Step 1Dissolve the yeast with the sugar in 1/2 cup of the water and set aside until foamy.
Step 2In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup warm water, the olive oil and yeast mixture. Stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time, and salt mixing until the dough begins to come together in a ball. Spoon the dough onto a floured board and knead it until it's smooth, elastic and no longer sticky, about 5 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and set it aside in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. It is then ready to use.
Step 1Knead the dough on a well-floured board for 5 minutes and place it in an oiled bowl; oil the top of the dough. Cover it with a towel and let the dough rise for 15 minutes. Punch it down and let it rise for 15 minutes more; it will puff up slightly.
Step 2Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Step 3For pasta-machine bread sticks: Spray 4 baking sheets with cooking spray. Pinch off a ball of dough 2 inches in diameter and flatten it with the palm of your hand to 1/2 inch thick. Lightly dust it with flour. Set the pasta machine rollers as far apart as possible. Guide the dough between the rollers and roll it through. Do this 3 times for each dough ball; place each on the baking sheets. Repeat with all dough. Change the pasta machine attachment to the fettuccine pasta maker. Push each piece of dough slowly through the cutter and catch it underneath. Place the dough on a baking sheet. Repeat until all dough has been run through the machine. The pieces will be 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide and 10 to 15 inches long. It's important to separate strands so that they're not touching.
Step 4Lightly beat the egg whites and brush them over the bread sticks. Sprinkle them with coarse salt and seeds to taste. Bake them until they're golden brown and crisp, 14 to 16 minutes. Transfer the bread sticks to racks to cool.
For hand-rolled bread sticks: Divide the dough into fourths and roll out each piece on a floured board into a rectangle 1/3 inch thick. Cut each rectangle into 2-inch squares; roll each square with your palms into pencil-thin sticks about 10 to 12 inches long. Carefully transfer each stick to a foil-lined 15x10-inch greased baking sheet or jellyroll pan, placing the strips 1/2 inch apart. Keep the strips straight and pinch the ends down so they stick to the foil. Repeat until all the dough is used. Brush with egg whites and sprinkle with salt. Bake the bread sticks at 350 degrees until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.