My favorite restaurants are the ones where bread appears immediately after you order. Whether it’s the trio of loaves at Cheesecake Factory, the infamous soft and buttery breadsticks at Olive Garden or, my personal favorite, the Shiner Bock beer bread served with honey butter at Salt Grass, there’s something so satisfying about buttering (and eating) still steaming bread.
The soft, chewy bread combined with the sweet and zesty pesto will have a similar effect at your dinner table. These breadsticks will complement any pasta dish or salad. They’re also great for midnight snacks, or casual strolls through the kitchen.
This recipe calls for bread flour, which has a higher protein content than all purpose flour. This aids in gluten development and yields a chewier texture. All purpose flour can be substituted in its place, but the breadsticks won’t be as chewy and may not hold their shape as well.
Along with the bread flour water, sugar, yeast, butter and salt form the dough. After the dough rises and doubles in bulk, it is divided, filled with pesto, then braided into a twist.
The breadsticks bake at 400°F (lower the temperature to 375°F in a convection oven) for about 12 minutes until they’re golden brown on top. Brush them with melted butter while they’re still hot for good measure. If they make it through the night, they’re best reheated in the oven wrapped in aluminum foil. I’ve found that reheating bread in the microwave tends to make it tough.
Pesto Breadstick Twists
IngredientsFor the breadsticks:
-1 cup water heated to 105-110°F
-1 tablespoon granulated sugar
-1 teaspoon active dry instant yeast
-375 grams (3 cups) bread flour¹
-1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
-4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1 tablespoon squares
-1/3 to 1/2 cup pesto
-2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Sprinkle the sugar and yeast into the warm water and allow the yeast to bloom. This should take about 5 minutes.
- Wisk together the bread flour and salt in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Add the yeast mixture, and combine using the lowest setting on the stand mixer. Scrape down the bowl as necessary, ensuring that all of the flour is incorporated.
- Increase the mixer speed to medium, and add the softened butter one tablespoon at a time, ensuring that each addition is incorporated prior to the next addition. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for an hour to 1-1/2 hours until the dough has doubled in volume.
- Transfer the dough onto a clean, well floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a rectangle, fill with about 1-1/2 teaspoons of pesto and seal the dough around the filling (much like a dumpling). Let each piece rest for a couple of minutes while filling the rest of them. Allowing the dough to rest will make it more malleable and easier to shape in the following steps.
- Take each piece of filled dough, and roll and pull it until it is the desired length. Using a pastry scraper or knife slice each breadstick lengthwise, and twist the two pieces together to form a braid. Place each resulting breadstick on a baking sheet, and allow to proof for an hour to 1-1/2 hours until the breadsticks double in size.
- Preheat oven to 400°F (375°F if using a convection oven). Bake the breadsticks for 12 minutes. Transfer the breadsticks to a cooling rack and immediately brush each breadstick with melted butter. Serve warm.
²Leftover breadsticks can be stored in an air tight container for 1-2 days. Reheat in a warm oven wrapped in foil if desired.