Martha Kind of Let Me Down

August 2, 2010

You know Martha, right?  Martha Stewart that is.  She that is everything perfect.  She who creates recipes which do not fail.  (Or she who hires people who create recipes which do not fail.)  Last weekend I had a recipe-didn’t-turn-out-as-well-as-I-wanted-it-to which, in Martha’s world, is a fail.  Let me explain.

As I have mentioned, oh about 100 times, I have a bazillion cookbooks.  Some I use more than others.  Some I would take to a desert island with me.  When I need appetizer inspiration, I turn to Martha’s Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook.  The pictures in this book are stunning and unlike many cookbooks, there is a photo of just about every recipe.  Truth be told, many of the recipes are pretty fussy and require last minute cooking or assembling which, in my mind, does not a good appetizer make.  But I do so love this book.

Last weekend my lovely friend Jen held her summer yoga retreat.  (She does one a quarter.)  I created a summery menu that included gazpacho with four different topping choices, a potato tortilla with Romesco sauce, an Israeli couscous salad, a quinoa and corn salad, and a simple green salad with shavings of red onion and kohlrabi.  I always like to have something on the tables where everyone will be sitting in case I am not 100% ready for people to go through the food line.  Last time I made this super popular dip and this time I made bread sticks which could be dipped in a lemon/thyme butter.

Good idea, right?  They look good, right?  It goes with the menu, right?  Bread sticks are supposed to be crunchy, right?  These weren’t.  I made them about five days before the retreat and they weren’t crunchy out of the oven.  They certainly weren’t crunchy after a rest in the freezer.  Right before I served them, I gave them another heat through in the oven and that kind of did the trick but they were still a little more bread-like than I wanted.

Why am I sharing the recipe?  They are easy and fun to make – a great project to do with kids.  The recipe gives you a large yield and you can freeze them (just be sure to bring them back to life in the oven), and the flavor was really good.  Because they aren’t too snappy or crunchy, they can survive a dip into softened butter and not break…and, hey, well, I guess Martha is all right after all.

By the way, if you live in the Seattle area and want to experience a day of amazing yoga and my food for lunch, Jen will be hosting another yoga retreat on October 16th.  Check out her site for details and to sign up.

One Year Ago: Smoky Muhammara Dip
Two Years Ago: Pasta with Cauliflower, Peppers, and Walnut Pesto

Yeast Bread Sticks
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook
Makes about 5 dozen

1 ¼-ounce package active dry yeast (2 teaspoons)
2 cups warm water
1½ tbsp. honey
5 tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for brushing
5¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
4 tsp. kosher salt

In a medium bowl, combine the yeast and ¼ cup of the water.  Set aside to proof for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the remaining 1¾ cups water with the honey and the olive oil.  Stir the honey mixture into the yeast.  Set aside.  Brush the inside of a large bowl with olive oil.  Set aside.

In another large bowl, combine the flour, Parmesan, and salt.  Pour the wet yeast mixture over the dry flour mixture.  Using your hands, combine until the flour mixture is completely incorporated; the dough will be sticky.

Transfer the wet mixture to a lightly floured board.  Knead the dough until soft and elastic, about 5 minutes.  (DT: I used the dough hook on my Kitchen Aid for the kneading.)  Transfer the dough to the reserved large bowl, brush the top of the dough with olive oil, and cover with plastic wrap.  Set aside in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1½ hours.

Heat the oven to 425ºF.  Divide the dough evenly into 4 batches.  Wrap 3 batches in plastic wrap and set aside.  Cut the remaining batch into 16 pieces.  Using your fingers, roll one piece at a time on a lightly floured surface into 16-inch-long sticks.  Transfer the sticks to 2 baking sheets, placing them about 1 inch apart.  Cover with plastic wrap, set aside in a warm place, and let proof for 30 minutes.  Repeat with another batch of dough and 2 more sheet pans.  While the second batch is proofing, proceed with the first batch.

Just before baking, brush each stick with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Bake, rotating the sheets once, until lightly browned, about 10 to 12 minutes.  The bread sticks can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days.


  1. Sorry you didn’t get the crunch you wanted. They look neat:) Glad you had fun!

    Comment by Maria — August 2, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

  2. AAHHHH Martha …… I have to agree with you , her recipes look great and I am sure in a perfect world of minions doing your cooking they would eventually turn out perfect ….. but I too find them very fussy and not all that great in the taste department !!!

    The heart was in the right place . Love the orange vase (?) for presentation !!!

    Comment by Gourmet Goddess — August 2, 2010 @ 6:34 pm

  3. Dana, I only made bread sticks once, and had the same problem you did. It was not Martha’s recipe, but I wonder if we should start a serious quest for the perfect bread stick? :-)

    Comment by SallyBR — August 2, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

  4. Well at least the orange Murano looking vase is a nice vessel for the soggy breadsticks!

    Comment by Stacey Snacks — August 2, 2010 @ 9:21 pm

  5. I love the ‘kind of’ in the title! It’s always good to be on the safe side when it comes to Martha! Perfect people are terrifying!!!

    Comment by Lindsay Wickware — August 2, 2010 @ 9:54 pm

  6. Sounds like a great menu! I think I tried the veggie bread sticks (the ones that are orange with carrot and red with beet) years ago and didn’t have great luck with them. Good to know a re-heating helped these, and they look lovely.

    Comment by lisaiscooking — August 2, 2010 @ 10:06 pm

  7. So in some ways, Martha was right in the end? Sigh. I suppose that’s the way it always goes…

    I really like the concept of these…kind of like grissini.

    And oh how I wish I could live in Seattle to go sit at one of your yoga retreats and GORGE myself on your food.

    Comment by Joanne — August 3, 2010 @ 1:10 am

  8. I want to come just for the food. I am not very good at yoga, but that’s ok. I am good at eating. :)

    Comment by Katie @ goodLife {eats} — August 3, 2010 @ 5:45 pm

  9. Aw that’s disappointing that these weren’t crispy! They look so good though and the lemon thyme butter was a great idea to dip them in.

    Comment by Ashley — August 3, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

  10. Bonyenne. I thought my heart would stop when I read Martha had failed you. Turns out things were okay enough. The sticks look fine and personnally I love not too crucnhy bread so I would have loved them !
    I love Martha (or the people that work for her). The magazines, the recipes, the tricks…

    Comment by Terry Elisabeth — August 5, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

  11. I just made them from the book, and they came out PERFECT, crunchy and the most delicious bread sticks EVER! :)

    Comment by ri — March 25, 2012 @ 12:27 am

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