan): drape the center of the dough-circle over one hand, and use the other to -- slowly -- stretch the dough out. Rotate one full circle. Be careful not to overstretch any weak spots! Once that's done, toss it up in the air with both hands, giving it a good spin on the way. Catch it, preferably on one hand so it can spin out a little more. Repeat until it's at least 16 inches in diameter. I recommend practicing with a damp square towel first.

If you weren't feeling adventurous (or have ceiling fans), skip that last step and just roll it out to 16 inches diameter.

Put the dough on a greased cookie sheet. Disclaimer -- here I've adapted the recipe without testing it. In the restaurant, we put it on a floured wooden paddle and slide it into the oven directly. But since home ovens tend to have racks instead of solid surfaces, this isn't as much an option for the home cook.

Brush the olive oil onto the surface of the dough. Use a clean paintbrush or barbecue brush.

Sprinkle the rosemary and sea salt on top. Don't be stingy, but you should still be able to see the dough under it when you're done.

Put it in the oven. Unfortunately, these have to be baby-sat as bubbles tend to form, but trust me... it's worth it. Should any largish pockets of air pop up, smack them down with a barbecue fork. When the top is just beginning to golden, and the smaller bubbles have turned a darker brown, it's done. The bottom should be light brown.

Using your favorite sharp implement, cut into sixteen roughly equal slices. Best fresh out of the oven; you can store them and just pop them into a toaster oven when they're needed, but they lose something...


It's not your standard breadstick, but it's good. It's also the sort of thing that reaches out and grabs your tongue, and won't let go... you've been warned.

You can dip them in practically anything. My favorite is fresh ragu. The restaurant has some concoction involving olive oil, anchovies, purple onions, and capers. I still haven't worked up the courage to try that...

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