Cheesy Garlic Pan Bread

Back in December I was going through my end-of-the-year questions and spent a post lamenting the fact that despite baking up a lot of sourdough, I hadnโ€™t spent much time exploring the potential of my starter as a starter for other recipes besides bread.

A goal for 2022 was to branch out, and the suggestions I gave myself in that post were to try some variety of recipes such as doughnuts, bagels or english muffins.

Instead, as inspiration would have it, I started instead with a crusty pan bread.

The Youtube algorithm tends to show me a lot of baking content these days, and my playlist offered up a recipe for a thick crust pan pizza. I skipped the pizza part and instead used some of the pizza advice and a half a recipe of my sourdough bread to whip up a tasty cheese bread that complimented our evening meal of beef stew.

cheesy garlic pan bread

500g bread flour
350g water
12g salt
250g active sourdough starter
250g hard cheese
3 garlic cloves
60ml olive oil
10g finishing salt

I made my basic sourdough recipe using the flour, water, salt and starter. This went through the typical hydration and folding cycle and then got covered and popped into the fridge overnight. Technically, I only used half of this to make the pan bread and used the other half to bake some simple sourdough rolls, but Iโ€™m sure any innovative baker can figure out something clever to do with half a recipe of ready-to-rise sourdough dough.

I oiled up my ten inch cast iron pan (using half the oil) and halving the dough from above, I balled and then flattened it, shaping it into a thick disk that sat about an inch from all sides of the pan. It was about 8am when I did this, and I wouldnโ€™t go onto the next step until nearly 5pm when the dough disk had risen to a lovely volume that was closer to being ready to bake.

My folks had given us a huge wedge of gouda cheese as part of a Christmas basket, so I grated down a bunch of that. I also crushed the garlic in the remaining oil. Just like one might do with a loaf of foccacia I dimpled the surface of my dough disk with my finger tips then spread the garlic oil roughly over the surface.

Hereโ€™s the first trick I learned from that Youtube video. I took about half the grated cheese and made a thick edge right up against the edge of the disk and touching the cast iron. The point here is that as is melts it drips along the crack and gets all fried and crusty making a crispy cheesy edge.

The point is, you want the cheese (and quite a bit of it) right up to the edge of the dough.

With a saltier cheese I may have skipped this extra finishing salt sprinkled atop this whole creation. I like salty garlic bread, probably an artifact of growing up on garlic bread made from buttered toast sprinkled with garlic salt not real garlic, but it really does bring an added dimension to the finished product.

This spent 28 minutes in a 425F oven, but I was watching it carefully for the last five.

The second trick I learned from that Youtube video came right at the end. I checked the browning on the crust of the bread after I pulled it out of the oven to make sure it wasnโ€™t too brown (it wasnโ€™t) and then lit up the stovetop where I continued frying the bread right there in the cast iron pan for another 3 minutes. That crust just browned up a little more and it popped out of the pan glorious and crusty and cheesy as I expected.

My biggest problem was making sure there was some left over for tomorrow.

It was delicious, fresh and steaming hot from the oven, and Iโ€™ll be adding this to my regular rotation for family meals or perhaps even to share with friends some day again.

Simple Pan Basics

I continue to look for interestingly complex recipes to cook and share on this blog (though I’ll admit this is neither a major theme nor the sole purpose of this site to share recipes) and occasionally I’ll post one.

But then other times I like to retreat to something more simple and remind my readers of two things:

First, that this is not a space only about cast iron cooking, and that “cast iron guy” is more of a mindset and philosophy for living than an advice column on frying pans, and;

Second, that I do love cooking with cast iron and sometimes that is something super simple and super basic and results in a clean, delicious meal.

Like frying up a pork chop.

Aside from writing an epic piece on supply chains and the impact of climate-change induced once-in-two-hundred-year floods in the Vancouver area where much of our food comes from, and how the washout of multiple highways has created a low level panic here for the security of our food supply and… deep breath.

Let’s just say we bought a big hunk of pork last week and neatly packed it up in our deep freezer for some peace of mind.

There are a hundred great ways to cook a pork chop, of course, but a simple and basic fry up in a cast iron skillet is near the top of my list.

I seasoned with some pepper, salt and a bit of spice, and tossed them thawed into the smoking hot cast iron ten inch pan with a bit of oil. A few minutes per side, and a finishing fry to enhance the colour and we were served with a beautifully tender and moist cut of meat.

It’s winter outside so the barbecue is pretty much packed away for all but the warmest of winter occasions, but the cast iron does a darn comparable job.

And there is no complex recipe to follow.

Just heat, meat and eat.