Sourdough Bread Sticks

For those of us who hate waste in the kitchen, refreshing sourdough presents a challenge: How to use it all? Even for small amounts–I often start the process with just 28 grams  (1 ounce) of sourdough–I end up with 425 g (15 ounces). And maybe I am not baking immediately–yes, yes, I know. I am supposed to bake with fresh sourdough. But it doesn’t always work that way. In any case, I need just 43 g (1.5 ounces) to build a starter for the ‘fridge. I scoop out 28 g for each loaf of no-knead bread, and when my supply gets low or the starter looks old and tired, I refresh. If I have ignored it for longer than I should have, I may have to rebuild it for several days until it smells fresh and becomes very active.

I’ve made dog biscuits, pancakes, waffles, and flat breads from excess sourdough starter. But recently, I’ve been on a bread stick kick. If you really like crunch–and I do–then bread sticks are a good way to go. (I have even set out to make them on purpose, using a very small batch of my usual no-knead bread.)

My starter is composed of equal weights flour and water. To turn the starter into a dough, it just needs a few more ingredients including a little more flour (10% of the total weight of the starter), olive oil, salt, diastatic malt powder, and powdered milk. Even some of these are optional. I also like to add something more, especially flax meal or sesame seeds. The dough will be very wet and stretches easily. You can make very long bread sticks, stretching the dough the entire length of an 11 by 17-inch sheet pan. I make smaller ones and stretch them across the width of the pan.

Sourdough Bread Sticks

Prep Time: 30 minutes to make dough; 25 minutes to bake   |   Servings: Makes about 2 dozen 11-inch bread sticks


Coarse semolina for dusting baking sheets

397 g fresh sourdough starter

40 g semolina flour, whole-wheat flour, or bread flour

15 g sesame seed, toasted

10 g olive oil

9 g dried milk powder

6 g kosher or sea salt

5 g diastatic malt powder (optional)

Bread flour for dusting dough and work surface

Gray salt for sprinkling bread sticks


Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats and dust them with the coarse semolina.Hopefully, your fresh sourdough starter is very loose and bubbly and at room temperature. This is the easiest state to add ingredients. Stir in the semolina flour, sesame seeds, olive oil, dried milk, salt, and malt powder. Mix just until evenly incorporated.

Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a heavily dusted work surface. Push and prod it into as even a rectangle as you can. Dust the top with more flour. With a dough scraper, cut the dough into strips about 1/2 inch wide and 5 inches long. Dust lightly with flour so they don't stick to each other. Pick up each strip by the ends and let it stretch between your fingers until it is as long as you want it. Sometimes the dough will not want to stretch, in which case, hold it by the middle and let gravity pull at the ends. Or gently stretch the dough dough with your fingers. As each bread stick is shaped, transfer it to the prepared baking sheet. Your bread sticks will be uneven looking, very rustic, and authentic. Grind salt over the bread sticks.

Bake them for 25 minutes, rotating the pans front to back and top to bottom 1/2 way through the baking time. You do not need to let the dough rest between shaping and baking.  Remove and let the breads cool on a rack. Choose one as a cook's snack. If the breads are not sufficiently crisp, turn off oven, and return them to the oven, placing them directly on the baking stone or oven rack for a few minutes. Freshly baked bread sticks tend to have a short shelf life. To refresh and crisp them further, you can dry them in a 150°F after baking and cooling. As always, keep tasting as you go.


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Over 30 years as a food and wine professional, writer, and editor.

Cookbook author including:
'The Tra Vigne Cookbook' for Michael Chiarello,
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