You can flavor garlic knots a hundred different ways—I’ve done them with thin slices of sopressata, for example, and even turned them sweet with cinnamon sugar—but za’atar has become my go-to flavoring agent. It works well paired with usual knot herbs like parsley. These knots contain no fresh garlic—to me, garlic powder is what garlic knots should taste like, not roasted or caramelized or raw actual garlic. For the dough, you can make your own, defrost frozen, or buy fresh from a local pizzeria, which is the move I’ve been doing lately and what this recipe is based on. It’s okay if your dough is a little larger or smaller than the weight called for below, and you don’t need to tie knots like a charter boat captain for them to look beautiful when they come out of the oven. One of garlic knots’ best qualities is how adaptable and forgiving they are.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a 12-inch cast-iron skillet with olive oil. Be sure to coat all the way up the sides.
- Turn out the pizza dough onto a cutting board. Using a pizza wheel, slice the dough vertically into eight strips of equal width. Cut the four longest strips in half horizontally, creating a total of 12 strips. Roll the strips between your palms into ropes. You want them roughly equal in length and about the thickness of the neck of a beer bottle, but again, this recipe is very forgiving so it doesn’t need to be perfect.
- Lay the ropes out on your cutting board and dust with half each of the garlic powder, za’atar, oregano and parsley. Add salt, black pepper and red chile flake to taste. Roll the ropes gently across the cutting board so all the seasoning sticks.
- Working one at a time, tie a loose knot in each rope and set it into the prepared skillet. Tuck any floppy ends underneath each knot. Repeat for all 12 knots, arranging so they fill the pan. It’s OK if they’re not clustered tightly together; that will happen as they proof. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set it out of the way in a warm area by the oven. Let the knots rise about an hour.
- While the knots are almost finished rising, melt butter in a saucepan or microwave. To the butter, add the remaining garlic powder, za’atar, oregano and parsley and salt, black pepper and red chile flake to taste. Whisk to combine and reserve.
- When the knots are proofed, remove the plastic. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the surface of the knots with the garlic-herb butter. Top with half the grated cheese and bake in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes or until tops begin to turn golden.
- Remove knots from oven. Brush again with butter and bake an additional five to ten minutes until brown.
- Remove knots from oven and brush a third time with the remaining butter. Be sure to get it into all the peaks and valleys; you want the entire surface to be shiny. Top with remaining grated cheese, sumac, and flaky sea salt to taste. Serve immediately with warm tomato sauce for dipping.
Adam Erace is an award-winning food and travel writer who contributes to Travel + Leisure, Fortune, Food & Wine and many other publications. He is the co-author of the Palizzi Social Club and Laurel cookbooks and lives in South Philly with his wife and three maniacal rescue dogs. His new book, The Cocktail Workshop, comes out this fall.