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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Garlic Bread Spread




A close member of my family (who shall remain nameless for now!) says she always loved having spaghetti and (vegetarian) meat balls for dinner because that meant they would also have garlic bread, one of her favorite dishes.

If your family enjoys garlic bread as much as this, you may have been tempted to pick up a loaf of pre-prepared garlic bread in the bakery department on your way home after a busy day. Before you do, think again. A quick scan of the ingredients list, at even the best stores, is likely to reveal some unpleasant information. Rarely will the spread include either butter or olive oil;  instead there will be lots of hydrogenate or partially hydrogenated fat, along with a list of unpronounceable additives. Add to this the increased cost of most of these "convenience" loaves and you have good reason to make your own.

But, you say, I don't have time to make my own garlic bread. Actually, the time it takes to make your own is far less than you think. The recipe below is easily made ahead--on a weekend or while you are cleaning up the kitchen after another meal--and stored in the refrigerator for weeks. Then, when you need a fast side of garlic bread, just spread it on whatever bread you have on hand--no need to wait for the spread to come to room temperature. The photo above shows the consistency of the spread straight out of the refrigerator.

As noted below, you can take the time to make crusty garlic bread by heating it in the oven, but an even quicker--though softer--version can be done in the microwave in minutes.

So go ahead and mix up a batch. As the notes at the end of the recipe show, this can be a versatile ingredient for more than just traditional garlic bread too. 



Garlic Bread Spread

1 c butter, cut in chunks
1 c canola oil (OR olive oil--see NOTE)
1 to 2 t garlic powder (adjust to your taste)(You can substitute fresh garlic, but the powder blends more smoothly and takes much less time to prepare, with little loss in flavor here)
1/2 t salt (optional)

1.  Melt the butter in the microwave on a medium setting, about 30 to 45 seconds (or longer), depending on your microwave's power. (I recommend covering the dish to avoid spattering.)
2.  Stir in the remaining ingredients and refrigerate at least an hour or so, until it reaches spreading consistency.
3.  Store tightly covered in the refrigerator.

NOTE:  I recommend canola oil for a couple of reasons: It will be less expensive, may be slightly healthier (yes, there are those who feel this is actually even better than olive oil), and the garlic generally will keep the olive oil flavor from predominating. So save the olive oil for the salad or drizzling directly over your pasta dish and use canola oil here.


Frugal and fast uses for your spread

If you like crusty garlic toast, spread this on any firm bread, wrap in foil, and bake as usual.
For quick, softer garlic bread, spread several slices, put into a covered casserole dish, and microwave for about 15 to 20 seconds per slice used.

Just about any bread or roll can be turned into garlic bread with this spread. Your family may not be fond of the end slices of bread loaves, but their crusty firmness can be just right for making garlic bread. Bake or microwave as you would a regular baguette or French loaf.

Toast sticks are another way to stretch a meal. Spread slices of any bread (good use for stale ends) or even things like hot dog bun halves with the garlic spread, place on a baking sheet, and bake at 375 to 400 degrees until just golden. Cut into "sticks"--or just leave as whole slices.

For a savory breakfast or brunch side, make toast as usual but spread with the garlic spread instead of regular butter. This is especially good with frittatas or stuffed omelets.

Substitute this garlic spread for butter on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Use the spread on slices of stale bread and toast on a baking sheet until quite crisp. Remove from oven and cut into cubes for use as croutons for salads or casseroles.









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