Simplicity is often best when it comes to food, as so many classic dishes continue to prove. In search of a side that everyone at the table will enjoy, it often comes down to very basic but delicious concoctions that agree with even the pickiest palates. Take mashed potatoes, for instance, or rice pilaf, or… Garlic bread. Each one is a snap to make, with very humble beginnings, and can be adapted to accommodate whatever creative additions the cook might think of. Traditional garlic bread, however, is barely even worth mentioning. Any recipe that has an ingredient list that reads “one loaf of bread, a stick of margarine, a couple cloves of garlic” is mercifully easy to remember and prepare, but not worthy of raves. Even bad garlic bread is pretty good, because who doesn’t love the stinking rose?
It may seem a bit counter-intuitive to take this easy dish and turn it into something more complicated, but I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. As tasty as plain old garlic bread can be, I wanted something more special, more flavorful, and certainly more homemade.
Even before this loaf was halfway done baking, I knew that this would be one intensely flavored bread, as the kitchen was awash in the smell of roasted garlic. Definitely something for serious garlic lovers, this is the sort of thing that you’ll want to make sure everyone gets a slice of, lest one person feel assaulted by the inevitable garlic breath that follows. You could certainly dial it down a bit and use only one head of garlic, but either way, this is one version that is guaranteed to be 100% more impressive than the usual, if only because it’s entirely homemade. Whip out this loaf at your next big family feast, and it will be more than just the obligatory side dish; it will make the meal worth remembering.
Garlic Lover’s Bread
2 Heads Garlic
2 Tablespoons Margarine
1 Cup Warm Water
1 Tablespoon Granulated Sugar
1 Packet Active Dry Yeast
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Fresh, Chopped Parsley
3 – 4 Cups White Whole Wheat Flour
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Peel the papery outer skin off the heads of garlic, but do not separate the cloves. Cut the tops off, and give them a quick spritz with cooking spray. Wrap both up together in a piece of aluminum foil, and pop the whole package into the oven for about 35 minutes. Let cool until you can comfortably handle it, and squeeze out the roasted cloves directly into your food processor or blender. (Make sure you get all of the papery bits off!) Toss in the margarine and pulse until you get a relatively smooth paste. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and water, and then sprinkle over the yeast. Let it sit for 5 – 10 minutes until frothy. Add in the salt, garlic paste, chopped parsley, and the first 3 cups of flour. If using your stand mixer, install the bread hook and let it slowly kneed the flour in. You can also mix it by hand, until you get a cohesive but somewhat tacky dough. If it still seems too wet, add in more flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until you reach the right consistency.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, and knead by hand for about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Lightly grease a large bowl, and drop the ball of dough in. Cover with plastic wrap and place somewhere warm for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours until doubled in volume. At this point, you can also stash it in the fridge overnight, and then pick up where you left off in the morning.
Once risen, turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface again and shape as desired. I braided mine just to make it a bit fancier, but you can always make it into a simple loaf shape. Here is a very good guide for making nicely shaped loaves, and here are a few ideas about making braids. Either way, lightly grease an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan, and place your shaped loaf inside. Give the top a quick spritz with cooking spray or a drizzle of olive oil, and let rise for another hour, until it’s peaking out from above the rim by about an inch or so.
Once it seems to be almost fully risen, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, until golden brown all over.
Now, for the hardest part: Let the loaf cool completely before cutting into it! If you’re one of those people who absolutely needs to eat their garlic bread immediately, since it smells so tempting, you might want to consider making it as a bubble loaf so you can pick it apart while still warm.
You can easily make this bread days in advance and store it in the freezer until you’re ready to serve it. Just make sure you let it thaw at room temperature and do not microwave it to take the chill off. It’s particularly tasty if you take the time to toast each individual slice to give it a nice crunch. This recipe can also be doubled to make two loaves at once, in case you need to feed a crowd or want to have an extra loaf just in case.