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Breadsticks are a staple in many restaurants, as well as being a favorite around the house. But how did they come about and how are they made? Here is some background on the breadstick, including some of the variations that can be found on many tables.
The basic breadstick is a pencil shaped stick of bread that has been rolled and baked to a crispy texture and seasoned lightly, usually with a little salt. While the actual origin is lost to antiquity, there are many that believe their first appearance was around the 14th century BCE in the city of Turin and the surrounding Italian countryside. As a hard bread with the consistency of a cracker, breadsticks would last for days. This made them an ideal source of nourishment to take along if an individual was traveling for several days.
The original design was hand rolled and sometimes twisted into an appealing shape. Fashioning the dough into the desired shape, the sticks were placed in an oven and baked until they reached the correct level of crispy texture. The trick was to achieve the desired texture without allowing the bread to burn. Typically, the first versions were larger than many of the varieties produced today, making them ideal for dipping into sauces and stews. The hard outer crust held up well to the climate, allowing them to last for days before any sign of mold would appear. Beneath the crust, there was still plenty of soft bread to satisfy hunger.
Today, breadsticks come in everything from the super thin crispy types that are often served as appetizers in restaurants to the larger types often served with spaghetti and dipping sauces. Far from the simplistic first designs, contemporary versions are made with different types of flour and may be seasoned with a variety of spices. In addition, the crisp exterior today may include a little extra taste, courtesy of sesame seeds baked into the crust.
Serving breadsticks is almost considered necessary with tossed salads and plates of spaghetti. Restaurants that specialize in Italian cuisine often serve them hot with the salad and will bring more when the pasta dishes begin to appear on the table. Some people find that a simple lunch of a green salad tossed with a light oil and vinegar dressing and a couple of soft breadsticks is the perfect thing to provide energy until dinnertime.
Preference for different types of breadsticks varies. Many people enjoy the soft ones that are often served as a side item in modern day pizzerias, with their sides of hot melted butter and pizza sauce. Other people prefer them hard, with their salty and crunchy texture. Overwhelmingly, the most popular varieties are made with bleached flour, although whole wheat and mixed grain versions are gaining in popularity.
While breadsticks are relatively easy to make, many people prefer to purchase them for home consumption from bakeries and supermarkets. Many delicatessens bake them fresh daily, while grocery stores often carry several of the crunchy brands. As a snack, an appetizer, or just a convenient way to add bread to the meal, they are firmly established as an option in many countries around the world.
My family loves breadsticks - especially if we have any kind of pasta. I have made homemade bread machine breadsticks that my kids just love.
After I roll out the dough in the long, skinny shape, I will brush them with melted butter. We also love to sprinkle Parmesan cheese on them for a little cheesy taste. These are always best when served warm fresh out of the oven.
We usually always order breadsticks when we go out for pizza. It is nice to have something hot to eat while we are waiting for our pizza. A simple, warm breadstick dipped in marinara sauce just seems to hit the spot.
It seems like the times I buy breadsticks to eat at home, they don't taste as good as the ones at the restaurant. I'm not sure if it is the bread or the sauce, or maybe both, but I have decided I am just going to enjoy them at the restaurant from now on.
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