Holiday time is almost here. That means company. And in turn, if you are like me, that means you want recipes that whip up quickly with impressive results. Count these Greek-Style Puff Pastry Breadsticks as my win for this year’s holiday simple yet elegant appetizer contest.
I may have a “thing” for all-butter puff pastry. But it’s no shame to take a short cut when the results are so delicious. Whether you’re going sweet or savory, puff pastry can up your game in no time. And that’s no small feat when company is coming.
My breadstick journey began with an attempt to update a suffrage cookbook cheese breadstick recipe. I had agreed to bring an appetizer to a small gathering. For a few days I pondered what I should make. Tired of hummus and unwilling to spend hours rolling my favorite grape leaves, breadsticks seemed a perfect no-plate-or-implement-required solution to my dilemma. Using a Leite’s Culinaria idea for shaping the breadsticks into bow ties, I created my little darlings. They were yummy. But the little darlings were definitely not ready for prime time.
So I headed for my stash of frozen Trader Joe’s puff pastry and went for one of the many cheese breadstick recipes online. With a few tweaks, my second attempt at cheddar cayenne breadsticks came out fine. Many thanks to Joanne at Fifteen Spatulas, whose Puff Pastry Cheese Straws were my inspiration.
Still I wasn’t satisfied. Dreaming of how to make them even more interesting, I came up with Greek Puff Pastry Breadsticks. Basically, they’re like a Greek-style salad on a stick. (If you’re craving the lettuce, eat the breadsticks with a bowl of greens. I have no problem with that.) Feel free to substitute and modify to make these your own.
Maybe even go completely rogue and turn them into Italian or cinnamon/sugar breadsticks. Whatever you do with this recipe, consider these tips:
Tips for Making Puff Pastry Breadsticks
- Ingredients. Use what suits you. Although olives work well in these breadsticks, I didn’t include them in this batch. Prefer dill to oregano? Fine. I love aleppo pepper. If you don’t, or don’t have it, that’s fine. Holidays are stressful enough without going bonkers over the food. (Wise words I should follow more often. Do as I say, not necessarily as I do.)
- Working with puff pastry. The trick is to keep it cool. If your kitchen is warm, keep the pastry refrigerated until you need it. Puff pastry dough stretches, a lot. When you use flour to keep it from sticking to the parchment, pastry mat or counter you’re working on, dust the pastry sparingly. Avoid using lots of flour, as the pastry will absorb it. You won’t have to roll it out much. I used a ruler, but feel free to “eyeball” it.
- Use a wet layer to hold the cheese. Many puff pastry breadstick recipes call for an egg wash or something similar to help bind the cheese to the puff pastry. I’ve used a tomato paste/water mixture. It’s not quite as sticky as egg wash, but it does the trick.
- Keeping the other ingredients on the puff pastry. Lightly pressing down the ingredients helps keep them adhering to the puff pastry. Inevitably a bit of cheese (and chopped or smashed olives if you use them) will fall off. That’s OK. You can put them back on the ends or not. This preparation is like an art, not a science.
- Twisting the breadsticks. To get shorter breadsticks, after rolling the dough out slightly, I cut the shorter side in half. Feel free to make yours longer. However, I find long ones difficult to twist. It doesn’t matter how many twists you do on each breadstick. As long as you press down the ends, the twists should stay in place. Also, don’t worry if your breadsticks don’t look uniform. They might even look ungainly. But after baking they’ll look fine. And of course they’ll taste delicious no matter what they look like.
Greek-Style Puff Pastry Breadsticks
- 1 roll puff pastry See note about all butter vs. oil
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste, diluted with 3-4 tablespoons water
- 2 cups feta cheese, preferably made from sheep's milk, crumbled About 10 oz/285 g
- 1/2 cup black olives, crushed, preferably kalamata, crushed optional - About 3.2 oz/90 g
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper optional
Preheat oven to 375° F/190° C. Line 2 half sheet pans with parchment.
Unroll the puff pastry onto a lightly floured piece of parchment, a pastry mat, or a clean counter. Gently roll it out to about 14 inches by 10 & 1/2 inches. (Mine started out as 12 inches by 9 & 1/2 inches.)
Brush the tomato/water mixture onto the puff pastry. Then add the crumbled feta and crushed olives. Lightly press them down with your hands. Then add the oregano and black pepper, sprinkling them as evenly as you can over the pastry.
Cut the pastry in half width-wise and then make strips approximately 3/4-1 inch/1-2 & 1/2 cm. Twist each piece several times before laying it down on the sheet pan. Gently press the ends of each piece to keep the ends anchored on the pan.
Bake the twisted breadsticks until they are puffy and lightly browned on the uncovered parts of the pastry. Allow them to cool on the sheet pan before moving them to a serving platter or container. Breadsticks are best the day you make them, but they will last a day or two lightly wrapped in parchment. Also, you can freeze them in parchment or other paper inside a tightly sealed plastic bag for 1-2 weeks.
Feel free to play with the ingredients in these breadsticks. Don't like olives? Leave them out. Don't have aleppo pepper? Just use black pepper.