Friday, October 23, 2015

Garlic Knots and a Few Final Thoughts on My KAF Adventure

Garlic Knots, all garlicky and buttery

In case you haven't read the five previous posts here, I just got back today from Norwich, Vermont, where I got to spend four days learning how to bake bread at the King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center. I'm trying to sum it all up in my brain, but there is just so much.
Let me start by saying that the French batards we made yesterday were so incredible, and I'm so excited to try them at home, that I asked my 13-year-old son to start a poolish for me as I Face Timed him last night. As soon as the words, "Measure two cups of flour" came out of my mouth, I remembered that I'd used the very last of my flour right before my trip to make some focaccia for said son to enjoy while I was gone. Shoot. So, I decided to try something that I haven't baked yet in order to practice some of the techniques I learned. 
Then when I was sharing with my Des Moines baking buddy Sherri about what I learned, I realized that I should probably sum up some of the major things I learned, if for no other reason, so I don't forget them. So, here are my baking take-aways, in no particular order:
  • Mixing and kneading yeast bread dough by hand is a complete sensory experience--the smells of the yeast and the baking bread, the sight of the dough rising in the bowl and the loaf rising in the oven, the sound of the dough slapping on the counter top as you knead it by hand, the stages of the dough texture culminating in a smooth, cool formed loaf that feels just like a baby's bottom, and then, of course, the taste of freshly baked bread--the chewiness, the crunch of a French bread crust, the distinct slightly salty flavor of wheat bread. It really is one of the best sensory experiences out there.
  • Kneading yeast dough, for the most part, requires a gentle touch. When you man-handle dough too much and exert too much force when kneading, it breaks the delicate skin/gluten fibers, making it sticky, which makes you think you need to add more flour--but most of the time you do NOT need to add that extra flour. Mind blown.
  • It's a good idea to place your ingredients in the bowl in little piles so that you can double check to make sure you have it all in there. And dang it, I've already messed up again. I forgot the salt in these beautiful rolls. Grrr.
  • The instructors at KAF had us use their plastic bowl scraper to do all of our mixing. I've had four of these handy dandy little tools in my drawer for a while, and now I know that I can use them for more than just scraping a bowl.
  • You don't necessarily need to grease the bowl you let your dough rise in, and you can let the dough rise in the same bowl you used to mix the dough.
  • I kind of already knew this, but you don't really need to use water that feels warm. The warmer the water the faster that the dough will rise. Yeast will die, though, at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • There is this fascinating formula for getting your dough to the perfect temperature. I will only use it for French bread, though, I think. That reminds me, I should start that poolish tonight.
  • Pre-forming your dough is vital to getting a good rise and shape to your finished loaf. It helps build structure and you want the outside of the loaf to be tight.
  • When scoring a loaf you need to use quick motions to cut the dough correctly and effectively (I still need to practice this one).
I know there are more bits of knowledge tucked away in my brain, but those are the ones I have access to at this moment. Onto the Garlic Knots recipe!

Garlic Knots
    --Adapted from

  • 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup Baker's Special Dry Milk or 6 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
  • 1/4 cup mashed potato flakes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 4 teaspoons Pizza Dough Flavor (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup water (if you live in a dry climate, add 1-2 tablespoons water)
  •  1/4 cup butter
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 2-3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (optional)
In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, dry milk, mashed potato flakes, sugar, salt, yeast, and pizza dough flavor. With a spoon or plastic bowl scraper, mix all of the dry ingredients. Add the olive oil and water. Mix with a spoon, silicone spatula, or plastic bowl scraper until all dry ingredients are incorporated with the liquid and dough starts to feel strong.
Turn out onto a clean flat surface. With a bench knife, cut 2-3 inch pieces of the dough off and scrape into a pile. Repeat 6-8 times. Pile the dough up. With your fingertips and thumbs, pick the dough up at the top and the bottom, give a quarter turn, slap it down, and fold away from you. Repeat this over and over until the dough is very strong and hard to fold over. The dough won't get super smooth.
Place dough ball back into the mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside and allow to rise until doubled, about one hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Turn the risen dough out and cut into 16 equal portions. I preformed my dough pieces by flattening each piece and very carefully rolling lengthwise, sealing the edge with the side of my hand/finger. Once all pieces are preformed, roll each to an 11-inch length. Tie each dough rope into a knot, leaving one end slightly longer. Wrap the longer end around to meet the shorter end, and pinch to seal. Arrange knot on the parchment lined pan so that the pinched ends are on the bottom. Repeat will all ropes.
Cover knots with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for about 45 minutes, or until puffy. While dough rises, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and parsley flakes. Turn heat off and allow to sit until knots are baked.
When knots have risen, bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes. (I slide mine onto a baking stone to bake in order to get the bottoms crisp.)
Remove from oven and brush or spoon the garlic butter on top of each roll. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Makes 16 delectable rolls

The Baker's Special Dry Milk makes a tender and fluffy bread. The Pizza Dough Flavor is just a yummy addition.

When using the bowl scraper, you actually use it to cut the ingredients together to incorporate.
This is the beginning of the kneading process: cutting chunks of dough repeatedly to develop gluten strands & webs.
Dough is ready to be covered for the first rise.
Hmmm. Maybe I didn't let it completely double. I was on a timeline. Had to pick 13 year old up from wrestling practice.
Dough cut into 16 pieces, ready to pre-shape.
Dough is pre-shaped and ready to be rolled into ropes.
Forming the knots
The garlic butter
The knots have risen.

Knots are dressed up now with their garlic gems.


  1. Hey there, KAF Baking Buddy!

    I thought you might get a chuckle out of this: The front page of The Washington Post food section from last week has an article extolling the merits of baking by weight as opposed to volume: "No More Excuses! Get on the Scale." I thought it was very appropriate for the first article I read after returning from our KAF experiences....

    I'm separately sending you a photo as well, for another use for our KAF tins....

    Your Baking Buddy Diane

    1. Great to hear from you, Baking Buddy! Guess I'll have to invest in a scale then... after I master hand mixing and kneading perhaps.


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