I live right around the corner from a pizza place that is beloved for the slices it sells all day long, six days a week. But what draws my kids to the counter is the aroma of freshly baked garlic knots, emanating from the restaurant's front door as they walk by on their way home from school.
Depending on whom you talk to, the garlic knot was invented by a frugal pizzaiolo in Ozone Park, Plainview or Syosset on Long Island in the late 1970s, to use up leftover pizza dough. Since then, the knot has been adopted by pizza places across Long Island and, indeed, the nation. Sometimes garlic knots come free with the purchase of a pie. Sometimes they're sold 2 or 3 for a dollar. They're made from scraps. Of course they're cheap. Even when my kids don't have enough money for a slice, they can usually scrape together a dollar between them to buy a few garlic knots, which they enjoy hot from the oven, yeasty and dripping with garlicky oil or butter.
One Tuesday, the pizza man's day off, I decided to surprise the family and make my own garlic knots. I mixed a batch of pizza dough, cut it into strips, and knotted each one. When the knots came out of the oven I brushed them with garlic butter and sprinkled them with Parmesan and parsley.
I wanted a wet dough, which would give my knots a moist and bubbly crumb. With so much water, I knew the dough would be difficult to knead by hand. So I combined the ingredients in the food processor. After a few pulses, I let the rough dough rest in the work bowl for 10 minutes to allow the flour to fully absorb the water and become less sticky. Then I kneaded it thoroughly by processing it for half a minute.
After the dough rose, it was soft but easy to work with. I floured the countertop liberally before attempting to cut the dough into pieces. Then I very gently pulled and knotted the dough strips and let them rise for half an hour while my oven heated up. Baking them on a pizza stone helped them rise high and gave them a beautiful color, but if you don't have a stone, you can shape them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and just pop the sheet in your preheated oven.
Take care to heat your garlic in the butter just until it loses its raw flavor. You don't want it to brown and become bitter. Brush the knots with the butter as soon as they come out of the oven and are very hot. This way they will absorb the butter beautifully. And don't forget to shower the freshly baked knots with Parmesan and finely chopped parsley, which are delicious with the garlic butter.
1 cup room-temperature water
¾ teaspoon instant yeast
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons fine sea salt or kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (optional)
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1. Combine the water, yeast, flour, and 1 teaspoon salt in the workbowl of a food processor and pulse several times to form a rough dough. Let the dough stand for 10 minutes in the bowl, then process until it is smooth and elastic, 30 to 45 seconds.
2. Spray the inside of a dough rising container or large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray and place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise voluminously (the dough will triple or quadruple in size), 3 to 4 hours.
3. Line a pizza peel or rimless baking sheet with parchment paper. On a liberally floured countertop, turn the dough out, sprinkle with flour, and gently roll into a 10-inch square. Use a pizza wheel or sharp chef's knife to cut each square into four 5-inch squares. Cut each 5-inch square into four strips.
4. Gently pull each strip to elongate slightly while tying into a knot. Place each knot on the parchment-lined peel, leaving an inch between each knot. Sprinkle the knots with flour, lightly drape with plastic wrap, and let stand 30 minutes.
5. Place a baking stone on the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Combine the butter, garlic, hot red pepper flakes, if using, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt in a small saucepan and heat over medium-low until the garlic is just fragrant, about 2 minutes. Set aside.
6. Slide the knots, still on the parchment paper, onto the preheated baking stone and bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
7. Slide the knots, still on the parchment, onto a wire rack. Brush with the garlic butter and sprinkle with the cheese and parsley. Let cool 5 minutes and serve warm or let cool to room temperature before serving. Makes 16 knots.