Dark Days: Herbed Whole Wheat Breadsticks

A local bread dough made with clarified butter, dried garden herbs and Wild Hive whole wheat flour makes a lovely bread.  Cut into strips, given it a twist and a dip in 10-grain mix for some crunch, and 10 minutes later you have a delicious, crusty-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside breadstick, perfect for your Dark Days meal o’ the week.

Served with 100% local Potato Leek Soup, this was a hearty but easy meal for a cold, drizzly Sunday night.

Adapted from Quick(er) Whole Grain Pizza Dough; see that recipe for detailed instructions on making and handling the dough.

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Herbed Whole Wheat Breadsticks

INGREDIENTS 

  • scant 1/4 cup (1.5 oz) clarified butter, melted OR olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried, crumbled sage
  • 1/2 tsp dried lemon balm
  • 1/2 tsp dried mint
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 and 1/4 cup warm, filtered water (110 – 115 degrees F)
  • 2 heaping tsp (0.5 oz) honey
  • 2 and 1/2 tsp (0.25 oz) instant yeast OR 1 package (2 and 1/2 tsp, 0.25 oz) active dry yeast
  • 3 cups (13.5 oz) whole wheat bread flour, plus extra for adjustments
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal (optional)
  • 1/2 cup 10-grain mix (optional)

METHODS 

  1. Infuse the butter. Combine the clarified butter (or oil), dried herbs and black pepper in a small bowl.  Mix well, then allow to sit for at least 30 minutes. (If the butter solidifies, warm it in the microwave until liquid before using in the dough).
  2. Make the dough.  Whisk the flour and instant yeast together in a large bowl (if using instant yeast, mix with the water & honey first and allow to stand until foamy, about 10 minutes). Make a well in the flour and add in the warmed water (or water-yeast mixture).  Add the salt, honey and herbed butter. Mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until all of the flour is hydrated and a soft dough forms.  The dough should be very sticky. If the dough is too wet (it seems more like batter and will not hold a shape), add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, incorporating the flour well after each addition, until the dough is very sticky, but a cohesive mass.  If the dough seems too dry (it is not sticky, or there are patches of un-incorporated flour) add water, 1 tbsp at a time, until you get a sticky, but cohesive, ball.
  3. Fold and rest dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured workspace. At this point, the dough will be much too sticky to knead effectively, so we will fold the dough, once or twice, then let the dough rest for 20 minutes.  Pat the dough out into a rectangle.  Fold the dough in thirds, like a business letter, then fold down the top and fold up the bottom, until each side has been folded onto itself and the dough is roughly in the shape of a square ‘ball.’  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
  4. Knead dough. After the 20-minute rest, the dough should be much less sticky and you’ll be able to knead effectively.  Knead the dough, alternating between wet and floured hands to prevent sticking to the dough, until it feels cohesive and springy, like an elastic, but is still somewhat sticky (about 5 – 10 minutes).  If the dough seems to resist you, and is getting tight and elastic but does not yet seem fully kneaded ), let it rest for 3-4 minutes under the kitchen towel and start again. 
  5. First rise. When the dough is ready, form into a ball and transfer to a medium bowl greased with clarfiied butter (or oil); turn the ball once to coat all of the dough with butter, then cover tightly with plastic wrap, and leave in a warm place (75-85 degrees F) to rise.  Let the dough rise until 1 and 1/2 times it’s starting size about 45 – 60 minutes.
  6. Second rise. You can use the dough following the initial rise if pressed for time (skip to step 10), but it will benefit in flavor and texture if you allow a short second rise.  Punch down the risen dough, folding a few times in the bowl to eliminate large air pockets, and form into a ball.  You should notice that it is easier to form a tighter ball this time around.  Add more oil to the bowl, if necessary, and coat the dough ball in oil.  Replace the plastic wrap and allow to rise again (the second rise will take half the time of the first). 
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees F, with a baking stone if you have one.
  8. Shape breadsticks. Following the second rise, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Pat dough into a rough rectangle, then using a rolling pin, roll out to a rectangle of dough about 1/4 – 1/2-inch thick. With a sharp knife dipped in flour, slice strips of dough about 1/2-inch wide. (If you like, brush the tops of the strips with butter or oil, in order to aid in browning the crust and to help any toppings stick). Pick up the ends of the dough strip, one in each hand, and twist (right hand clockwise, left hand counter-clockwise) several times until the length of the strip is twisted.  Dip in cornmeal, 10-grain mix, sesame or flax seeds, or grated cheese, for decoration and flavor. Place on a baking sheet liberally sprinkled with cornmeal and/or 10-grain mix (or lined with parchment).  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest (and rise slightly) for 10 minutes.
  9. Bake in a 500 degree F oven until the crust has browned nicely and the bread is fragrant, about 10 – 12 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.  Serve hot or at room temperature.   

Yields about 16, 9-inch bread sticks.

OPTIONS 

  1. Any combination of dried herbs will work; use about 4 – 6 teaspoons in total, and mix and match according to your tastes (and larder).
  2. You can also use a mix of flours here; this dough is pretty forgiving.  Soft white wheat, spelt, triticale, rye… try mixing it up and see which flavor is your favorite.
  3. Sesame or flax seeds, additional dried herbs, cracked black pepper, grated hard cheese, caraway or fennel seeds.. all of these would make excellent finishing touches for your breadsticks.

STORE 

One to two days at room temperature; up to 6 months frozen.  Re-heat in a 400 degree F oven for 10- 15 minutes.

SEASON

Year round.

LOCAL RESOURCES

  • Flour, cornmeal, 10-grain mix:  Wild Hive Farm, Clinton Corners, NY
  • Honey: New England Farms, Granville, NY
  • Butter: Ronnybrook Farm, Ancramdale, NY (clarified by me)
  • Basil, sage: Ryder Farm CSA, Brewster, NY, dried in Summer ’09
  • Mint, lemon balm: my garden, dried in Summer ’09
  • Kosher salt, pepper, yeast: Away
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    3 comments

    1. Good meal. Bread and soup, even with nothing else, is completely satisfying. Your herb combo sounds tasty. I wonder how it could be worked into other muffin/flatbread ideas….

    2. Pingback: Dark Days 09/10: #10 (East) « (not so) Urban Hennery

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