Friday, April 1, 2011

1st Challenge: Breadsticks

My very first challenge was to make a breadstick recipe that I found over at Crafty Mama.  These breadsticks looked simply divine and they would be right up our alley…being as we are a bread kind of family.  My youngest loves, loves, loves bread and he devours breadsticks every time we have them.  If you purchase these in the store they will cost you upwards of $4.00 so making them at home would be much more economical.

I gathered all of my ingredients for the dough

And everything I would need for the topping

Please keep in mind, as you read this, that I have NEVER in my life attempted to bake a bread from scratch.  I was always the 'buy it at the store' kind of girl.  This was going to be quite the challenge for me and in all honesty, it took me several hours to get up the nerve to make these breadsticks!

I ended up using all purpose flour because I did not know there was something called 'bread flour.'  Yes, I live under a rock and don't pay attention to stuff like that at the grocery store.  For those of you that are pros at baking you are probably rolling your eyes right about now, but I did the best I could.   :o)

I made the dough and everything seemed to work just fine.  I cut it into equal parts and was now ready to roll it into breadsticks.

My breadsticks are rolled out and ready to go...looking good so far!

Now, here's the stuff I pretty much messed up on...
-I used 1/2 tbsp of salt instead of 1 tbsp...we don't cook with a lot of salt so I was worried they would turn out too salty.  Note to self: do NOT change up the ingredients too much or things will not work so well (my neighbor kindly informed me of this AFTER I had everything done).
-When I was kneading my dough it was really sticky so I kept adding more flour to my work surface to remove the 'stickiness' of the dough.  That's a big no-no!  As you knead your dough the stickiness will go away.
-I also forgot to grease my pan before letting my dough rise so my bread ended up sticking to the pan.
-I also forgot to brush my breadsticks with butter before letting them rise so the tops were a bit hard.

My breadsticks were done baking, I brushed them with the topping and they looked wonderful....until I tried to remove them from the pan.  They not only stuck to the pan (remember, I forgot to grease my pan) but the bottoms were black and hard as a rock!  I grabbed a breadstick and ran to my neighbors to see what I had done wrong.  He informed me that I used a dark pan and they burn the bottom of your food...he is the ultimate in baking and cooking so I trusted what he said. 

So, all in all, my first attempt was a complete flop and I was pretty bummed about the deal.  No worries, I will try again.  I started from the beginning, following the directions EXACTLY as stated.  I greased my pan and put them aside to rise while I picked up my son from school.  On the way I stopped at the store and bought an aluminum baking sheet like my neighbor instructed.  When I got home I transferred the breadsticks to the new, greased, baking sheet and put them in the oven to bake.

Note: Once your dough has risen you CANNOT move it to a different sheet because it will fall and your bread will come out flat!  Oh how I wished I had known this in the beginning!

The baking pan did help with the bottom of my bread but they were flat and so very unattractive.  So, my 2nd attempt was a complete flop as well.  Although both of my attempts were a huge flop, I now know where I made my mistakes and will attempt them again at a later date.  Then again, maybe this baking challenge really isn't such a good idea and I should just keep buying my bread at the store.  No, no, I can't be a quitter, not yet.  Tomorrow is another day and we will see what challenge #2 brings. 

If you are interested at giving this a shot...just because I'm not the best at baking doesn't mean you won't be...the recipe is below.

1 package yeast or 2 1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/2 C plus 2 tbsp water; divided
4 1/2 C bread flour
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt; skip this step if you used salted butter

4 tbsp butter; give or take
salt and garlic powder to taste
pinch of Oregano or pinch of Parsley if you want color
grated Parmesan cheese

Add 1/4 C water and 2 1/2 tsp yeast in mixing bowl; let stand for about 5 minutes to dissolve.  Then add remaining 1 1/4 C water plus 2 tbsp water, flour, butter, sugar and salt.  With dough hook (I did the mixing by hand because I don't have a dough hook) mix until dough forms; about 3 minutes.  Place dough on floured surface and knead for about 3-5 minutes, by hand.  Divide the dough into 16 equal parts if making breadsticks and 2 equal parts if making bread or pizza crusts.

Melt about 2 tbsp butter in a suace pan or microwave.  Roll the dough into 7" long sticks.  Brush the bread sticks with butter to prevent a hard crust from forming too fast while the breadsticks rise.  Place the breadsticks in a warm place, free from drafts, to rise or until doubled in size.  Note: I used the pre-heat setting on my oven.  I set my oven to pre-heat for about 1-2 minutes and then turned it off.  You should be able to comfortably hold your hand on the wall of your oven without burning yourself; if you can't, it's too hot.

After the dough has doubled in size, remove the breadsticks from your oven (if you are using the oven for rising), pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and bake the breadsticks for about 15 minutes or until a light golden brown.  Make your topping while your breadsticks are baking.  Once breadsticks are baked, remove them from the oven, brush them with the topping and then sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese, let cool slightly and transfer to a breadbasket. 

I apologize for not providing pictures of my finished products, but they were a huge flop and honestly, I was a bit too embarrassed to let you see what they looked like.  :o)

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