Isn’t all bread smeared with a mixture of garlic and butter the best ever? Well, you would think so. However, I used to think I made great garlic bread (and I did, until now), but I had an unusual request from a friend (ahh – unusual for me) to 1) not put any cheese on it and 2) tone down the garlic.
WHAT???? No cheese, I could not even say – Ttttttttone down the garlic. Took me a little while to comprehend what I was being asked – it is GARLIC bread. But I like a challenge. I thought, there are many different ways to “cook” garlic bread. I not only took the challenge to find a way to “tone” down garlic, but also what was the best way to heat it.
Off to the internet. As many ways as one can use garlic there are recipes and techniques for making garlic bread. Whoooo HOO, I found a great way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon, listening to the thunder and lighting storms in the middle of January before heading off to my friends house with what I hopped to be “The Best Garlic Bread Ever”.
I do get a little lengthy here, but just in an effort to give you the benefit of my fun knowledge gained in creating this recipe. You are more than welcome to skip right down to the end of this post and get to it. But if you are up for a little chatter, then by all means read on.
What type of bread?
French loaf? Italian? Skinny or fat? Hmmm does it make a difference? YES IT DOES! Splurge the extra $$ (and when it comes to bread, not a big hit in the wallet) cents to get an artisan crafted loaf either from your mega super market, or favorite bakery store around the corner.
I tried two types of bread – as I automatically ruled out others as I was looking for soft light interior yet a nice crusty exterior.
I chose the typical french Baguette and then a shorter baguette that was twice the width. Italian bread has too soft of an exterior, so hence the French won out. AND the shorter baguette with the wider width also won out – but the typical skinny one will do in a pinch. I happen to be lucky and live in a land of many fine and expensive stores so I was able to get what I wanted at about $1.40 a loaf and the bread was excellent and tasty in its own right.
I went to the cash register with the entire bin of bread as I was cooking for a large party and then I needed some for my experiments.. and boy or boy what a great excuse to eat bread and butter all day!
This was a little easier – salted or unsalted. Store brand or name brand?
I was trying to impress. If I was at my standard supermarket down the street I would have splurged for a name brand. However, I was at the expensive speciality store, so I did go with their brand as their store brand is pretty much as good or better than what I could chose at my super market. But rule of thumb, go with what you can afford.
The question of salted or unsalted was the easiest decision I could make all day. UNSALTED. I always cook with unsalted, as then I can control the salt of the final dish. I find cooking with salted butter, my dishes come out salty as it is easy to forget to compensate for the salt already in the butter.
Am I going to use herbs? I thought about it and decided yes, I would use minimal herbs so as not to take away from the main ingredients – Bread, Butter and GARLIC.
Fresh or Dried? This is a personal preference. Fresh herbs are best used in a manner they can somewhat stay fresh. Because I was going to “tone” down the garlic, that requires heat. Heat kills fresh herbs so I decided to go with what most people have in their house – dried. I already knew I as going to use the standard Italian blend. Basil, Oregano and Parsley.
Some people don’t believe in oregano belongs with butter, but in this circumstance the the little amount we use, it is fine. It is also fine to omit – just increase the other two. If all you have is an Italian blend, by all means use that.
If you have fresh herbs and want to use them up, by all means do, just hold off mixing them in until just before spreading the butter on the bread.
This is actually an easy and obvious one. FRESH garlic. Not the head of garlic that has been sitting in your fridge or on the counter for over a week or longer. I have those to, so no judgement here.
Fresh garlic you buy the day of or day or two before. It is OK to use pre-peeled garlic, as long as you can inspect them through the container to ensure they are fresh – not starting to turn opaque. If you open it up and there is a sour smell – don’t use them.
I often use pre-peeled when I am making any dish or dishes requiring large amounts of garlic. However, if you are making one loaf, then get the fresh head. It takes no time at all to peel one head. Separate the cloves, smash them with the flat side of a sturdy knife, or small pot. The skin comes right off, and to boot, makes it easier to chop.
To cheese or not to cheese. I am out on this. They way I made it for my friend, I did not miss the cheese. However, adding a little grated parmesan cheese to the butter mix is tasty (just be aware it does add salt). I would for-go melting mozzarella on the bread as it overwhelms all of your hard work and then takes center sage. You want the hot, steamy, bread with the garlic buttered melted, saturating the nooks and crannies with bits of fresh garlic and the butter dripping down your face to be the star of your creation – not melted the melted cheese.
What’s left? – oh yea “Cooking”
I tried many different methods:
1.) Toasting the bread open faced then spreading on the butter. – Great for breakfast, but not the garlic bread I dream of.
2.) Spreading on the butter and toasting in the oven open faced – If you eat it right away, ok, but the butter loses its punch. And if you wait any length of time, you might as well be trying to bite through a brick.
3.) Starting out open faced, then closing 1/2 way through – this had more staying power than the previous one, and closer to what I was looking for, but, again, an hour or so later, it was difficult to eat.
The point of having the nice soft center is that you can eat it right away, later or even the next day. none of the above fit that at all.
4.) The old standard of wrapping in aluminum foil and then venting for the last few minutes of cooking. This was pretty darn close, however, I found that the bottom half of the bread was great and dripping with butter, however, the top half (the thicker half) only had part of the bread saturated. OK if you don’t want a lot of butter, but bad because the non-buttered bread neutralized the buttered bread. Now what.
Rotissarie. That would be great. But I only took the concept part way there.
FINALLY found the right way to cook the bread and have both sides be happy and me as the eater was finally way satisfied.
5.) Wrap the bread in aluminum foil, place it top side down (on a baking sheet to catch any butter leakage). Then after about 10 – 15 minute, turn it over and open the seal on the foil and finish it off for about another 5 or so minutes.
That worked BEAUTIFULLY! Both top and bottom had the right amount of butter and garlic ratio to bread, YEA! Good thing as I was getting really full. In a happy way, but full none the less and I still had a party to attend. Guess I was wearing the “flowy” outfit and not the snug jeans and cute top. The sacrifices we make for friends. 😉
it is finally that time to get to the recipe!
Makes 1 loaf, that is approx 2.5 – 3 inches wide and about 1.5 feet long.
1 loaf of crusty on the outside, soft on the inside french or country bread, plus a couple small rolls to be used for tasting.
1.5 sticks unsalted butter (room temp is best, but no biggie if just coming out of the fridge)
1 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
8 cloves of garlic, minced (MORE IF YOU WANT MORE GARLIC)
1 pinch dried Parsley, crush it between your fingers to release the flavor
1 pinch dried Basil, crush it between your fingers to release the flavor
1 pinch dried Oregeno, crush it between your fingers to release the flavor (optional)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp Lemon Juice (yes you heard me, lemon juice – believe it or not it brightens up the flavors and brings them out without tasting the lemon)
3 TBS Grated Parmesan (optional – omit the salt if using)
*** Note if you do NOT want to tone down the garlic, I fully understand. Use room temperature butter, but all ingredients in a food processor (increase the number of garlic cloves if desired) and pulse until all is mixed together. Skip to step 8.
1.) Place the butter and oil in a sauce pan over low heat.
2.) When the butter is 1/2 way melted, add in the herbs and garlic.
3.) Mash/Stir all together until combined and almost all melted. The mixture should be fairly warm, but not simmering or hot.
4.) Remove from the heat, add in a pinch or two of salt (remember if adding the cheese, hold back on the salt until the end). Stir and take some of that extra bread you have and dip it in to taste. Adjust salt, garlic, herbs as needed
5.) Let sit until the mixture begins to solidify again, stir occasionally to evenly distribute the ingredients. This takes about 20 – 30 minutes.
6.) When the mixture is firming up, but you can still easily stir it, add in the lemon juice and cheese if using. Stir well. Take some more of that spare bread and taste again. Adjust for salt and seasoning now. If you want a little more tang, add another drop or two of lemon juice.
7.) let it sit another 10 minutes.
8.) Preheat oven to 375
9.) Slice the loaf of bread ALMOST in half length-wise. You still want it to stay attached, but be able to open it enough to spread on the butter mixture.
10.) Spread the butter mixture evenly on both insides of the bread evenly. Get that butter all the way to the edge and fill in all the nooks and crannies.
11.) Close the bread sides together.
12.) Taking your bread knife, slice the bread almost all of the way through into 1.5 inch pieces ( you still want the loaf to stay attached – easier to move around).
13.) Wrap in tinfoil, forming a seal at the top and closing the ends.
14.) Place TOP SIDE down on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until hot.
15.) No longer than 15 minutes later, turn the loaf over, open the top seal (careful as butter probably leaked out and will BURN your fingers, use tongs), then place back in the oven for another 5 – 7 minutes.
Remove from the oven, give it a minute before handling, then remove the loaf (use a large plastic spatial) from the tin foil to a cutting board. Finish cutting through the pieces, put on a serving tray and watch them disappear!
They will be hot. They can wait about 10 minutes or so after removing from the oven before serving. Actually – they will still be good 20, 60, 300+ minutes and into the morning. Trust me. These have staying power – not just from the garlic, 🙂
Have fun and let me know if you come up with any variations or suggestions for improvement.