Are you an old-school supermarket baguette fan, do you prefer a simple Italian-style toast or have you your own approach to combining cloves and loaves?
"Anyone who says they don't like garlic bread must be fibbing" declare the authors of retro recipe bible The Prawn Cocktail Years – and, as usual, I'm in complete agreement. Hot and crisp from the oven, sodden with rich, punchy butter, it's the pleasure that never, ever palls. Even the plastic-wrapped supermarket version, pallid yet powerful, has its tawdry charms: it seems garlic butter can do no wrong.
That said, not all members of the pungent pantheon are created equal: Nigel Slater's quite outrageously good parmesan garlic bread has been closest to my heart for some many years now – and has sustained many, many house parties over the years: a burnt tongue being apparently a small price to pay for seizing the first slice from the steaming foil, especially after a few drinks – but could there be something even better lurking quietly out there in a pool of delicious grease? The Pandora's box of possibility finally opened, I can't stop until I'm satisfied I've tasted the best garlic bread has to offer me.
1 ciabatta loaf (Richard Bertinet has an excellent recipe in his book Crust) 100g salted butter, at room temperature 4 cloves of garlic, crushed Small bunch of whichever parsley you prefer, finely chopped 40g parmesan, grated, plus a little extra for topping Squeeze of lemon juice
1. Preheat the oven to 220C. Very carefully cut the ciabatta into slices, making sure not to go right through, and put it in the middle of a piece of foil large enough to wrap around it.
2. Beat together the other ingredients, apart from the extra parmesan until well combined, then gently force the butter between the slices (this will be messy, but it's well worth it). Sprinkle the top of the loaf with the remaining cheese, and seal the foil around the loaf.
3. Bake for about 20 minutes, then open the foil and bake for another five minutes, and devour as soon as it's cool enough to handle.
Is garlic bread the savoury equivalent of chocolate brownies – the food everyone likes, or is there someone out there who can resist its charms? Are you an old-school supermarket baguette fan, or do you prefer a simple Italian-style toast? And honestly, is there any such thing as too much garlic?