Mostly Honest Garlic Bread

Michael and I went shopping at WFM last night after work and after that were too tired for anything but pasta and sauce. Happens to the best of us. So we grabbed a baguette too and made some garlic bread. Since I know you all know how to make dried pasta and bottled sauce for dinner, here’s my garlic bread recipe, which is only slightly more complicated.

As a kid, from 1st grade on, the only day I would buy school lunch was on spaghetti day, and as time went on, I quit even doing that. My dislike of school lunch came mostly from the menu offerings, which weren’t things I liked. As I got older, even the spaghetti lunches weren’t enjoyable. They started making me feel queasy. Looking back, I think the overcooked spaghetti was probably mostly to blame. When I gave up buying even the spaghetti lunch, the only thing I really missed about it was the plain French bread that came with the lunch. It was sliced on the diagonal, which I thought looked really neat and was fun to bite. My mother bought whole-wheat sandwich bread, so I rarely ate white bread and generally disliked the pasty texture of Wonder-type sandwich breads. I liked white French bread, though. Butter came with the bread, and I never used it. I have never liked buttered toast, and have never put butter on bread, pancakes, or baked potatoes either. I never had a taste for it as a child, and I have never developed one with age.

At the summer camp I went to, garlic bread was made with white sandwich bread, butter, and garlic salt, with a few flakes of dehydrated parsley. I enjoyed that, and otherwise never had any use for white sandwich bread. My parents very occasionally bought prepackaged garlic bread when I was growing up, but since I already didn’t like buttered toast, I disliked the soggy steamed texture and greasy margarine flavor of these foil-wrapped loaves.

When I went to work for Fresh Fields in 1995, I worked in the bakery for a time. There, they sliced a thin horizontal layer off the top of a grand baguette (bigger than a standard baguette) and slathered it with Plugra, (low-moisture butter, denser and richer than regular butter) then seasoned it with garlic salt and dusted it with paprika for color. While I liked the seasoning, I found that the procedure resulted in bread seasoned mostly on top and a bit soggy, with a significant amount of unseasoned bread underneath. It was also messy to slice into a hot-out-of-the-broiler baguette soaked with butter.

So, during the time that I was working for Fresh Fields, I started making garlic bread this way—the combination of my acquired like for French bread sliced on the diagonal and garlic bread but retained dislike of soggy fat-laden bread. The diagonal slicing is the essential step. It’s only “mostly” honest because though it uses butter and not yucky margarine like the packaged breads, it uses garlic powder, instead of rubbing the bread with a cut garlic clove gourmet style. I like the flavor of that as well, but the garlic powder flavor is what I want in this preparation.

1 large baguette or grand baguette, with a nice crispy (not soft) crust, sliced diagonally in about 1” pieces
Butter, softened enough to spread (leave it out for an hour or nuke a full stick for 15-20 seconds)
Garlic powder
Popcorn salt (you can use regular salt, but popcorn salt will get distributed more evenly)
Dried oregano
Optional: freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano (I don’t use it, but some like it)

Preheat your broiler. Spread the bread with butter to your taste. Remember that it will seem a little less buttery as the butter soaks into the bread during cooking. Tile all the slices onto a cookie sheet (a sheet with a rim is helpful). Sprinkle the bread liberally with all of the following: garlic powder, then some salt, a dusting of paprika, and a sprinkling of oregano. Some people add a sprinkling of grated cheese at this point. Place the bread about 3-5 inches from the broiler.

Cook for 1 minute, then check, then cook for another 30 seconds or a minute if necessary. Let it go until the edges start to get a little bit brown, more if you like darker toast. Once it gets going it can get very done very quick, so cook it right before you want to take it to the table, so you can keep an eye on it. Eat hot!

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