Inspired by Italian-American red-sauce restaurants, this classic garlic bread starts with a rich garlic butter. The proportions below yield enough to spread on a 1-pound Italian loaf, but you can use a smaller loaf and reserve the remaining garlic butter for future use.
Heat the oven or toaster oven to 425 degrees. Place the butter in a small bowl.
Pour the oil into a small skillet. Using a Microplane zester, grate the garlic directly into the oil. Or use a garlic press to crush the garlic into the oil or very finely mince the garlic and add to the oil. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring, until sizzling, then add ½ teaspoon kosher salt if using salted butter or ¾ teaspoon if using unsalted. Continue cooking, stirring often, until fragrant and golden, 1 to 2 minutes; do not let the garlic brown. Immediately scrape the garlic and oil over the butter in the bowl.
Smash the garlic oil into the butter with a wooden spoon until well mixed. It’s OK if there are still bits of unmelted butter.
Cut the loaf of bread through its equator from end to end as if splitting it open for a sandwich. Slather the garlic butter all over the cut sides and place on a baking sheet cut sides up.
Bake until the tops are golden and the bottoms are browned and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Cut into strips if desired and serve hot.
Spicy Garlic Bread: Stir ½ to 1 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes into the garlic oil immediately after removing the oil from the heat. Proceed as above.
Parmesan Garlic Bread: After buttering the bread, sprinkle the tops with an even layer of finely grated Parmesan (about 1 ounce). Bake as above; the tops will become golden brown.
Mozzarella Garlic Bread: Bake the garlic bread until the butter fully melts into the bread, 8 to 10 minutes, then sprinkle coarsely grated part-skim mozzarella or arrange thinly sliced fresh or buffalo mozzarella cheese on top (about 8 ounces). Return to the oven and bake until the cheese melts and bubbles a bit, about 5 minutes.
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