Saturday, November 12, 2005

Garlicky Polenta Breadsticks

While I like a light, soft breadstick as much as anyone, I also like the crunchy, good-for-dipping kind. Soft breadsticks are usually just dinner rolls, shaped into logs or twists and dressed up with some flavorful topping, like coarse salt or cheese. The crisp, crunchy kind are often made from leftover yeast doughs, cut very thinly and baked until hard. They're not as useful for soping up soups as the soft ones, but they are wonderful for snacking. But it seemed like such a waste to go to the trouble of making a whole batch of dough for a few sticks, so when I saw a recipe for non-yeasted, crunchy looking breadsticks, I just had to give them a shot.
The recipe is built by cutting butter into a flour and cornmeal mixture, which is raised with baking powder. It turns out that they cut them quite thickly, making them less crunchy and more bread-like, in the original recipe. Since I was looking for more crunch, I rolled the dough out much thinner, aiming for sticks that were a bit more cracker-like and crisp.
The final result was that my breadsticks were crunchy on the ends and softer in the middle, giving them a nice balance and making them very easy to eat. The cornmeal gave them a great texture. They would be great to serve as part of an appetiser tray with dips or with a very saucy pasta dish. The garlic and dill combination I used, kicked up by sprinkling the sticks with garlic salt, made them very addictive indeed.

Garlicky Polenta Breasticks
(adapted from an LCBO recipe)
1 1/2 cups ap flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper, to taste
4 tbsp butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup milk
2 egg whites
1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing
garlic or coarse salt, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, garlic powder, dill, salt and pepper. Add butter and rub in with your fingertips until mixture resembles sand and no large chunks of butter remain.
Combine milk and egg whites in a small bowl, then add to flour mixture, stirring until al dough is formed. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is a 10x12 inch rectangle and approximately 1/4-1/2 inch thick (about 1 cm). Trim rough edges. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut into 16 even strips.
Transfer strips to baking sheets, leaving room between them. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle generously with garlic salt (or regular coarse salt).
Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.
Allow to cool before serving. Leftovers can be wrapped and re-crisped in the oven for 5 minutes at 400F.
Makes 16 sticks.