Home-baked Garlic Bread with Cheese and Jalapenos| Easy and Tasty
When I worked in a pizza takeaway, the proprietor had a neat trick that he pulled to lure customers into the shop. Every time freshly baked garlic bread came out of the oven, he would hold it directly below the extractor fan for a few seconds. This would draw the heady smell of cooked garlic and oregano into the street outside, where it would assault the nostrils of passers by. The ploy did work, particularly when the bars closed, and hungry revelers made their way homewards. 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 film maker Les Blank produced Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers, which sang the praises of this much loved ingredient. While I would never have traded in my own mother for garlic, I admired the enthusiasm of the title, and I watched the film with interest. I learned later that the title comes from an old saying, “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 17 billion tonnes of garlic each year. That’s one pungent planet.
One of the tastiest ways to enjoy garlic is on home made garlic bread. I don’t mean those partly sliced baguettes with garlic butter spread in the slits (although these are tasty); I’m talking pizza base style, topped with garlic, cheese, oregano and jalapeno peppers. I’m talking simplicity too, so here’s how to make delicious garlic bread with cheese and jalapeno peppers in a ten inch tin.
The BEST way to Peel Garlic Quickly
Basically, there are three types of flour you can use for garlic bread, and the rule is, what works for pizza works here. So if our three flours stand on the podium, the gold medal goes to 00 grade, an ultra-fine flour that is now widely available in supermarkets. It makes the best dough ever, and it’s great for sauces too.
Taking the silver medal is strong bread-making flour. A high gluten content ensures a more elastic dough. This is available in most stores, right alongside regular flour.
On the bronze step stands everyday plain flour. It’ll do, but the other flours make noticeably better bread.
Before going ahead with the next stage, I might as well mention that you can make the dough in a bread maker if you have one. This is more convenient that hand-kneading, but not nearly as rewarding.
For one ten inch garlic bread, place 170 grams (6 oz) of your flour into a bowl. Snip the corner from a sachet of dried yeast, and add about a teaspoonful to the flour. Drizzle in a teaspoonful of olive oil, and add a pinch of salt. Give these ingredients a brief stir.
I once followed a bread recipe where I used the exact amount of water, but the dough was too dry. So with that in mind, I will only say that you will need approximately 140 ml/9 tbsp of warm water to make your dough (this can be quite warm, but hot water will kill the yeast). To avoid turning your dough into blini batter, add the water a bit at a time, stirring all the while. Eventually the dough will come together. What you are aiming for is a soft, pliable ball of dough. If that’s what you have, then you’re in business.
The obvious kneading method is to place the dough on a work surface, then squeeze and fold for five minutes. I have developed my own method that is quick and effective, although I do not claim to be the inventor. Here’s how to do it.
Take the ball of dough in the left hand. Hold it out in front of you. Make sure that about half the dough is visible. Bring the dough towards yourself, and at the same time, snatch it from your left hand with your right, squeezing the dough as you grab. Do the same thing again, snatching the dough with the left hand. Repeat over and over. Get a fast, boxer-like rhythm going, and turn the dough as you snatch it. I count 100 snatches with my right hand, by which time the dough is done. This method ensures that the dough gets a good kneading, and your shoulders and upper arms get a good workout.
Place the dough back in its bowl and cover. Leave in a warm place to rise for about thirty minutes.
When the dough has doubled in size, it is time for a process called ‘knocking back’, or ‘punching down’. The risen dough has many air bubbles in it, and these will appear in the finished bread if they are left. To prevent this, knead the dough vigorously for a minute or so. If you feel you have the confidence, it is at this stage you can spin the dough in the air.
A pre-warmed pizza tin makes life a lot easier when it comes to pressing out the dough, so pop it into a warm oven for a moment. When this is done, drizzle about a tablespoon of oil into the centre of the tin to make a ‘puddle’, and lay the ball of dough on the oil.
Hold the ball of dough lightly, and move it around the pizza tin to spread the oil - make like you’re washing the porthole of a ship. When the oil has covered the tin, it’s time to start pressing out the dough. With one hand on top of the other, gently press down the ball, simultaneously turning the dough as you press. I’m right handed and I always turn anti-clockwise, but do whatever feels right. As the dough flattens, you will be able to apply both hands to pressing it out. Repeat this process, pressing and turning until the dough is flat, but still some way from the edge of the tin.
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Putting It All Together
A good tip here is to let the dough rest for about five minutes. When you return to it, you’ll see that it is a lot more pliable than before, and it is a simple task to press it to the edge of the tin. If there are areas where the dough is so thin you can see the tin, fear not. Carefully press the thicker dough around the bald spot to pack it out. Put the pressed out dough in a warm place for a few minutes while your oven heats up. It will continue to rise slightly, which will make the bread lighter.
How much garlic you use depends on personal taste, but I have been known to pile the stuff on. For a bread this size, crush four cloves of garlic into a cup and cover with oil. Stir, and drizzle the mixture onto the bread with a spoon. Spread the garlic evenly around the surface of the dough, and then sprinkle on a handful of grated cheese. Obviously, mozzarella works well,but any good grilling cheese will do. Place chunks of chopped jalapeno peppers on top of the cheese, and finish with a sprinkling of oregano and a grinding of sea salt.
Bake in a moderately hot oven (400 degrees F/205 degrees C) for about ten minutes. Keep checking the bread, as it can turn into a crisp frisbee very quickly. Lift the bread and look for a golden brown mottled pattern on the underside. When it’s done, the cheese will have browned for extra flavour, while the bread itself will have remained soft inside that classic crispy pizza base crust.
Place the bread onto a board, and let it rest a while before cutting it into eight slices. Serve with your favourite pasta dish, or on its own with a glass of red wine. You’ll be a hit with your guests tonight; and a miss with your colleagues tomorrow.