Serves 3 to 6
- 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 to 4 plump garlic cloves, minced to a paste with a pinch of salt (or grated or crushed)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 baguette, preferably a thinner-crusted loaf rather than a thick-crusted peasant-style loaf.
- 8 Tbsp (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, optional
- You can vary the flavor in a few ways. Sauté dried herbs (or even minced anchovies or shallots) along with the garlic. Blend chopped fresh herbs into the garlic butter. Sprinkle your favorite grated or crumbled cheese into the cuts before baking.
Sautéing the garlic in a bit of olive oil before mixing it into the butter mellows its pungency, which makes for a more delicious garlic bread. I mince the garlic with a knife, adding the salt as I mince to create a paste. If you wish, use a garlic press, rasp grater, or mortar and pestle. How much garlic is up to you: one clove for a mild flavor, four (or more!) for intense.
Heat oven to 400°F. In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic paste and a grind or two of black pepper, and let sizzle gently until the garlic softens and becomes fragrant and lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Don’t let it brown. Immediately remove the pan from heat and pour the garlic into a small mixing bowl. Set aside and let the oil cool for about 15 minutes.
While the oil cools, prepare the baguette. Slice the loaf on the diagonal into ¾-inch thick pieces, taking care to not cut all the way through the loaf. With each cut, stop short of the bottom crust. The sliced loaf should remain intact: all the pieces attached by the bottom crust.
Add the cold butter to the mixing bowl. The oil will still be a bit warm and this will help soften the butter to make blending easier. With a fork, stir and mash the butter into the garlic-oil until the mixture is smooth and spreadable.
With a butter knife, slather a bit of garlic butter into each cut (and sprinkle in some cheese if you wish). Bake until it smells fragrant and toasty and the baguette crust is crisp, about 10 minutes.