Several years ago, I gave a talk at a co-op nearby here. The room was packed and people were happy to be there. During the question and answer period, one woman needed to have her question answered first. “I’m celiac, and I’m supposed to be gluten-free, but I just can’t let go of gluten. I can, at home. But when my work colleagues and I go out to the [insert name of cheesy chain Italian restaurant here], I just can’t resist. I have to eat their breadsticks.”
There was a silence in the room, especially from me. I didn’t know what to say.
“Can you teach me how to make them?” she asked.
I wish I had known then how to make these breadsticks. I would have loved to save her from the gluten. But I’ve spent years learning how to make good gluten-free bread and now I can teach you how to make great gluten-free breadsticks. (I have a feeling they’re better than the ones at that chain restaurant, in the end.)
Ma’am, if you’re still reading, these are for you.
750 grams gluten-free all-purpose flour mix
3 tablespoons psyllium whole husks
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 to 3 cups warm water, at 110°
1 egg, beaten
Mixing the dry ingredients. Combine the flour, psyllium, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Adding the wet ingredients. Pour the honey and olive oil into the dry ingredients. Crack the egg and let it plop in. Turn on the mixer. As soon as the egg disappears into the flour, begin pouring in the warm water. Watch the texture of the batter carefully (and look at the video again until it feels familiar). The final batter should be as wet as thick waffle batter. Let the mixer run for 3 to 4 minutes to beat air into the batter.
Letting the dough rise. You have two options here.
1. Put the dough in a greased bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap. Set it in the refrigerator overnight and forget about it. This will mean a long, slow rise. It will also help develop flavor.
2. If you must have breadsticks the same day you made the dough, put the dough in a greased bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap. Let it sit in a warm place. When it has risen and the texture has changed so you can knead the dough (see the video), your dough is ready.
Forming the breadsticks. If you have refrigerated the dough, take it out of the cold and let it sit on the counter until the dough comes to room temperature, about 1 hour. Grab a piece of the kneadable dough. (I like about a ball of dough about 50 grams big.) Knead the ball of dough to work any air bubbles out of it. Set it down on a marble slab or slightly floured surface. Rolling your hands back and forth, gently, over the top of the ball of dough, nudge the ball of dough into a long stick of dough. (Think Playdough. And watch the video again if this is not clear.) Smooth out the edges with your fingers to make the bread stick even.
Letting the breadsticks proof. Put the breadsticks onto a parchment-paper-covered baking sheet. (This dough will make several batches of breadsticks, so please don’t try to smoosh them all onto the same baking sheet.) Set the baking sheet in a warm place and let the breadsticks rest for 30 minutes. This will allow them to rise a bit more.
Preparing to bake. Heat the oven to 450°.
Baking the breadsticks. Brush the beaten egg over the tops of each of the breadsticks. Bake until the crust of the breadsticks is as crisp and browned as you wish. For soft breadsticks, bake for 10 to 15 minutes. For crisp breadsticks, bake for 20 to 30 minutes. (When you start smelling the breadsticks, start checking. Your oven and common sense will tell you what to do.) Take the breadsticks out of the oven.
Repeat with the remaining dough, if you wish. Or, you could save the dough in the refrigerator for several days and make a batch of breadsticks each day.
Makes 40 to 60 breadsticks, depending on the size you make them.
Egg-free variation. If you cannot eat eggs, try adding 2 more tablespoons of oil to the bread. Or, I have also read that an extra 2 tablespoons of potato starch might work. Can anyone chime in on suggestions? Also, see this post for egg-free baking.
Feel like playing? If you prefer a multi-grain bread, try using 750 grams of this whole-grain mix.
Once you hold this dough in your hands, you’re going to want to make other breads with it. Go.
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