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How to Make Parmesan Breadsticks

Why this recipe works The best part about going to an Italian American restaurant might be the Parmesan breadsticks. Our goal was to re-create these flavorful, golden breadsticks—and serve them warm and fresh at home. First, we wanted to ensure that the flavor of our breadsticks’ namesake really came through. In addition to sprinkling Parmesan on top, we mixed some into the dough for a rich cheese taste that wasn’t just an afterthought. Adding a small amount of onion powder to our dough enhanced the nutty taste of the cheese and further boosted the savory appeal. Nailing down the perfect texture proved more complex. We wanted chewy yet soft-crumbed breadsticks, so we used all-purpose flour rather than higher-protein bread flour. But we found that our sticks were still too tough and dry inside. Our first thought, adding more water to the dough, left us with a sticky mess that was too difficult to shape. Doubling the amount of extra-virgin olive oil in the dough from 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup was the perfect solution. The oil acted as a tenderizer and coated the gluten strands, preventing them from sticking to one another and forming a strong gluten network. This created an easy-to-shape dough that baked up with a soft crumb. We set our oven to 500 degrees to ensure that our breadsticks took on a nice golden hue in the short time required to cook them through. Brushing our breadsticks with an egg-and-oil wash enhanced browning and flavor, while making the exterior chewy, not crunchy. Breadsticks can be stored in a zipper-lock bag at room temperature for up to 3 days. Wrapped in aluminum foil before being placed in the bag, the breadsticks can be frozen for up to 1 month. To reheat, wrap the breadsticks (thawed if frozen) in foil, place them on baking sheet, and bake in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.

  • makes 18 breadsticks
  • rising time 1½ to 2 hours
  • baking time 12 minutes
  • total time 3 to 3½ hours, plus 15 minutes cooling time
  • key equipment 2 rimmed baking sheets, pastry brush

how-to-make-parmesan-breadsticks

  • 4 cups (20 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1½ cups (12 ounces) water, room temperature
  • ¼ cup (1¾ ounces) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1½ cups)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and pinch salt

1). Whisk flour, yeast, salt, and onion powder together in bowl of stand mixer. Combine water and oil in 4-cup liquid measuring cup.

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2). Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add water mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium-low and knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl but sticks to bottom, about 8 minutes. Reduce speed to low, slowly add 1 cup Parmesan, ¼ cup at a time, and mix until mostly incorporated, about 2 minutes.

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3). Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand until Parmesan is evenly distributed and dough forms smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours. (Unrisen dough can be refrigerated for at least 8 hours or up to 16 hours; let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before shaping.)

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4). Press down on dough to deflate. Transfer dough to clean counter and divide in half. Stretch each half into 9-inch log, cut log into 9 equal pieces (about 2 ounces each), and cover loosely with greased plastic.

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5). Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (keep remaining pieces covered), form into rough ball by stretching dough around your thumbs and pinching edges together so that top is smooth. Place ball seam side down on clean counter and, using your cupped hand, drag in small circles until dough feels taut and round. Cover balls loosely with greased plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.

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6). Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with greased parchment paper. Stretch and roll each dough ball into 8-inch-long cylinder. Moving your hands in opposite directions, use back and forth motion to roll ends of cylinder under your palms to form rounded points.

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7). Arrange breadsticks on prepared sheets, spaced about 1½-inches apart. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise until nearly doubled in size and dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, about 30 minutes.

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8). Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 500 degrees. Gently brush breadsticks with egg mixture and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Transfer breadsticks to wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

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variations asiago and black pepper breadsticks

Use the small holes of a box grater to shred the Asiago.

Add 1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper to flour mixture in step 1. Substitute 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese for Parmesan; add ½ cup cheese to dough in step 2 and sprinkle breadsticks with remaining ½ cup cheese before baking in step 8.

pecorino and mixed herb breadsticks

Substitute 1½ cups grated Pecorino Romano for Parmesan. Combine 1 cup Pecorino, 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil, 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, and 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano in bowl before adding to dough in step 2.

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