In my latest column in The Knockturnal, I wrote about a new fixture at my weekly pizza nights: garlic knots brushed with two coats of extra-garlicky basil and walnut pesto, one before baking and one right after. The pesto adds oomph to this classic pizza accompaniment, which is simple (and fun) to prepare at home using pizza dough.
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups flour
1 large bunch (around 3 cups) fresh basil, stems removed
8 cloves garlic
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste
⅓ cup walnuts
Prepare the dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine lukewarm water, sugar, and yeast. Stir gently to dissolve. Set aside in a warm place for about 15 minutes, until fluffy and bubbly. Add olive oil, flour, and then salt.Stir ingredients together until a dough comes together. On a floured work surface or directly in the bowl, knead until smooth and elastic, adding flour as needed if dough is sticky. The dough should spring back when touched. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for at least two hours (if the dough starts to rise out of the bowl, gently push it down.)
Prepare the pesto: Cut garlic cloves into quarters, and place in the bowl of a food processor (a mini food processor works fine.) Add basil leaves, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and walnuts. Process until smooth. Adjust seasonings if needed. Set aside until dough finishes rising.
Assemble and bake: Preheat oven to 475 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut dough into 26 even-sized pieces (if you prefer smaller garlic knots, feel free to increase the number of pieces.) On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a thin rope and tie into a knot: cross one end of the rope over the other, forming a loop at the top, and thread one of the ends through the loop (see steps in photo below.)
Using a pastry brush or spoon, coat each knot with a thin layer of pesto. Set aside remaining pesto to coat knots when they have finished baking.Bake for 10-15 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Set aside to cool for a few minutes, then brush with reserved pesto (this additional layer of pesto lends flavor and moisture.) Serve immediately. Place leftovers in aluminum foil or an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator.
Yields 26 garlic knots