The art of bread baking is a beautiful craft that can be passed down through generations. Sharing a slice of freshly baked bread with my grandmas is one of my fondest childhood memories and the reason that bread-and-butter is my ultimate comfort food to this day. There's a complex connection to something or someone that I feel when I push a soft, elastic ball of dough around on my counter top. However, baking bread from scratch isn't the only way to do it. Families have incredibly busy schedules and the last line item that fits on the overbooked-sports-laden planner at our house is "baking from scratch". So, I get it. But do hear me out. If you were homebound with "bored" kids in the past couple of weeks from the cold snap like I was, baking from scratch and discovering heirloom recipes is a great activity to eliminate cabin fever.
My Grandma Celeste had a bread machine that I still own and use from time to time as it is great for mixing and proving dough. She always let it run the full cycle, allowing the unit to bake her bread as well. While she wasn't involved in the process of bread baking as much, while the bread machine did the work she taught me to play all sorts of card games.
My Grandma Madeline baked most everything from scratch, and her bread was no exception. She would remove her ornate turquoise rings to knead the dough on her countertop, while I watched. The rhythmic motions would cause me to blink slowly and set my chin on top of my fist on her countertop to rest. We visited while she worked, then she shaped her round country loaf, ensuring there was proper surface tension on the dough, scored it with a razor blade in a checkerboard pattern and left it to rise. She'd wash her hands, put her rings back on and play "Shine on Harvest Moon" and other songs on her piano while I'd pluck the strings of her ukulele like I knew what I was doing. She always smiled and played on.
Either way, time spent with both grandmas was priceless and their breads were different yet equally delicious. Baking is something I love to share with my family and friends, heirloom recipe or not.
My daughter Halle is a picky eater. She only likes a few different things when we go out to eat. Her favorite meal is steak or pork chops, which she probably gets enough of at home, so minestrone soup is her next go-to. There's a chain restaurant that serves the tastiest breadsticks along with their soup and salad. I've mastered the easiest recipe for those addictive soft garlic breadsticks and want to share it with you. Make sure you have yeast that isn't expired, that the water is warm and that you brush plenty of garlic butter on after baking. Enjoy!
Soft Garlic Breadsticks
Makes 12 large breadsticks
1 1/4 cup warm water, not above 115 degrees (divided)
1 packet active dry or instant or bread machine yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 ¼- 3 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
To a large mixing bowl add 1/2 cup warm water, yeast and sugar.
Proof yeast for 5 minutes until foamy.
Add remaining water, oil, flour and salt.
Stir to combine then knead via stand mixer fitted with dough hook on low speed for 5-7 minutes, or by hand until smooth and elastic. Spray dough with nonstick spray, place dough ball into clean mixing bowl and set in a warm, draft free area to rise for 30 minutes or until dough doubles in bulk.
Once dough has doubled in bulk, punch down to degas and cut into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 6" breadstick/rope shape. Arrange on half sheet pan, not touching. Spray with nonstick spray, cover with plastic wrap. Place in warm area until breadsticks double in size 30-40 minutes (or more if it is chilly).
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Once breadsticks have risen, remove plastic wrap and discard.
Bake breadsticks for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and internal temperature registers 190-200 degrees F.
Melt butter, add garlic salt and stir together. Brush onto warm breadsticks immediately.