You could pretty confidently argue that you’ve happened upon a lucky series of life choices when you get to spend half an hour on a Wednesday morning at Whole Foods debating what you’d like to put on your party bread in addition to butter and cheese. There was so much to consider! I considered rarebit-ing it, with a boiled mess of butter, beer, mustard powder, paprika, cayenne, Worcestershire and a scattering of cheddar that I might dream about tonight. I wondered if we ought to go French, with gruyere, shallots and herbes de provence or style it like an American baked potato, with chives and bacon, sour cream and cheese. And then I realized that I’ve never once covered garlic bread on this site and was suddenly filled with purpose and couldn’t wait to get home and start playing in the kitchen.
This is definitely a flexible recipe; you can use any cheese and herbs you’d like, or seasonings. (I mentioned a few ideas that inspired me in the post.) I had intended to wind some thin strips of proscuitto around fingers, but then copped out at the last minute but my husband really thinks you should try it. Or, a scattering of bacon bits. I didn’t use all of the suggested cheese, because I was afraid it would be too much, which was obviously a silly idea. Use all the cheese, always, people. The one thing I’d be more careful with next time, however, is finding a sourdough that’s more sturdy. My soft, pretty fresh loaf had floppy fingers and I worried they’d stick together (only a little; can still be pulled apart while warm). A sturdier loaf would have more porcupine like fingers, all the better to pluck away while watching the game.
1 round (about 1 pound) loaf firm sourdough bread
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) salted or unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon coarse or flaky salt, or 1/4 teaspoon table salt (if butter is unsalted)
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
Pinch or two of red pepper flakes or freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup finely grated cheese (I used a mix of 2/3 firm aged cheeses — pecorino and asiago — and 1/3 fontina for meltiness)
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh herbs (I used 1/2 each rosemary and oregano; use more to taste)
1 tablespoon extra fresh herbs (such as chives or parsley) to finish (optional)
Heat oven to 350°F. Being careful not to cut through the bottom crust (i.e., leave slices attached), cut bread loaf into 1-inch slices in one direction, then perpendicular, forming porcupine-like bread fingers. Transfer to baking sheet or roasting pan. In a small saucepan or your microwave, combine butter, salt and garlic until butter is melted and sizzling. Pour over bread, making sure to separate any fingers leaning on each other to ensure the bread is evenly butter-soaked. Scatter with grated cheese, again making sure to get cheese all the way to the bottom crust too (helps finger separation, too) with a spoon. Sprinkle with first teaspoon of herbs. Cover dish with foil and bake loaf for 15 minutes, until warmed through. Remove foil and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, until edges of loaf are toasty and cheese has melted. Scatter with any additional green herbs for garnish and serve warm.