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
Garlic Bread with Fresh Herbs
- 1- 1 lb (453 g) loaf of good quality bread, like Italian bread, Seeded Italian Bread, or Sourdough batard
- 4-6 TB (56 - 84 g) butter at room temperature, more or less depending on your bread
- 6 medium garlic cloves with skins left on
- 3 TB (14 g) grated Romano Cheese
- Pinch of sweet paprika
- Small handful of Italian parsley minced
- 4 basil leaves minced (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F /176°C and place the rack in the middle position.
Place a small heavy bottom skillet on a burner and turn the heat to medium-high. Heat the skillet for 3 minutes then add the garlic cloves, with their peel still intact, to the skillet. Toast the garlic cloves turning them over from time to time so each side gets nicely browned and the cloves soften, about 5-10 minutes. Some garlic cloves will take longer than others to finish toasting. Remove each garlic clove when you see they are soft and browned.
Once the garlic is done, let them cool slightly until you can handle them. Peel away the skin and cut off the root end. Cut the garlic in half lengthwise and remove the green germ if present.
On a cutting board, group the garlic cloves together, then roughly mince them. Sprinkle a small pinch of Kosher salt over the minced cloves. With the side of your chef knife, press down on the cloves and smear it to the side to mash the garlic. Clean of the garlic paste off the knife blade and repeat, pressing down and smearing the garlic with the side of the knife until a smooth paste is made.
In a small bowl add the soft room temperature butter, the garlic paste, grated Romano cheese and mix until evenly combined. Add half of the minced herbs and mix.
Use a serrated knife and cut the loaf of bread in half down the length of the loaf. Open the bread like a book with the cut side of each half facing up.
Spread the garlic butter evenly over the cut sides of both halves of bread. Sprinkle a light dusting of sweet paprika over the buttered bread and add the remaining fresh herbs.
Place the top half of bread over the bottom piece of bread and cover with aluminum foil.
Bake the garlic bread in the oven for 15 minutes
Unwrap the foil then open the bread halves so both buttered sides are facing up. Bake until the edges start to brown, about 5 minutes.
Or place under the broiler until the edges are browned and crispy.
If you want cheesy garlic bread, add additional grated cheese after the bread has baked in the foil. Sprinkle the cheese over the buttered surface of each half, then place under the broiler and broil until the cheese has melted. If you are adding lemon zest, don't place the garlic bread under the broiler. It may burn and taste bitter.
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