Roasted garlic, with its squidgy, sweet intensity, is a great addition to any bread; I often mix several bulbs worth into a standard bread dough after its first rise resulting in a bread with random, but not too infrequent, jewels of heavenly garlic. With these breadsticks, small bursts of sweet garlic punctuate each mouthful beautifully and the subtle Parmesan flavour adds depth without dominating.
I tend to make the breadsticks thin – just less than the thickness of my index finger, which gives about 30 breadsticks – but you can go as chunky or as thin as you like. These have a gentle, yet definite snap with a nice degree of chewiness inside which I prefer to the types of breadstick that are too dry and need to be washed down after every bite! These, however, are great nibbled just as they are, although served with a glass or two of wine or dunked into a dip of choice is no crime!
The breadsticks are best eaten on the day of baking, but the following day they can be can be refreshed by baking for about 5 minutes in an oven preheated to 220C. They can also be frozen once baked but once thawed they benefit from being refreshed in the same way.
I also make these with sun-dried tomatoes (about 300g, roughly chopped) in place of the garlic but a mixture of sun-dried tomatoes and chopped Parma ham is a fine combination.
Alternatively, a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary and the grated zest of a couple of lemons added to the dough works well. A brushing of olive oil followed by a light sprinkling of crushed sea salt on the shaped breadsticks before baking finish these off nicely.
For a sweet breadstick, omit the parmesan but add 50g caster sugar and the grated zest of 2 oranges to the flour – don’t omit the salt, though. Gently work several balls of roughly chopped stem ginger and a handful of dark chocolate chips into the dough prior to its first rise. Sprinkle some caster sugar over the shaped breadsticks prior to baking. These are lovely dipped into a chocolate sauce or served with a dessert wine.
Roasted Garlic Breadsticks (makes about 30)
- 500g strong plain flour
- 10g fine sea salt plus extra for the roast garlic
- 10g easy-blend yeast
- 250-300ml tap water
- 50g finely grated Parmesan
- 3 bulbs garlic, split into cloves and peeled
- 3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- semolina and extra flour for turning out dough and dusting.
- Roast the garlic: mix the garlic with the oil and about a teaspoon of salt in an oven-proof dish. Put into a preheated oven set to 190C (fan) and roast for about 20 mins, stirring once, until the garlic has just turned brown and is soft. Be careful not to over-cook these. Leave to cool.
- Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the Parmesan and the yeast and add enough water to form a soft, sticky dough – it should be wetter than normal bread dough. Knead for about 10 minutes in a mixer with the dough hook attached until stretchy.
- Add the cooled garlic, plus any oil left in the roasting tray and mix for a few moments – some of the garlic might be crushed further but that does not matter; there should be many still whole. Don’t worry about any garlic that is poking through the dough at this stage.
- Split the dough in two and put each piece into a well-oiled rectangular baking dish. Pat the dough out to almost cover the base and cover with clingfilm. Prove for about an hour or two until doubled in size. Proving more slowly in the fridge is a great way to get even more flavour.
- Turn out one of the risen dough pieces onto a well floured work surface with a generous sprinkling of semolina, and gently stretch out to give a longer rectangle – about half as long as it was originally, with the longest edge facing you. Try not to knock out too much of the air. Cut “vertically”with a sharp knife, to give thin rectangles each with width about the same as the width of your index finger (you can go thinner or thicker if you wish). Repeat with the other piece of dough.
- Place these on baking trays lined with greaseproof and sprinkled with semolina, gently stretching each as you place them to give breadsticks of the preferred size – I tend to ease them out to almost the width of the baking tray. Push down any garlic that is escaping so that it does not burn in the oven, but as the thinner breadsticks bake quicker any garlic peeping out of the dough should not have much opportunity to burn.
- Dust the breadsticks lightly with more flour/semolina, cover and leave to rise for about 30 minutes – they do not need to be doubled in size this time, they just need to look a little more puffy. While they are rising, preheat the oven to 220C (fan)
- Bake the breadsticks for about 15-20 minutes until golden brown, checking after 10 minutes and rotating the pan if necessary. Cool on a wire rack.