Q: How can I make fresh breadsticks last longer? It seems wasteful to throw them away at the end of the day.
A: Sometimes when we speak about preservation of finished products made from yeast-leavened dough, such as breadsticks and rolls, we are talking about the product remaining free of mold growth for some period of time. Other times, we might be discussing how we can keep the resulting baked products softer longer and avoid characteristics of staling (firming, dryness and off flavors) from developing in the product.
Unfortunately, there is no one easy magic bullet (preservative) to add to dough to make the resulting dough and/or finished product last longer. However, there are ways of extending shelf life of some finished baked products through adjustment of ingredients, formulation and/or process. Also remember that these days the word “preservative” is sometimes thought of as a dirty word and is not well-received by the general public.
In the case of using traditional pizza dough to make breadsticks and rolls, a typical pizza dough formulation is a fairly lean dough (low in fat and sugar), and a fully baked product does not lend itself well to staying fresh (soft) for very long at room temperature. Keeping finished breadsticks and rolls warm and not exposed to direct heat and air movement will help with maintaining good eating characteristics, but after a while they will start to dry out and will become firm and unpleasant to eat.
In some cases, gently reheating (refreshing) room temperature-finished bread and roll products for a short period of time will help to improve eating characteristics and flavor of the product, but be aware that they will not stay that way very long. There really is not much that we can adjust with regards to ingredients and formulation, unless you are willing to deal with an increase in ingredient cost.
One alternative may be to par-bake the breadsticks rather than fully baking them. This would involve making the breadsticks in your usual manner and then giving them a short bake in order to set the structure of the product (3 minutes at your usual bake temperature, or around 465° to 485°F). The par-baked product would be light in crust color and will need to be finish-baked as needed (3 minutes at your usual bake temperature, or around 465° to 485°F) in order to color the crust and warm the breadstick. After cooling, par-baked breadsticks can be stored in a plastic bag or a closed container at room temperature for up to two days.
If the storage time is going to be longer than two days, I’d suggest refrigerating or freezing the packaged product shortly after cooling the par-baked product. By adjusting your typical procedure, this would allow you to have fresh breadsticks and not waste the product.