Garlic knots have been around for quite a while, but lately they have seen an upswing in popularity. There are a few reasons why that seems to be happening. Think of garlic knots as soft breadsticks with an attitude –– a bit twisted, perhaps, but kindly. Think of garlic knots as snack food, bar food, table bread and munchies for the kiddies to keep them happy until their pizza arrives. And, not the least of which, garlic knots allow you to get creative with your pizza dough (and dough that is about to go over the hill).
So what’s the deal? Not much. You can use your existing pizza dough to create this tasty treat. Or, if you feel a little creative, you can mix up a batch of dough that has an extra ingredient (adding powdered dried milk to your dough formula will create a lighter, more breadlike product) and that will allow you to create your own signature garlic knots –– big knots, small knots, puffy knots, flavored knots, forget-me-knots (just kidding).
Let’s go with the first option –– using your existing pizza dough –– to get started. The best way to get the ropes (knots, ropes, get it?) necessary to form the knots is to roll the dough into a rectangle. The rectangle can be any size you want, but 12 inches by 16 inches is a manageable size. At this point you can add some additional flavor by brushing the entire sheet of dough lightly with olive oil (for even more enhancement, see the oil-infused recipes that follow).
Essentially, what we want to end up with are strips of dough that are about one-inch wide by eight-inches or 12-inches long (the longer the cut, the bigger the knot), so if you want to cut the rectangle in half –– lengthwise, then widthwise –– you will end up with dough strips that will work just fine.
Once you have the strips of dough to the size you want, the only thing left is to loop the dough into a knot (think pretzel). Be creative. The knots can have a single loop or a double loop. Play around a bit until you get the look you want.
If the dough you are using for your knots has already had one rise (say overnight in the cooler), you can go ahead with setting the knots on a baking sheet and sending them through the oven. However, if you want your knots to be puffier and lighter, set the knots on a baking sheet (I line the baking sheet with parchment paper, which makes the baked knots easier to lift off) and let the dough rise one more time, say 45 minutes, before baking. And, if possible, bake at a moderate (425-450 F) temperature.
Now comes the fun part. How do you want your finished garlic knots to look? If you want a shiny, unadorned look you can simply brush the knots with an egg wash before baking. But if that’s all you do, then your garlic knots are not really garlic knots; instead, they’re rather plain bread knots. So, it would be a good idea to oomph up the flavor, and that’s where the infused oil idea comes in.
Further, if you want your knots to have a certain look –– herby, rustic, gourmet –– you can jazz them up in any number of ways. Here are some tasty ideas that will have your customers singing praises for your fabulous garlic knots.
Garlic-infused Olive Oil
Yield: 1 cup (scale up in direct proportion)
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
Put the oil and the garlic in a glass container and let it stand in a cool dark place for 2 days. Strain, discarding the garlic. Store in a cool dark place for up to one week.
Pasquale’s Pizza Oil
Yield: About 3 cups
3 cups extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
5 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh oregano
3 whole 2- to 3-inch chiles, crushed
Combine all the ingredients in a glass jar or bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Let stand in a cool, dark place for two days. Strain the oil to remove the infusion ingredients. The oil will keep in a cool, dark place for about a week.
Use the pizza oil on your garlic knots this way: Drizzle the oil over the knots as they come out of the oven, while still hot (which is another reason why I line a baking sheet with parchment paper).
• More flavor enhancements: Once you drizzle the garlic-infused oil over the baked knots, sprinkle them generously with grated Romano or Parmesan cheese.
• The most basic approach of all to “dress” the knots is to combine, in a large bowl, melted unsalted butter with minced fresh garlic (to taste). Don’t use garlic powder or onion powder on your knots. The taste (and aftertaste) will not win you any new customers, and you may lose a few old customers.
Warm this mixture over low heat for about 5 minutes. Keep warm. Once the garlic knots are out of the oven, toss the knots in the garlic butter mixture.
• For a more rustic look, combine finely chopped parsley with dried oregano, dried basil, and grated Romano cheese. Sprinkle this mixture over the fresh baked garlic knots that have been tossed with the garlic-butter mixture above.
• Create some deeper interest by brushing the knots with a pesto sauce (after the knots come out of the oven).
Serve the garlic knots in a bread basket (heap them high). If you care to, you can serve them with a dipping sauce, such as a warm marinara sauce. Consider using a dressing, such as Ranch, but only if the knots were plain and not dressed with cheese, or herbs or pesto. Doing so would be overkill and a confusion of flavors.