For those who don’t know, Zoë is the restaurant here in New York where I really got my start working with pastry, first as an assistant and later as the pastry chef. Seems like a million years ago especially since it has been closed for two years, but it’s where many of my fellow cooks and chefs got their start too, and some of my friends have started their own businesses, notably Dynamo Donuts and Sotto LA out in California.
The first hour or two of each work day at Zoë was spent making these breadsticks (also called grissini in Italian), which were served as bar snacks. It was a real chore, but it was also a nice way to start a work day, getting into a rhythm and gearing up for a potentially long night. For some reason, I felt like making these on this year’s New Years Eve, as a snack, and as an activity for the kids. It is easiest to roll and cut the breadsticks using a pasta machine (cutting them with the fettuccine attachment), and my kids sure love using the pasta machine (a rare occurrence). I have adapted the recipe slightly, reducing the quantity down from the 20 pounds of flour we used to make, and changing the seasoning a bit. We used to mix in all sorts of chopped fresh herbs to the dough, so if you want to do that just add about 1/4 cup of any kind of chopped fresh herbs you have. They are crispy, savory, cheesy, and fun, especially if you can get them really long like I can – although it does take some practice.
Breadsticks (makes about 40-50 pieces, approximately)
2/3 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
A few shakes of tabasco sauce
2-1/3 cups all purpose flour
6 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
Olive oil and kosher salt for brushing and sprinkling before baking
In the bowl of an electric mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let it sit for a few minutes. Stir in the tabasco, then mix in the remaining ingredients. Mix for several minutes on low speed using the dough hook. The dough will be fairly stiff, but smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and let it rise for a few hours, or preferably overnight.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Set up your pasta machine with the fettuccine attachment. Divide the dough into four pieces. Flatten one of the pieces and lightly flour both sides. Run through the pasta machine set to the widest setting. Fold the rolled dough in thirds, turn 90 degrees and run through the machine again. The goal is to have a nice rectangle shape so that the breadsticks will be fairly uniform in length. Flour the dough lightly again, then run through the fettuccine attachment of your pasta machine, catching them as they come through the other side. Separate them and lay onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving at least 1/2-inch between each one. Repeat the rolling and cutting process with the remaining dough. You will need two or three baking sheets to bake all of them. (If you don’t have a pasta machine, the dough can be rolled and cut by hand, but that will be more difficult as the dough is fairly stiff).
When all the breadsticks have been rolled and cut, lightly brush them with olive oil, and sprinkle with a small amount of kosher salt.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until just starting to darken slightly. They are better when overcooked rather than undercooked, as undercooked breadsticks will be doughy instead of crispy. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Use immediately, or they will stay fresh for several days.