A particularly bouncy, airy bread; edges crisped and burnished with garlic butter and topped with strings of melted cheese. What could be more welcoming than a huge pan of fragrant bread, brought out of the oven as guests arrive? and Well, perhaps a tidy house. No matter. People who come round to our house generously describe it as having a “relaxed atmosphere”, and assure me that they feel more at home because I didn’t go to the effort of tidying up. What they don’t realise is that I actually did…
I’ve written before about how we used to buy crisps for when people came to dinner, something to snack on whilst we open the wine and try to keep track of what needs to be hot and what needs to be cold. This takes a little more time than my other cheap and easy go-to snack, sweet and salty spiced popcorn, but not too much hands-on time – and the dough can be mixed a day or so in advance, and once shaped they can be abandoned in their garlicky buttery baking dish to prove until it is a convenient time for you to bake them.
Scaled down, this is also a lovely lazy lunch at home to be eaten lying down in the garden, with slices of tomatoes and ham. For us, it’s the type of bread I can start off when I wake up at the weekend, and leave to mix as I watch The Good Wife in my pyjamas, leaving it to rise during each episode and languidly chopping garlic or shaping dough as the drama unfolds and the bread rises. By the time he wakes up (around noon – when we were first married I thought he had a sleep disorder, and I’m not wholly convinced that he doesn’t) we are ready to eat.
Recipe: Mozzarella Garlic Bread
A lazy version of the genius Kenji’s irresistible recipe for Easy Pull-Apart Pepperoni Garlic Knots. I saw this recipe and absolutely had to make them – and I use an adapted (wetter) and metricised version of his New York Pizza Dough rather than buying pizza dough (can one buy unshaped pizza dough?) The pepperoni version is lovely, but if you have a main course to come later it feels a bit much, and doesn’t suit vegetarians. Just chop the pepperoni and add it to the garlic butter. I’ve also made it with bacon, chopped and fried with the garlic. Leaving out the meat here, I’ve hugely increased the garlic instead. Mmmm.
Serves 3 as lunch (baked in a 20cm x 15cm ovenproof dish) or double the amount and serve to 16 as an appetiser (baked in a round 30cm cast iron dish)
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (or yeast of your choice – conversion table here)
250g bread flour
3/4 Tbsp sugar (caster or granulated)
1/2 Tbsp salt (cheap table salt is fine)
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
220ml lukewarm water (one third boiling, two thirds tap)
For the garlic butter:
2Tbsp olive oil
5 cloves garlic
Handful of chives or garlic chives, chilli flakes, pinch of cayenne pepper, grated parmesan (optional)
50g grated mozzarella or other mild hard cheese (from frozen is fine) – this is not optional
100g sliced pepperoni, chopped bacon etc. (optional)
1. Starting with the dough, stir the yeast into the warm water and leave it to proof for 20 mins or so.
2. Whilst the yeast is doing its mysterious thing that yeast does, measure the flour into a large bowl (ideally the bowl of a stand mixer, if using) and make a well in the centre. Spoon the sugar into the well.
3. When the yeast has formed a thick creamy layer (it won’t be super foamy and bubbly because it’s not very concentrated), pour it into the well of the flour and add the 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil.
4. Mix with the dough hook (or a wooden spoon) until fully combined, but you don’t have to fully knead (because we’re using the delayed salt method, and we can’t be bothered! Now would be a good time to decide what you want to watch on TV). Cover the bowl tightly with cling film and leave somewhere warm for 50 minutes (the time it takes for the savvy lawyers on The Good Wife to tidily resolve a legal case whilst messily complicating their personal lives).
5. Now, to the garlic butter – grab the garlic and a knife and fire up the TV. Chop the garlic, which doesn’t take very long, and then relax. (if you’re doing the lunchtime version whilst your husband is still sleeping. If people are coming round then there are probably other things to cook, or and this is just directed at Future Me when I next refer to this recipe, a bit of tidying wouldn’t go amiss)
6. Come back to the dough, which should have slackened and puffed slightly. Add the salt and gently knead again, briefly. Oil the bowl with a little oil and re-cover with cling film; leave it in its warm place for another episode, I mean another hour or so.
7. Melt the butter and the additional 2Tbsp olive oil in the dish you are going to bake in if it’s safe to go on the stove (e.g. a cast iron) or else in a frying pan. Immediately add the chopped garlic (and bacon, if using) and stir gently so that it cooks slowly and evenly. When the garlic is fragrant and soft, turn off the heat. If adding chives or cured meat, scissor them into the garlic butter (in half-centimetre pieces) and stir in evenly. If you’re not using bacon or any cured meat, sprinkle a pinch of flaky salt over the garlic butter and add chilli flakes/cayenne if using.
8. When the dough has risen (it will be very soft), shape it by stretching out long strands, about 15cm long and 2cm thick. Tie it into a rough knot (it is soft, so it won’t retain much definition – that’s okay). Pour the cooled garlic butter into the baking dish (unless you’re using cast iron and it’s already in the baking dish), and as the knots/rolls are formed, tip them into the dish and roll them in the butter to coat.
9. Cover the dish and leave to prove for the final time. At this point, you could leave it in the fridge for up to 24 hours. If not, then the rolls should be risen after another 45 minutes or so. You could preheat the oven during some of this time.
10. Bake for 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Then turn off the oven and take out the bread so that you can sprinkle the grated cheese over the top (straight out of the freezer is fine), then put the bread back into the still-oven for the cheese to melt for another 5 mins or so.
11. Serve with sliced tomatoes, boiled eggs, cucumber or ham – or just on their own.