I tried Ina Garten and Martha Stewart's recipes for the best garlic bread.
Garten's recipe requires a little more work than Stewart's — and a lot more butter and garlic.
But I thought Garten's garlic bread had far better flavor and texture than Stewart's version.
Whenever I need a quick and easy recipe, I often turn to Martha Stewart or Ina Garten for guidance.
Well, reader, I've decided it's time for another cooking battle. The "Barefoot Contessa" star might have the best pasta, but can she also beat Stewart when it comes to the best pasta side dish?
Get ready for the battle of the garlic breads.
First, I made Garten's "outrageous" garlic bread, which is meant to be a modern spin on the classic side dish.
In her "Modern Comfort Food" cookbook, Garten wrote that she wanted to update the traditional garlic-bread recipe from the 1960s that was "usually soft, doughy Italian bread dripping with garlic butter."
"I've taken a fresh look at it and made the ultimate garlic bread by slathering a crusty baguette with lots of slow-cooked garlic, Parmesan, parsley, and lemon zest, and baking it until it's beautifully browned on top," she added. "It's so good!"
To make Garten's "outrageous" garlic bread at home, you'll need:
A crusty French baguette
1 head of garlic
1 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons lemon zest
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Unlike Stewart's recipe, Garten's bread comes with plenty of butter — and more than double the garlic.
To begin, I melted the unsalted butter in a small saucepan over low heat.
While the butter melted, I separated and peeled the cloves from my full head of garlic. I followed Garten's helpful tip to speed things up by smashing each clove lightly on a board with my chef's knife before peeling them.
Then I added my cloves to the saucepan, making sure to coat them with the melted butter. I covered the pan for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
After 20 minutes, my garlic was ready.
My kitchen smelled delicious, and my cloves were tender and ready to go. Per Garten's instructions, I transferred them to a small bowl and let them cool.
To prep the bread, I sliced my baguette in half lengthwise.
I then placed both halves — cut sides up — on a cutting board.
Garten's recipe calls for you to score the halves diagonally (meaning you don't cut them all the way through) in large, serving-size pieces. I placed chopsticks on each side of the baguette halves while scoring, which stopped the knife from completely slicing through the bread.
Then it was time to turn my baguette into garlic bread.
Full disclosure, I read the recipe a bit wrong when I made this dish. Instead of fully mashing the garlic into the butter, I put the cloves straight on the bread.
Thankfully, this didn't affect the taste one bit.
Then I made Garten's delicious garlic-bread spread.
After adding the garlic, I threw the lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and some salt and black pepper into the saucepan with my butter and stirred everything together.
I generously brushed the mixture all over the bread. I topped my baguette halves with the freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, minced fresh parsley, and more red pepper flakes.
Then I popped my bread into the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for six minutes, until the topping was bubbling and starting to brown.
Garten's "outrageous" garlic bread ended up tasting outrageously good.
I served Garten's garlic bread alongside her lamb ragu at a dinner party, and everyone loved it even more than the pasta. One friend said they could have eaten an entire baguette's worth of the garlic bread.
Each piece had the perfect amount of crunch, and the lemon zest and parsley gave a nice brightness to all that savory garlic flavor. Garten's garlic bread had far more steps than a traditional recipe, but it was definitely worth the extra time and effort.
Stewart's garlic bread also has quite a few ingredients.
To make Stewart's garlic bread, you'll need:
1 loaf (12-inches long) Italian-style white bread
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup loosely-packed parsley leaves (coarsely chopped)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
I should note my local grocery store didn't have any good Italian-style loaves available, so I went with a fresh loaf of French bread instead.
To begin, I started prepping for Stewart's garlic-bread spread.
First I squeezed some fresh lemon juice into a small bowl.
Then I minced my garlic.
Stewart's recipe clearly has far less garlic than Garten's. I actually ended up using four cloves instead of her recommended two, which really didn't seem like enough for an entire loaf.
I added the garlic to my small bowl, along with the seasoning and olive oil.
I threw in the thyme, salt, and pepper, before pouring in the olive oil.
Using olive oil instead of butter was another big difference between Stewart and Garten's recipes, and I was intrigued to see how it would change the flavor.
After adding the parsley, I mixed everything together.
And just like that, the spread was ready.
Then it was time to prep the bread, which turned out to be far more complicated — and frustrating — than I expected.
Unlike Garten's recipe, Stewart doesn't have you cut the loaf in half lengthwise first.
Instead she recommends slicing the loaf into 12 half-inch pieces, "cutting only three-fourths the way through the loaf so it stays intact."
Slicing 12 even pieces in the full loaf proved to be pretty tricky, and I was only somewhat successful. But the next step was even more challenging.
After cutting the pieces, I tried to brush my bread with the herb mixture.
Stewart's recipe says the mixture should be brushed "liberally between each slice." This turned out to be kind of a mess.
As I tried to brush the sides of each slice, I noticed the parsley and garlic pooling at the bottom where the loaf hadn't been cut. It was also difficult to distribute the mixture, and there just wasn't enough to evenly coat the entire loaf.
The entire process would've been far easier if I had cut the bread in half lengthwise first, and I just didn't see any benefit to Stewart's technique.
Then it was time to pop my garlic bread into the oven.
Per Stewart's instructions, I loosely wrapped my bread in foil and threw it into the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit — 100 degrees lower than Garten's recipe — for 10 minutes.
Once my bread was ready, I cut some slices from my loaf and couldn't help but feel disappointed.
My garlic bread looked so pale compared to the loaf I had made with Garten's recipe. This version didn't appear to have toasted at all, and it was clear how unevenly the mixture had been spread once I fully cut into the bread.
Stewart's garlic-bread recipe actually had great flavor, but it just didn't have the right texture.
Stewart's recipe is reminiscent of the garlic bread that Garten wanted to update. Her bread was soft and doughy, reminding me more of the slices you dip into olive oil at restaurants.
While I missed that satisfying crunch, I did think Stewart's spread was delicious. Swapping butter for olive oil gave the bread a lighter flavor, and that savory garlic taste was still apparent despite only using a few cloves.
When it comes to the battle of the garlic breads, Garten is the clear winner.
Garten's garlic bread honestly has it all. Yes, it takes a little extra work — but everything from the flavor to the texture is a total knockout. I saw firsthand how much of a crowd-pleaser her unique recipe is, making it the perfect dinner-party side dish.
I think Stewart's recipe could be great with a few tweaks. But for this celebrity chef showdown, the "Barefoot Contessa" has once again run away with the win.
Want more recipies from these celebrity chefs? Try out some of the most popular dishes from their cookbooks:
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