I think we can all agree that bread plus cheese is one of the simplest and best combinations of all time. They're really made for each other and I truly sometimes doubt there is a more satisfying pair out there. While I'm all for sometimes sprinkling some parmesan on a slice of sourdough and sticking it in the microwave, I knew I wanted to try and make something a little fancier that still was equally satisfying, and that would be perfect for a side at a Mother's Day brunch or to pile in a big basket and bring over to a friend.
They are springy and herby, pretty and the perfect size, and are filled with delicious melty fontina. You'll start by making the dough. One of my favorite pizza places in New Hampshire makes these delicious garlic knots, which if I had to guess were made from their pizza dough. Our Sausage and Broccolini Flatbread with Chili Oiluses our easy pizza dough recipe, so I figured that would be perfect for these knots. The total cooking time for this recipe includes the rising time for the dough, so once that's all set you'll be right on your way to having a knot in hand!
The filling for these knots is really just fontina and thyme. I find fontina to be quite similar to mozzarella, with a little bit of a more distinct flavor that really stands out in these knots. The addition of some springy thyme makes these extra herby and delicious. I find the easiest way to get a fairly large amount of fresh thyme off of the sprigs is to hold one end of the sprig, and gently slide your index finger and thumb down the spring until the leaves fall off. Add a little salt and pepper to the mix and you're ready to go!
To get the super buttery pull-apart texture we want for these knots, we'll start by rolling out the dough into a rectangle and spreading on some melted butter. While it may seem like a lot of butter, fear "knot", divided by the number of knots it's really not much. Sprinkle on the fontina mixture and get ready to twist.
While they may look complicated, folding and twisting these knots is actually much easier than it looks. You'll want to have the short end of the rectangle facing you, and you're going to take one short end and start to fold it like an envelope, folding the other short end over. It's important after that to roll the dough out a bit more to enclose the filling and thin out this new rectangle.
You'll then cut this new rectangle into eight strips. Once you've done that, you'll take each strip, and cut two slits in it leaving about half an inch at the top. After that it's as easy as taking the three skinny strips and braiding them, twisting slightly as you go! Now, if like me, you have suddenly completed forgotten how to braid, just remember to put each strip in the middle of the other two, and repeat. Fold this pretty knot in half and place it in a muffin pan. Repeat with the other guys, trying not to worry if they all look a bit unique.
Brush with remaining melted butter and pop these cute knots into the oven. I find that when you have an uneven number of things in a muffin pan it's important to rotate the pan halfway through the cooking time to ensure each knot browns evenly. Once they're golden and you can see bits of bubbling cheese, remove them from the oven and use a knife to loosen the edges of each one to easily remove them them from the pan.
Sprinkle with additional thyme and admire these beautiful little knots. Personally, I had a tough time deciding whether I liked the slightly golden crispy top, or the buttery and cheesy bottom. Either way, you won't be able to resist pulling each herby, cheesy, buttery layer apart!
Serve these twists as a springy brunch appetizer, make a big batch for some friends, or enjoy them as a delicious afternoon snack.
Warm and cheesy pull-apart fontina thyme bread knots that are the perfect side to any dinner.
Servings: 8 knots
1. In a small bowl, combine warm (not hot) water, yeast, and sugar. Place in a warm spot and allow the yeast to bloom, about 15 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Add the olive oil and yeast mixture and stir to combine. If you are using a mixer, use the dough hook attachment and knead the dough for 5-6 minutes, as it pulls away from the side of the bowl. If you are not using a mixer, you can also lightly flour your work surface and knead the dough by hand until smooth.
3. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for approximately 1 hour.
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray a muffin pan with cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, combine fontina, thyme, kosher salt, and black pepper.
3. Lightly flour a work surface and roll dough into a 16x10 inch rectangle. Brush on some of the melted butter until the surface is covered, then evenly sprinkle on fontina thyme mix.
4. Pick up one of the short ends of the dough and fold it like you would an envelope, folding the other short end on top. Re-roll the dough slighly to flatten it into a 12x6 inch rectangle. Cut off the rough ends of the shorter sides. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the long end into 8 strips.
5. Take each strip and cut 2 slits almost all the way up to the top of the short side. Hold the top of the short side and braid the 3 hanging strips, twisting slightly as you braid. Fold braid in half pinching bottom slighlty, then place in muffin pan. Repeat with remaining strips.
6. Reheat remaining butter if needed, then brush each twist.
7. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate pan, and bake for an additional 8-10 minutes or until golden. Use a knife to loosen the edges of each knot, remove from pan, sprinkle with additional thyme, and enjoy!
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