Freelance writer from the northeast coast of England with a fondness for vegan food and punk rock.
Pizza Shop Garlic Bread
To these taste buds, nothing beats a bowl of vegan penne arrabbiata, mopped up with homemade pizza base style garlic bread. The latter half of that combination is very easy to make, and when you get the hang of it, you won’t want store-bought ever again.
I used to work in a busy pizza restaurant, where the owner pulled a dodge to bring in customers. Every time a garlic bread came out of the oven, he would hold it up to the extractor fan for a few seconds. This would draw the heady smell of garlic and oregano into the surrounding streets. It was quite a successful ploy, particularly at pub closing time, when hungry revellers were making their way home, and their nostrils began to twitch. The reason for the success of the plan is the allure of that agreeable allium, garlic.
As Good as Ten Mothers
In 1980, the documentary filmmaker Les Blank produced Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers, which sang the praises of this much loved vegetable. While I would never have traded in my own mother for garlic, I was curious about the title of the film, which I watched with interest. I learned that the title comes from an old saying that relates to over-amorous young men, “Garlic is as good as ten mothers, for keeping the girls away.” This is true.
The less-pleasant after-effects of garlic indulgence are well known but, like the boozer who knows a hangover will follow a binge, we go ahead and damn the consequences. So inconsiderate are we to each other, we munch our way through some 26 million tonnes of garlic each year. We're a pretty pungent planet.
Yet, while the after-effects of eating garlic are generally negative, there have been times when its pungency came in useful, In his book Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell tells of a trick he learned while enduring hardship in Paris. He said, "We had only sixty centimes left, and we spent it on half a pound of bread, with a piece of garlic to rub it with. The point of rubbing garlic on bread is that the taste lingers and gives one the illusion of having fed recently." So garlic saved the day.
One of the tastiest ways to enjoy garlic is on home made garlic bread. I don’t mean those partly sliced baguettes with garlic and oil spread in the slits (although these are tasty); I’m talking pizza base style, topped with garlic and oregano. But first a little prep.
When I worked at the aforementioned pizza restaurant, there was a plastic bucket filled with minced garlic that was submerged in oil. This was liberally spooned over pizza and garlic bread all night. For our purposes, we need to make a scaled-down version.
Take six good cloves of garlic and mince them, or put them through a garlic press. Put this into a ramekin or an old cup (I wouldn’t use a good cup as the taste can linger). Pour in enough oil to cover the garlic and stir it up. I refer to this in the recipe as garlic and oil mix.
With that done, here’s how to make delicious garlic bread in a 10-inch tin.
Garlic Saves the Day
"We had only sixty centimes left, and we spent it on half a pound of bread, with a piece of garlic to rub it with. The point of rubbing garlic on bread is that the taste lingers and gives one the illusion of having fed recently."
— George Orwell, "Down and Out in Paris and London"
Read More From Delishably
Home-Baked Pizza Shop Garlic Bread
Garlic bread, like pizza, is best baked in a hot oven. Commercial pizza ovens can reach temperatures of 800°F (450°C). For our purposes, heating the oven to 450°F (250°C) will do the job. After about seven minutes in the oven, make regular checks—garlic bread can turn into garlic biscuit in a heartbeat.
- 175 grams flour (about 1 cup)
- 1 teaspoon dried yeast
- Light drizzle of oil (1/2 teaspoon)
- Warm water
- Garlic and oil mix
- In a bowl, mix the flour and yeast (I use the thick handle of a wooden spoon). Add a drizzle of oil and stir in. Start adding the water a bit at a time, stirring until you have a soft, pliable ball of dough. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Golden rule alert: you can't skimp on the kneading process. Roll the dough into a ball and drop it back into the bowl. Cover and store in a warm place for about 30 minutes. While the dough is rising, turn on your oven to preheat.
- When the dough has doubled in size, it’s time to knock it back to expel excess air. This just means you have to knead it again for a minute or so. Traditional ciabatta bread is not knocked back, and the resulting larger air bubbles are what give it that wonderful texture inside.
- Now it’s time to press out the dough. Pour a little oil (about a dessert-spoonful) onto a warmed pizza tray. Place your ball of dough on the oil, and move the ball around the tray to spread the oil—like you're a window cleaner at a porthole. Now start pressing the dough down with the heels of your hands; put flour on your hands if the dough is a bit sticky. The technique is to press and rotate simultaneously. When you have your dough about half-pressed, leave it to rest for three minutes or so. When you come back to it you’ll see that the dough has become considerably more pliable, and pressing it out is a lot easier.
- When the dough is pressed out, and you have built up a nice crust around the edge, you are ready to add the topping. Spoon on your garlic and oil mix, and spread it on the dough with the underside of the spoon. Sprinkle on some oregano, and a grinding of sea salt and the bread is ready to bake. But don't be hasty. If you let the dough sit in a warm place for another ten minutes or so, it will puff up a little more.
- Bake for 10–12 minutes. When the underside has a mottled golden brown pattern on it, your bread is ready. Place it on a board and cut into slices. Now take it to the table and mop up sauce and compliments.
A freshly baked garlic bread is a treat in itself, but there are other toppings you can add for variation. The key is to use extra toppings sparingly—you don't want your side dish to be more filling than the main. Stick to one or two ingredients; more than that will be straying into pizza territory.
I've tried many different toppings on garlic bread, and here are some that worked well:
- Jalapeño peppers
- Black olives
- Chilli flakes
Of course, you could experiment with your own toppings.
It may be that you are making garlic bread as part of a romantic meal for two. In that case, why not set the mood withthis lovely tale of forbidden love from The Electric Chairs (1978)?