It doesn’t matter how well I plan, I always seem to be pulling up the rear on Daring Bakers reveal days. I suppose that could be because of some deep-seated character flaw within me. This time, however, it was because I was a careless reader. I could have sworn that this month’s reveal day was tomorrow, and I had planned to spend today leisurely completing the challenge. Last night, when I dug out the recipe and instructions, I was horrified to see that the reveal was scheduled for TODAY! In my Nyquil-induced haze, I frantically ran around the kitchen, gathering ingredients and equipment and got to work. Fortunately, I was able to get it all done before sunrise.
September’s challenge is kind of an historical one for the DB group. It is our very first gluten free and vegan challenge – and a savory one at that! I’ve always been so impressed at the resourcefulness displayed by our alternative DBers in adapting our usual flour and butter laden creations to fit their lifestyle and dietary parameters. This month you will see an inspired array of Lavash Crackers and vegan dips all around the blogosphere, thanks to our hostesses, Natalie from Gluten A Go Go, and Shelly, of Musings From the Fishbowl.
The lavash recipe was selected from Peter Reinhart’s wonderful book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread. According to Reinhart, a lavash is an Armenian-style flatbread, similar to many others found in various middle-eastern cultures, such as mankoush or mannaeesh (Lebanese), barbari (Iranian), khoubiz or khobz (Arabian), aiysh (Egyptian), kesret and mella (Tunisian), pide or pita (Turkish). The main difference between these breads is how thick or thin the dough is rolled out, the type of oven in which they are baked or on what they are baked. Many of these breads are actually cooked, not baked, on stones or red-hot pans with a convex surface. The key to a crisp lavash is to roll out the dough in paper thin sheets. The sheets can be cut into crackers before baking or snapped into shards after baking.
In addition to the lavash, we were also asked to make a dip to serve along with them. The catch was that the dip had to be fully vegan. Oy!
I couldn’t decide which way I wanted to go, so I ended up making two batches of lavash. The first was topped with a sprinkling of Asian five spice seasoning, House Spice Red Pepper Blend (Shichimi Togarashi), Maldon salt and sesame seeds. I made an Asian inspired sweet and spicy plum chutney to accompany it, using cinnamon, star anise, cloves, mustard seeds and pink peppercorns. I really loved how this chutney turned out!
For my second batch of lavash, I used cumin, smoked paprika, sesame seeds, more Maldon salt and toasted pumpkin seeds as my toppings. My dip for these was a zesty Italian-style caponata, made with eggplant, olives, capers and garlic. My mother made this dip a lot when I was growing up and it is still one of my favorites!
Thankfully, the recipe for the lavash was pretty straightforward and uncomplicated. The dough was actually a dream to work with. Since my skills with a rolling pin are spotty at best, I decided to use my pasta maker in order to get my dough as thin as possible. I used the lasagne sheet attachment and it worked like a charm! My sheets of dough were paper thin and the lavash were delightfully crisp and crackly.
Although, I would never have thought to make these on my own, I’m so glad I did. Mr. SGCC absolutely loved them. Actually, they were the first of my DB concoctions that he ever really enjoyed, as he is not a fan of sweets.
My thanks go out to both Natalie and Shelly for giving me yet another chance to stretch out of my baking comfort zone. Don’t stop here, though. Head on over to the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see many, many other wonderful versions of this lavash!
(Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers)
1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)-I used Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings
In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.
For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Bre … ong-Enough for a description of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).
For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.
For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt – a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).
When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.
Spiced Plum Chutney
2 whole star anise
4 whole cloves
1 2-inch piece cinnamon stick
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp whole mustard seeds
1 tsp pink peppercorns
4 medium red, black, green, or blue plums pitted and cut into chunks
Combine ingredients in a small saucepan. Stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until chutney thickens and a chunky sauce forms, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Cool.
Eggplant Caponata Dip
5 tbsp olive oil
1 pound eggplant, unpeeled, cut into small cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 14 1/2-ounce can Italian-style diced tomatoes
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp drained capers
1/4 cup Gaeta olives, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Toasted pine nuts for garnish
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add eggplant, onion, and garlic cloves. sauté until eggplant is soft and brown, about 15 minutes.
Add diced tomatoes with juice, red wine vinegar and drained capers. Cover and simmer until eggplant and onion are very tender, stirring occasionally, about another 15 minutes.
Season caponata to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in fresh basil.
Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with toasted pine nuts.
Serve at room temperature or chilled.