Fennel & Oregano Breadsticks ~ Christina's

From one of my favorite cookbooks, these are the best 'from scratch' breadsticks
I have ever made, (or tasted.)

The cookbook is Christina Orchid's "Christina's Cookbook", owner of the reknown "Christina's restaurant on Orcas Island, WA since 1980. I highly recommend her book. From appetizers to desserts, I have never been disappointed with her recipes. Her cooking is strongly influenced by her grandparent's sensible ranch traditions, as well as some elementary French and Italian techniques.

It's a delightful cookbook filled with a chatty preface to each recipe, and plenty of tips, suggestions and swap-out ideas. While she does highlight the bounty of the Pacific Northwest, the majority of her recipes can be made with ingredients which are widely available ~ like this one!

Christina's philosophy about always offering a variety of fresh bread, in copious amounts on each table every evening led to her improvisation of this recipe on a busy night when they ran out early on. Not only are these a snap to put together, no kneading and no rising (!) they are some of the most flavorful breadsticks I've had the pleasure to eat. Light, with a crumbly, yet soft texture, they are incredibly tender. I've made many other recipes for breadsticks but this remains my favorite. Fancy that ~ and it's the easiest one, too!

Fennel-Oregano Breadsticks
Makes about 30
(Wrap any extras tightly and freeze; warm in the oven before serving)
I mix the dough up in my electric stand mixer, but you can also do it by hand.
Christina's notes: "It's important not to knead the dough any longer than a minute or so.
Unlike regular bread dough, with this one you do not want to develop the gluten."
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup water
1/4 cup good-quality olive oil
3 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fennel seeds*
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Mix the yeast, salt, water and oil together in a large bowl. Allow mixture to sit for 5 minutes or so to allow the yeast and salt dissolve. Mix in the flour, then turn out onto a floured board and finishing mixing the dough with your hands.

Knead in the fennel seeds and oregano; the dough should be rather sticky. Allow it to rest for 5 minutes (you can also refrigerate the dough for up to 24 hours at this point.)

When you're ready to bake the breadsticks:

Preheat oven to 400-degrees (F).

Oil a sheet pan. Roll the dough out on a floured surface to a thickness of about 1/2-inch. Using a sharp knife (I use my longest chef's knife), cut the dough into slender sticks, about 1/4-inch wide. Place the lengths of dough on the oiled sheet pan, cut side up.

Allow the dough sticks to rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes, then bake for 7 to 10 minutes, just until puffy and barely colored at the edges. They are most delicious served hot, but I have no qualms about eating them warm or at room temperature, they are addictive.

* my notes: If you like a more assertive fennel flavor, add an additional teaspoon or so of fennel seeds to the dough.

Recipe adapted from:
"Christina's Cookbook ~ Recipes and Stories from a Northwest Island Kitchen"
by Christina Orchid

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