Friday, April 22, 2011

Heavenly Garlic Bread

I can appreciate a good challenge and often seek something engaging to keep me focused and critical of my behaviors and actions. Challenge provides intent and purpose. I strive to live my life with intent, moving through the day with clarity and grace, a challenge that I welcome.

On a daily basis, I strive to create beauty in the everyday. I like finding beauty in the barren desert, when people doubt the existence of such allure, proving it exists is satisfaction deep in my soul.

Beauty surrounds me each and every day. Sometimes clouds get in the way of natures true colors, rain may blur the landscape or fierce winds may have my head tucked in the bend of my arm at the elbow seeking shelter, nature's true beauty are found in these experiences. It takes a bit of effort to see past the grey and wet to the green and wild.

It takes effort to look through my major faults, rough edges and the harsh lines and believe in the potential that is buried behind the struggle.

When life takes some effort, the reward is usually plentiful.

In the kitchen, baking bread seems to provide me with a rewarding challenge. I am finally able to admit that I might be slightly catching on to baking bread and trying to understand the simplicity behind the complex facade. Sometimes success seems purely luck. Sometimes all I need is patience, in this case patience provides a delicious gift.

I was extremely lucky this month and my Bread Baking Babes challenge, Dan's Garlic Bread turned out better than I had ever imagined.

It might be the best bread I have ever had the delight of eating. The crumb is so tender, dotted with lovely itty bitty pockets of air and each bite was so soft and tender all I could think about was that this bread is what a big billowy desert cloud must feel like. It gets better, oh it is possible, swirled in among the cloud like bread, the most pleasant lace of a savory balsamic reduction leads way to delightful bursts of tender cloves of garlic. Pure delight. Pure love.

Dan's Garlic Bread

If you do nothing more than make this garlic balsamic reduction, your life in the kitchen will forever be changed - there is nothing like it.

For Bread Baking Babes and YeastSpotting
reprinted with permission from Dan Lepard, Exceptional Breads, by Dan Lepard
Dan has reworked the recipe to include a longer rise, less yeast, and less sugar. 
Step-by-Step photos here

for the pre-ferment
200ml water, at about 35C - 38C (95F - 101F)
1 tsp fast acting yeast
200g strong white bakers flour

for the dough
225ml water at 20C (68F)
325g strong white bakers flour
10g sea salt
75ml extra virgin olive oil

for the garlic filling
3 heads garlic, separated
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
50ml water
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 spring fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped

for the pre-ferment

To easily get the temperature of the water roughly correct measure 100ml of boiling water and add 200ml cold water, then measure the amount you need from this. Stir in the yeast then, when dissolved, stir in the flour until evenly combined.

Leave the mixture covered at about 20C - 22C (warmish room temperature) for 2 hours, stirring the ferment once after an hour to bring the yeast in contact with new starch to ferment.

for the garlic filling

Break the heads of garlic into cloves and place in a saucepan, cover with boiling water from the kettle and simmer for 3 - 4 minutes.

Then strain the garlic from the water, cover the cloves with cold water to cool then peel the slivery skin from the garlic. It's surprising how few cloves you get after peeling so don't be alarmed if "3 heads of garlic" sound like way too much.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan then place the add the cloves to it and cook until they are lightly brown (not burnt) on the outside. If you burn the garlic the flavour is nasty and you will have to start again, or serve it to your friends with a straight face, so watch them carefully.

Measure the balsamic and the water then add this to the pan with the sugar, salt, pepper and rosemary. Simmer for 5 minutes until the liquid has reduced to a thick caramel.

Scrape into a bowl and leave to cool. The garlic cloves should be tender when pierced with a knife.

back to the dough:

After 2 hours the pre-ferment should have doubled and look bubbly on the surface. Measure the water into a bowl and tip the pre-ferment into it. Break it up with your fingers until only small thread-like bits remain (this is the elastic gluten you can feel in your fingers)

Add the flour and salt then stir the mixture together with your hands. It will feel very sticky and elastic. Scrape any remaining dough from your hands, cover the bowl and leave for 10 minutes so that the flour has time to absorb moisture before being kneaded. Be sure to scrape around the bowl to make sure all of the flour is incorporated into the dough.

Pour 2 tbsp olive oil onto the surface of the dough and smooth it over the surface with your hands. Now rub a little oil on your hands and start to tuck your fingers down the side of the dough, then pull the dough upward stretching it out.

Rotate the bowl as you do this, so that all of the dough gets pulled and stretched. You'll find that the dough starts to feel and look smoother. Leave the dough in a ball, cover and leave for 10 minutes.

Repeat the pulling and stretching of the dough, for no more than about 10 - 12 seconds. You may find that an oiling piece of dough breaks through the upper surface. This isn't a bad thing, but it is a sing to stop working the dough. Cover the bowl again and leave for a further 10 minutes.

This time oil a piece of the worksurface about 30 cm in diameter. Oil your hands, pick the dough out of the bowl, place it on the oiled surface and knead it gently for 10 - 15 seconds. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave for 30 minutes.

Uncover the dough, oil the worksurface once more and flip the dough out onto it.

Stretch the dough out into a rectangle, then fold the right hand side in by a third.

Then fold the in by thirds again so that your left with a square dough parcel. Place this back in the bowl, cover and leave for 30 minutes.

Lightly oil the worksurface again and stretch the dough out to cover an area roughly 30cm x 20cm. Dot the garlic over the 2/3rds of the surface and then fold the bare piece of dough over a third of the garlic-covered dough.

Then roll this fold of dough over so that the remaining garlic-covered piece is covered by dough. Then fold this piece of dough in by a third...then in by a third again. Finally place the folded dough back in the bowl, cover and leave for 30 minutes.

Wipe the oil off the worksurface and lightly dust it with flour. Pin the dough out again as above and fold it in by thirds each way. Replace it in the bowl, cover and leave for a further 30 minutes.

Pin the dough out again fold it in by thirds each way again as shown. Leave the dough for 10 minutes while you prepare the tray the bread will rise on.

Cover a large dinner tray with a tea-towel. Lightly dust it with white flour, then cut the dough into thirds with a serrated knife.

Place the dough cut side upward on the tray then pinch the fabric between each so that they stay separated.

Cover and leave for 45 minutes while you heat the oven to 200C (same for fan assisted)/390F/gas mark 5-6. I put a large unglazed terracotta tile in the oven and shovel the dough directly onto it with the back of a small cookie tray. It gives a much better finish and perhaps the bread is slightly crisper, but the bread will still be good placed on a tray just before baking. I also put a small tray of water in the bottom of the oven so that the heat is a little moist, which will help the bread to rise and colour.

Lightly dust the back of a cookie tray (if you have a stone in the oven) or the surface of a baking tray with semolina or flour. Carefully pick the dough up off the cloth, scooping it in from end to end with your finger then quickly lift it clear of the cloth and onto the tray.

Either shovel the dough onto the hot stone, or place the baking tray in the oven, shut the door quickly and bake for 20 - 30 minutes until the loaves are a good rich golden brown


  1. Beautiful loaves, can't believe how high they got. Love that swirl on the middle loaf, just gorgeous.

  2. It looks so good!! (Although that first picture looks like there are some kind of bugs on your dough haha). Nice ovenspring. Glad you liked it!

  3. What wonderful photos. And I am so glad you loved the bread as much as we did. Thanks so much for baking with us this month!

  4. Very gorgeous loaves! You are so right about the garlic balsamic reduction ... I made double of it the second time I baked the bread with the idea that if I didn't bake the bread a third time, it wouldn't go to waste. It didn't go to waste even though I didn't bake the bread with the extra. But now, seeing your loaf ... well ... this is really addictive bread isn't it.
    Thanks so much for baking with us.

  5. This sounds heavenly. I think I might heed your advice and just do the balsamic garlic loveliness, then toss it with some pasta. Drool.

  6. When I saw the title I thought "who needs a recipe for garlic bread?" but this is something else - it looks gorgeous and was not what I was expecting at all, lovely.

  7. It was amazing bread wasn't it? I love your pictures, great loaves! Just beautiful.

  8. Your bread looks fantastic. I especially love the picture of the garlic.

  9. Michelle, patience brings you some beautiful looking garlic bread.

  10. What beautiful swirls in the cross-sections of your bread. And isn't it delicious?

    It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that really like the photos of sky, leaves and lichen(??) too.