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Homemade garlic knots

As home cooks (and humans, in general), I think it’s so interesting how relationships shape the food we make and eat. I’m sort of a chameleon in that sense—I choose to make food the people I’m surrounded by enjoy, and as those people change, so do my food choices. Let’s call it food evolution.

After being my boyfriend’s personal chef for over a year, now, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s happy to eat anything as long as it has one ingredient—nostalgia. He wants food that’s familiar, something to remind him of being around his dinner table at home in the East. And, food that more often than not, involves marinara sauce and many forms of carbohydrates.

But, as most East Coasters, he’s not exactly sold on LA’s version of Italian food—I mean, you’re definitely not going to find the same Sfogliatelle as you would at Ferrara in Little Italy in New York City. Luckily, they have nationwide shipping. You’re welcome.

Side Note: I tried Sfogliatelle for the first time over the holidays when Matt’s mother sent us a (very generously sized) box for Christmas. All I can say is, if they’re that tasty frozen and shipped across the country, I can’t wait to try them fresh from the bakery after standing in line that, according to Matt, ends in New Jersey. It’ll be well worth the wait, I’m sure.

Anyway, since this post is, in fact, not about Sfogliatelle, I suppose I’ll get back on topic. My goal in this chapter of my hypothetical book How Relationships Shape the Food We Eat is to cook food that is nostalgic (and mostly Italian). Food that makes a homesick East Coaster request your homemade pizza over any self-proclaimed “New York Style” pizzeria in LA.

Garlic knots are one of those foods that come with a sense of comfort, don’t you think? Especially if you’re from the East. Everything about them screams nostalgia—from the oodles of grease they leave on your paper plate, your hands, and your clothes to the overly stuffed, yet satisfied feeling you get after a late night knot binge, paired with a slice of pepperoni. But you don’t have to be from New York to appreciate these delicious, savory morsels—I grew up in Wisconsin, after all.

Alex Delany has a great illustration in Bon Appétit of the Anatomy of a Perfect Garlic Knot, and I think he nailed it.

Illustration by Alex Delany || Bon Appétit

I was pleasantly surprised when my knots met (almost) all his criteria. A crispy, golden layer outside with a soft, doughy center, a ridiculous amount of garlic and fresh parsley, and the glistening shine of way too much butter—that’s damn near perfection, in my eyes. I did sin and put cheese on them, but that gets a pass because Ditch the Recipe—hello??

These babies are addicting, especially served with a side of warm marinara. You should make your own marinara, but if you’re in a pinch and have to use a jarred sauce, I recommend Rao’s. It’s the most homemade tasting, jarred sauce I’ve had—and several East Coast Italianos turned me on to it, so you know it’s good! I’m fairly certain you can find it at most supermarkets, or just click the link above to purchase from Amazon. It’s a little more expensive than the popular brands, but so worth it.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 3  3/4 cups bread flour + extra
  • 1  1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp (1 package) active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1  1/2 cups warm water approx. 110 degrees (F)
  • 2 tbsp olive + extra

For the garlic butter

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, pressed or finely chopped
  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste

Optional toppings

  • Parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions

In a large mixing bowl whisk flour, sugar, and salt to combine. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Combine the yeast and warm water and add to the well.

You can test the water temp with a meat thermometer, if you have one. It doesn’t have to be exact, just get as close to 110 degrees (F) as you can.

Mix with your hands and form a dough ball. If sticky add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time, and if dry add 1 tablespoon of water at a time, until the dough becomes solid. Knead for 5-10 minutes and form into a smooth firm ball. Grease a large bowl with a drizzle of olive in and put the dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and store in a warm area, such as the inside of your oven (turned off) for 90 minutes or until it has doubled in size.

Warning: Math Ahead On a lightly floured surface, cut the dough into two equal pieces and let rise for 10 minutes. Dust the tops of the dough with flour and slice each piece into quarters with a sharp knife or a square dough cutter. Flatten out each quarter into a rectangle, then cut each rectangle into three strips. You should have 24 strips (12 from each dough ball) total.

Lightly sprinkle the dough with flour. Roll each strip into a long rope and tie in a knot. They don’t have to be pretty—trust me, mine weren’t. Place the knots on a prepared baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Set aside to let rise another 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F). Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over low heat. Add garlic to the butter using a garlic press. Add the parsley and season with salt. Simmer on low, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes, making sure not to burn the garlic. Then turn off the heat and set aside.

Remove plastic wrap and brush the garlic butter mixture onto the knots. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until knots are golden brown on the top and bottom. While the knots are baking, heat up marinara sauce over low heat.

When the knots are done, let cool for 5 minutes while you reheat the butter mixture. Brush knots with the garlic butter again, making sure to get plenty of garlic and parsley bits. Sprinkle knots with a hefty hand of parmesan cheese (if you so choose), and serve with a side of warm marinara.

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