November 5, 2017 Leave your thoughts
Every autumn as the leaves start to change, a sudden itch to bake pops into my mental periphery. I find myself daydreaming in class about French pastries and cinnamon, fantasizing about the ways I could reinvent chocolate chip cookies or braid a loaf of challah. As my friends can tell you, this is the season where the communal Tupperware container makes frequent appearances, gracing its audience with piles of brownies and cake slices. To me at least, fall and baking go hand-in-hand, and no autumnal meal would be complete without a sweet or bread-y sidekick.
As I stand in my kitchen stirring a caramel sauce or kneading dough, my mind turns reflective. In these repetitive motions, I think. A lot. And every fall, for some reason, I think about love.
Maybe it was because fall was the season when I first literally fell from someone. It was seventh grade, when I had the poofiest hair and biggest chutzpah you’d ever seen. I had a huge crush on this kid in a few of my classes, and one day, I decided to call him up and ask him to hang out. (Spoiler: he said yes, but to this day, it was truly one of the most awkward nights of my life.)
Honestly? Mistake. What was I thinking?! I was twelve and already a loud, ballsy feminist. The world of teenage boys was certainly not ready for adolescent Abby, who was ready for a mature man while still wearing peace sign scarves from Justice. Even though I commend my younger self for being so confident, I do wish I had waited. Because my very sensitive little heart got very disheartened when things didn’t go as planned.
After that, my love life was basically nonexistent until senior year, when I tried to give “romance” another try. I let myself be vulnerable and was honest with my emotions — which was kinda badass, I guess. But I got really, really badly hurt. It was the wrong time, and I picked the wrong person.
I got to college thinking things would be different. Boys would be more mature! Someone out there would be looking for an independent, quirky, strong-willed woman like myself! And I laugh. I’m sure people are out there, they gotta be. But so far, I have been disappointed. Young people are so into hookup culture, and I, as a closeted 40-something, am not. College students can be so wishy-washy and last-minute about things and people and plans. And even though it’s 2017 — where women should be able to ask out men (or other women!) without it being weird — initiating and being forward has never gone well for the potato. Ugh.
Part of it is patience. I’ve just gotta let go and let love find me. And sure, I can be all yoga-y about it and say, “I am a complete individual on my own, I do not need anyone to complete me. What you seek is surely seeking you, don’t be attached to ideas or people. Let the universe take you where it shall.” But you know what? That’s not really how I feel most of the time.
How do I feel? I feel frustrated. I feel frustrated that I still scare people away because I have opinions and personality and spunk. I feel frustrated that people still don’t respect my time. I feel frustrated how seemingly little people can seem to care. I feel frustrated that all of that — the inconsistency, the blasé spontaneity, the forgetfulness — is somehow okay. I feel frustrated that this is the same trope I’ve been experiencing since the first time I ever asked someone out seven years ago.
And you know what? It’s okay for your feelings about life and love to not be tied up in a perfect little box with a ribbon on top. It’s okay to be angry and frustrated and salty with the way societal norms are. It’s okay to want love and want to be loved and cry about it not being there in the way you want. It’s okay to have emotions, even “negative” ones.
So I guess that’s why I turn to carbohydrates. Because quite frankly, carbohydrates never fail to satisfy the romantic love I crave.
Apologies for the rant. I am truly an optimistic, upbeat person 90-95% of the time. But I think it’s important to share that 5-10% of pessimism, saltiness and frustration, because our multifaceted nature only makes us more endearingly human.
Anyway, to me, there is nothing more tender than biting into a fresh cookie, biscuit or roll. That doughiness, that warmth, that butteriness just melts all of the frustration away. One cannot possibly be sad whilst eating a homemade baked good: that is a scientific fact.
So, when I was feeling sad and nervous and anxious and disheartened last week, I made garlic knots. Because garlic can cure anything, I’m convinced.
I had such a fun time making these for my friends. My favorite part was tying them, because look at how cute they are! And each one is a little different. I find it simply adorable.
These are certainly a labor of love, but that’s my favorite part about baking. The more care you put into it, the more love you taste when you bite into that finished product. And having hot, crispy, chewy garlic knots last weekend was worth every second I put into making them.
Some notes! Please use bread flour. Bread flour means chewy, crispy garlic knots. Just get your butt over to Whole Foods and do it. And use lots of garlic. I actually adapted my recipe from the first time I made it to include more garlic. You wouldn’t want to make out with a vampire, anyway. (Sorry, I was never into Edward Cullen.)
Bony African feet! (Bon appétit in meme slang.)
Yield 16 garlic knots
FOR THE KNOTS:
1/2 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (~110 degrees)
2 tbsp EVOO
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
4 cups of bread flour
FOR THE GARLIC DRIZZLE:
8 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 stick of salted butter (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar, yeast and warm water. Make sure the water isn’t too hot, or else the yeast will die! Stir together with a spoon and let sit until the yeast are nice and bubbly, about 10 minutes.
Add the olive oil, salt, garlic powder, and 1 cup of the bread flour. Stir together with a spoon or the dough hook attachment on your stand mixer. Keep adding flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough is thick. Knead with your hands on a well-floured work space or with the dough hook in the stand mixer until smooth and not sticky, about ten minutes. If the dough still clings to your fingers or palms after kneading, add more flour, 2 tbsp or so at a time, until it stops sticking. If the dough seems dry and crumbly, add more water, 1 tbsp at a time, until it becomes smoother.
Lightly oil a clean bowl with some olive oil and put the dough inside. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 90 minutes – 2 hours.
Once doubled, put the dough on a well-floured work space. Cut in half, then cut in half again. Cut each piece into four quarters, trying to keep each piece the same size. If you have a kitchen scale, use it! Simply weigh the whole dough ball and divide by 16 to determine your individual roll mass. If not, no worries, just eyeball it the best you can.
Place the dough balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover with a tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.
When the 30 minutes are up, take a dough ball and, on a well-floured work space, roll it into a rope about 7-8 inches long. Tie it just as you would a knot. If you have excess dough after tying the knot, tuck it under the formed roll. Repeat with remaining dough balls.
Place back on baking sheet, cover with a tea towel, and let rise for another 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add the garlic and parsley, stir, and let cook for a minute. Remove from the heat, cover with a lid, and let steep while the rolls rise.
Once the rolls have finished their final rise, lightly brush them with half of the garlic/parsley butter. Let bake until golden brown on the outside, about 18-20 minutes.
Brush with the remaining half of the garlic/parsley butter upon exiting the oven. Let cool for a few minutes, then serve immediately.
We’ll see when love will find me. But until then, I have garlic knots and some incredibly kickass friends to keep me company.