What you cook needn’t look perfect

What you cook needn’t look perfect

Unless you’re competing in a high-stakes cooking competition, there are times when what you cook needn’t look perfect, and it’s a good thing because some things in the kitchen are hard to get right.

The Japanese have a term for something that has been broken and mended and is revered for being more beautiful for the journey: kintsukuroi. And that is a fitting term for my bread sticks.

You know the bread sticks you get at Olive Garden, all exactly the same size and shape and glowing with garlicky goodness? I wanted to pull that off at home, and the first attempt looked ridiculous.

Most of the bread sticks weren’t sticks at all but looked more like mateless socks with mashed potatoes in them. They tasted fine, and no one was looking so they were eaten up, but a person can’t help but feel like the project was a failure when the end product is so very sorry looking.

Of course, the restaurant has their bread sticks made at a bread stick factory with bread stick molds and robot butter applicators. I’m not investing in all that.

The next batch looked much better because my wife made them. There were different sizes and shapes, but they were identifiable, soft and buttery. With mismatched shapes and sizes in bread baking, we use the term, “artisanal,” unless we are in Japan, in which case I guess you say “kintsukuroi.”

Every time I make marinara sauce, the best part is tasting it to check progress. I usually end up eating a cup of the stuff from a teaspoon because it’s just that good, but if you get these bread sticks done ahead of time, you can dip them into the pot for tasting and likely won’t even need any dinner.

When you roll these into their little stick shapes, be careful not to use flour on your counter or board. You need the dough to grab the counter surface and your hands a bit to accomplish rolling, and flour will just make everything slide around rather than roll into a sausage shape.

Remember, even if they look bad, they’ll still dip into your tomato sauce just fine. If you do these with a heavy stand mixer, let the machine do the kneading. Otherwise, you’ll need about five to 10 minutes of hand kneading.


1 cup warm water, about 110 F

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

2 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt

About 3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour

For brushing:

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

In the bowl of your mixer, place the water, yeast, sugar, salt and melted butter. With the dough hook attachment and the mixer running on low speed, add the flour in batches, being careful at the end not to add too much. You want a sticky dough. Kick up the speed a notch and let the mixer knead the dough for 7 minutes. If you mix the dough by hand, knead the dough on your counter for about the same amount of time, until it is smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to raise for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled.

Divide the dough into 12 equal portions, then roll each piece of dough into a 7-inch-long log. Place the logs on parchment paper lined baking sheets and let rise again for another hour.

Preheat your oven to 400 F and bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush them right away with the melted butter, then sprinkle with the salt and garlic powder.

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