My husband loves sourdough bread. Loves it. Shortly after getting married and moving to Arizona, he began talking about putting together a sourdough starter. I was a little skeptical- I love baking, but never really got into making my own bread, and I had this vague idea that sourdough starters were tricky little things that had to be fussed over constantly.
So husband did some research, and found a site that had some pretty detailed instructions on starting a starter from scratch, along with the strong warning that it’s better to get a starter from a reliable source if you are just beginning with the whole sourdough thing. Rarely am I one to do things the easy way, so we started one from scratch. Even that wasn’t the easiest version, since our little town lacks a source for rye flour and dried malt extract (see here). After following the instructions, waiting and discarding and feeding for days and days, Bubbles the Bread Mama was born.
The thing with starters is that half of the starter generally needs to be done away with before every feeding. Since the goal of the feeding is to double the starter and keep the little yeasts alive, doubling the starter can take over your house. For someone who bakes a loaf a day, this is not a problem, since you are using the starter constantly. For me, when the starter is out of the fridge, I end up throwing the excess away.
I don’t like to waste things, even when it’s just flour and water and yeast. Then I saw a picture of garlic knots, and they looked really tasty. I played with a recipe for sourdough pizza crust from Sourdough Home, and a technique from White on Rice Couple, and came up with this Garlic Knots recipe.
This recipe is pretty flexible. I want to achieve garlicky goodness in a relaxing way, without strict adherence to a particular recipe. I put a “Troubleshooting Guide” after the recipe if you have any nervousness. If you come up with an issue I haven’t covered, leave me a comment. I’m not an expert, by any means, but I’ll do my best to answer. Also, we live at a little over 4000 feet above sea level, which affects baking somewhat. When you bake the knots, watch them carefully so that they don’t burn. You may also want to lower the baking temp by 25 degrees.
To start with, I whisk the starter. It’s full of bubbles, hence the name, and I want to measure starter, not air. Then I add in the olive oil, salt, and flour, in that order. It seems to mix better that way. Once it’s mixed, the dough should be pretty soft (soft as in squishy, not soft as in pettable). I knead the dough for a bit, until it’s elastic. Then it’s time for it to rest. I put a coating of oil on the dough and the bowl before I rest it. This helps keep a crust from forming on the dough.
After it’s little siesta, oil a board, rolling pin, and your hands. This does three things: it helps keep the dough from sticking to the board, pin, or hands; it gives the crust of the knots a little extra crunch, and it doesn’t make a mess on the counter around the board like flour does (but maybe that’s just me). Roll out the dough. I aim for ¼ to ½ inch thick, but I’m not picky. The knots still work if the thickness varies.
Dust the top of the dough with flour. This keeps the dough from sticking to itself while you are tying the knots. Slice the dough into strips about 3 – 4 inches by ¾ inch. Ish. I can never cut in a straight line. Anyway, tie the strips in an overhand knot.
When you tie the strips, the floured side should be towards the middle- this makes it easier to tie. If you’ve got extra dough hanging out, you can tuck it under the knot, or tuck the bottom end (left side) over the top and through the middle and the top end (right side) under the bottom if you want fancy knots.
While the knots are baking, melt the butter for the garlic sauce in a saucepan over medium-low heat. I use unsalted butter and add in a little salt towards the end, but you’re welcome to use salted butter. Whisk in olive oil and garlic. I use 3 cloves pressed through a garlic press. If you like more garlic, feel free to add more. I cook the garlic sauce for a couple of minutes to cut down on the sharpness, but you don’t have to do that.
Toss knots and sauce together to coat, and eat up! This recipe made enough for my husband and I to eat in one sitting. Leftovers might not be that tasty. You can also easily double the recipe, if you want to share the knots. As a bonus: if you whisk in some fresh Parmesan grated on a microplane and a splash of milk or whipping cream, you end up with a killer pasta sauce. One of these days I’ll actually measure how much I put in it. That one’s more of a by-feel recipe for me.
Sourdough Garlic Knots
Sourdough Knot Dough
¾ cup starter
2 tsp olive oil
¼ tsp fine salt
¾ cup flour
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped very fine or mashed through a garlic press
- Whisk the starter to get out the bubbles before you measure. Put the starter in a bowl and mix in olive oil and salt. Add in flour. The dough should be fairly soft but not sticky. Knead the dough a bit until it is smooth and elastic.
- Oil the dough lightly, place in a lightly oiled bowl, and let rest for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Oil a board and rolling pin. And your hands. Take the dough out and roll/flatten it out until it’s about ½ inch thick.
- Dust the surface of the dough with flour. Using a knife or pizza cutter, slice the dough into about 3 – 4 inch by ¾ inch strips.
- Tie the dough in a knot and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Once all knots are tied, you can rest them for another 15 to 30 minutes, if you like. Bake in preheated oven and bake for 6-9 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned.
- While they are baking, prepare the garlic sauce. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat, whisk in the olive oil and garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste and add salt and/or pepper if needed. Remove from heat.
- Place hot knots in a bowl and pour garlic sauce over them. Toss to coat.
- Eat the garlicky goodness. Mmmm, yummy.
Things that could go “wrong”:
Thing 1: I don’t have a sourdough starter! Get one! Just kidding, they are not for everyone. Use any pizza dough recipe you like. Don’t feel like making dough? Some stores (not stores here, but some stores) carry premade, uncooked dough that should work. The goal is garlicky goodness, not strict adherence to a particular recipe. Check the recommended cooking temperature, and change your oven temp if necessary.
Thing 2a: Not all my flour mixed in! No worries, it’s fine. Knead the dough (or not) and carry on. Different starters will have slightly different water:flour ratios, so it’s ok. Mine changes a little with each feeding, too, since I am not a stickler for exact measurements.
Thing2b: I mixed in all the flour, and the dough is still really sticky! Add in more flour, a little at a time, until the dough is how you like it. See reasoning on Thing 2a.
Thing 3: I don’t want to knead! That’s ok. Proceed with resting the dough. The texture will be a little different, but garlicky goodness should still be achieved.
Thing 4: I forgot to oil the dough! Also ok. I do it sometimes, too. Keep going with the rolling out of the dough, and the knots will turn out just fine.
Thing 5: I forgot about the dough! It’s been more than 30 minutes! More yummy sourdough flavor, still garlicky goodness.
Thing 6b: I cut my strips too wide! Roll them back and forth like you would a playdough snake. They’ll be a little longer, but still work. You can tie them in the fancy knot like the top knot in the picture.
Thing 6c: I cut my strips too thin! You’ve got two options: work with them as is and have slightly smaller knots, or tie the knots with two strips held together. Still garlicky goodness.
Thing 7: I can’t tie these stupid things into a knot! No worries. Roll the dough strips into balls and call it good. See the ball on the right of the picture.
Thing 8: I totally burned them! I’m sorry. I hate burnt bread, so I don’t really have a clever answer for this one. Garlic sauce can cover a lot of mistakes, though.
Thing 9: I don’t eat butter/garlic/there’s not enough garlic!: Play with the recipe. Replace the butter with olive oil. Leave out the garlic. Add more garlic. Add in fresh or dried herbs. Find a variation you like. Make the recipe your own. Enjoy the Gnotty Goodness. (I had to do that at least once.)