Like pepperoni pizza and Doctor Who, even when garlic bread is bad, it's good.
I used to live off the stuff in university, occasionally topping a slice with pesto or grilled cheese if the sharehouse was feeling fancy. These days, however, I've taken to making my own GB. A thick hunk of fresh garlic-loaded sourdough will always beat anything from the shop. Well, almost always anyway.
Occasionally (perhaps more occasionally than I would like to admit), I still hanker for a greasy, pull-apart supermarket loaf. The hard, knobby ends; the hot-buttered interior; the delicious added "natural flavours" of mystery. Terrific stuff.
A supermarket garlic bread section is not for the choice-a-phobic, but I figured there must be one loaf to rule them all. With an oven set to the recommended temperature and cooking times, I set about taste testing a range of nationally available breads and my blood is now 85 per cent margarine.
Woolworths Garlic Loaf, 400g, $2.90
Needs a bit more butter and a lot more garlic. The bread could do with some strengthening too – this deflates in your mouth like a wet cotton ball. Also contains more palm oil than butter, which goes some way to explaining the low price and lack of flavour. 81 per cent Australian ingredients; 1430kJ per 100g.
Aldi Piatti Fresh Premium Garlic Bread Loaf, 400g, $2.69
Credit where it's due to Aldi for putting that one-star health rating right up front. At this juncture, it should be noted that garlic bread is horrifically bad for you and one of the worst ways to consume kilojoules outside the soft drink aisle. Shame it can be so damn tasty. This, however, is not a tasty garlic bread. There's little garlic flavour and the bread is too light and airy. The loaf could float away if it wasn't drenched in greasy butter. 75 per cent Australian ingredients; 1590kJ per 100g.
Coles Garlic Bread Twin Pack, 450g, $1.90
The kind of bog-standard garlic bread you might expect to have delivered with pizza in a deal with soft drink and dodgy chicken "bites". Never buy food from a pizza chain that also serves chicken. Anyway, there's a generous amount of garlic here, but too much margarine leaves an oily coating over my fingers and lips. 83 per cent Australian ingredients; 1330kJ per 100g.
Aldi Piatti Fresh Garlic Bread Twin Pack, 450g, $1.89
A handy size for three people to share – I dig the thick slicing into six and a half pieces – but wowee, there is lots of margarine (and certainly no butter at that price point). Similar to Coles' budget entry, this scores an extra point for crusty bread that maintains its structural integrity. 88 per cent Australian ingredients; 1310kJ per 100g.
La Famiglia Kitchen Garlic Pane di Casa, 190g, $3.50
Designed to feed two, this football-shaped loaf reduces the risk of garlic bread overeating, which is always a possibility. Great "stone baked" rustic crust, but the bland butter-margarine blend is disappointing. 75 per cent Australian ingredients; 1200kJ per 100g.
Creative Foods Garlic Bread Twin Pack, 500g, $4
The post-Pop U2 of garlic bread; the CSI: Miami of sides. A slew of parsley helps to bolster this middle-of-the-road loaf, but there's only so much you can do with rehydrated garlic, margarine, food acids and "Synthetic L-Cysteine (900)", whatever that is. 84 per cent Australian ingredients; 992kJ per 100g.
Woolworths Essentials Garlic Bread Twin Pack, 450g, $2.90
Fine, thanks. Looks a bit like a Subway roll. Does Subway even serve garlic bread? It should – bread with a side of bread, come on down. Woolies entry-level GB lacks the satisfying lick of real butter but the garlic flavour is all there. 85 per cent Australian ingredients; 1300kJ per 100g.
Woolworths Garlic Bread Slices, 270g, $2.90
Not bad, good size. Could do with more margarine-based garlic spread, but I like how the slices can be separated to eat over a few nights while binge-watching season two of M*A*S*H. (Reader, how do you eat your garlic bread?) Thick enough to carry fresh tomato and olive oil if you want to make a pre-dinner snack that requires bugger all effort. 88 per cent Australian ingredients; 1580kJ per 100g.
Aldi Piatti Fresh Premium Garlic Bread Slices, 270g, $2.99
I'm 90 per cent sure this bread is served at 90 per cent of country pubs. Fluffy slices similar to Sizzler's panbread (rest in parmesan) that can be turned into a cheese and herb bread with minimum fuss. Super garlicky, quite salty and a little bit oily, but respect again to Aldi for not hiding the health rating, this time half a star. How's that kilojoule content? 65 per cent Australian ingredients; 2020kJ per 100g.
Coles Kitchen Garlic Baguette, 450g, $2.50
This isn't any old garlic "bread" from Coles, this is a garlic baguette! Ooh la la. It could have a stronger crust, but overall this is a decent offering from the retail giant. Much less greasy than other loaves at this price point with a balanced ratio of garlic to salted butter to bread. 75 per cent Australian ingredients; 1230kJ per 100g.
La Famiglia Kitchen Traditional Garlic Bread, 400g, $4
I've never been a huge fan of the open-top, slice-yourself, garlic "loaf". Too many have a scratchy texture and deflate on contact even with the sharpest of serrated knives. This guy, however, is different. Super garlicky with a flaky crust and soft interior that pops back to life after being sliced. There's no margarine in the spread either, only butter and a small amount of canola oil. Great for the family table. 75 per cent Australian ingredients; 1590kJ per 100g.
THE WINNER La Famiglia Kitchen Garlic Sourdough, 480g, $6.20
We have a winner. Butter-trapping air pockets and a wonky shape almost make this entry look like it was baked in an old Tuscan oven, rather than a factory owned by Goodman Fielder, manufacturer of Mighty Soft and MeadowLea. Garlicky, buttery spread? Check. Non-oily mouthfeel? Check. There's also a nice "tap" to the crust and an overall texture that's springy rather than squishy. All other garlic breads, bow down to your leader. 75 per cent Australian ingredients; 1290kJ per 100g.