For the millionth time, I say this: I love playing with yeast. More than french pastries and soup dinners. Well, probably not as much as comfort food but it gets close enough. Baking with yeast gives me a sense of accomplishment when I pull the tray out of the oven at the end of all the waiting around for the dough to rise and for the bread to cook. I know, I am not physically helping the dough to rise. That’s all the yeast’s job. But I cannot help thinking that all the good thoughts I send my dough helps it… a little 😉
So, every time I look at Olive Garden’s commercials on television, I cannot help but salivate at the golden-brown bread sticks (which taste as good as they look, I found). Today, when I watched the same commercial on every network I cruised through, I decided it was fate and went to make the dough. I have made bread sticks so many times before and now have my own recipe for soft, golden-brown sticks that go equally well with a simple marinara dip or with a complete meal of salad and pasta.
I don’t know if it is a (American) Southern thing, but I find myself using buttermilk in so many of my recipes that call for normal milk. In India, buttermilk is thinned out yogurt, which we either mix with rice and other condiments and eat or drink straight up during summer. The closest substitute to the American buttermilk is one cup milk mixed with one Tbsp vinegar and shaken together. That, together with wheat flour, gives my bread sticks a nice twist. The garlic and fresh basil only makes things better.
Garlic/Basil Bread sticks
One cup all-purpose flour
One cup wheat flour
One small packet dry yeast
Half cup warm water
Quarter cup buttermilk
Half tsp sugar
Quarter tsp salt
Four minced garlic pods
Half a bunch fresh basil
Two Tbsp + 1 tsp for finishing (you could replace with two Tbsp of olive oil too)
One tsp good olive oil
In a bowl, mix the warm water, sugar and yeast. Stir and let it rest for five minutes until the yeast froths. Add the buttermilk, 2 Tbsp butter (or olive oil), garlic, basil and the salt. Mix well and add the flour combination. With a wooden spatula, stir (I always use my hand) until the dough comes together. Scrape the sides of the bowl and make a ball. Coat the bowl with one tsp olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl, cover with a clean kitchen cloth and, as always with yeast-incorporated dough, leave in a warm place in your kitchen for two hours.
After two hours, punch the risen dough down and divide into eight equal balls. Shape the balls into ropes, cover and let them rest for half-hour. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 400 °F ( 200 °C). Bake the bread sticks for ten to twelve minutes. Once out of the oven, dab some butter (or olive oil) over the sticks. I went further and broiled them on high for three minutes. If you don’t mind pale yet delicious bread sticks, you could omit the step.