Garlic Bread with Fresh Herbs
As I anticipate my family being together for the holiday, my thoughts move toward their favorite meals. When we are all together I try to make an old family favorite like Spaghetti and Turkey Meat Sauce, Tortellini with Basil Pesto, and Pasta with Sausage and Brussels Sprouts, for dinner as well as something new. It is not surprising to see at the top of the list of favorite dinners are pasta meals. When the kids were home, pasta dinners were king, and nothing goes better with pasta than homemade garlic bread.
Joe’s Dough, my husband’s artisan homemade bread, is also a family favorite, so whenever there is a surplus of sourdough batards, I make garlic bread. What’s not to love about warm bread bathed in butter and garlic? The sweet buttery smell of garlic bread baking in the oven is enough to take me on a dream vacation to the Mediterranean.
As much as I love garlic, it also has a dark side and a reputation for repelling friends and foes away. Often, food made with raw garlic is harsh and sticks around like an uninvited guest who stays for the week. When I used to make garlic bread with raw garlic, my Mediterranean fantasy quickly vanished with each reminder of its’ lingering presence. I totally believe garlic can scare away vampires because after eating a loaf of garlic bread made with raw garlic, the whole family disappears desperately seeking some fresh air.
Everything changed once I learned about toasting garlic cloves. This simple technique of dry toasting garlic cloves in a skillet, softens garlic’s harsh bite and lingering presence. The garlic becomes mellow, sweet and nutty like roasted garlic but not as strong. Toasted garlic mixed with soft butter, Romano cheese and fresh herbs, makes delicious garlic bread. The flavor is buttery and garlicky without being overwhelming.
This recipe is adapted from Cooks Illustrated 1999 recipe for garlic bread. I scaled down the amount of butter and garlic, but the technique is the same. What I learned over the years, is depending on the size and type of bread you use, determines the amount of butter you need.
Most recipes call for a whole stick of butter per 1-pound loaf of bread. When I make garlic bread, I found that a whole stick, (113 g), of butter was too much and made the garlic bread very greasy. Usually, I use between 4 tablespoons to 6 tablespoons (56 g – 84 g) of butter. Upon reflection, the bread I use is homemade sourdough batard which is very airy and light. There is less surface area to cover then a denser loaf, like Italian bread. This type of bread may require more butter than my sourdough batard. I recommend starting out with the less amount of butter and as you spread it over the surface add more if needed. Too much butter is as unpleasant as too much garlic.
I do like the two-step cooking process for garlic bread though. First, I wrap the bread in foil and bake in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes. This allows the garlic butter to melt into all the nooks and crannies throughout the bread. Then I unwrap the foil and open the bread buttered side up to brown in the oven. I prefer my garlic bread on the soft side, but if you like your bread crispy, place the bread under the broiler. Keep an eye on it, or you will end up with extra crispy garlic bread like the garlic bread pictured in this post.
Spice up your garlic bread by adding any of these ingredients:
Lemon zest, before or after cooking
Cayenne Pepper, about 1/8 teaspoon or to taste
More cheese, or two types of cheese like Fontinella and Romano
Change the fresh herbs to compliment your main entrée: rosemary, sage, basil, cilantro
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