Monday, 29 September 2008

Lavash crackers and dip - Daring Bakers September

This month's challenge is gluten free and vegan so for once no adjustment needed. Actually the none alternative bakers were given a wheat based version if they wanted it but quite a few tried it gluten free which is great.

Just realised the pictures are on my camera that has stopped working. I will add them later when I find it and get them off the card directly.. I hope !

So what are Lavash crackers, apparently they are an Armenian flat bread made very thin so it becomes hard and well cracker like. Natalie from Gluten A Go Go, and co-host Shel, of Musings From the Fishbowl set us the challenge to do the gluten free crackers and a vegan dip, because of potential difficulties and pricey ingredients the gluten free was optional though not here obviously. The vegan dip however was a must.

Dip first. I ended up doing a fairly simple cooked tomato dip purely because I had excess tomatoes that needed using and were of a type that was better cooked than fresh. I lightly fried some onion then added a little agave syrup to help them caramelise, then I added the tomatoes and cooked them gently. Very simple and very tasty, of course you could use honey or sugar but I was using the agave syrup in the crackers and wanted to give Treestump the dip and honey is one of those things they suggest no giving till they are older.

So on to the crackers.

The recipe below is as we were give, italics for my comments.


Recipe Reference: The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. Copyright 2001. ISBN-10: 1-58008-268-8, ISBN-13: 978-158008-268-6.

Here's a simple formula for making snappy Armenian-style crackers, perfect for breadbaskets, company and kids...It is similar to the many other Middle Eastern and Northern African flatbreads known by different names, such as mankoush or mannaeesh (Lebanese), barbari (Iranian), khoubiz or khobz (Arabian), aiysh (Egyptian), kesret and mella (Tunisian), pide or pita (Turkish), and pideh (Armenian). The main difference between these breads is either how thick or thin the dough is rolled out, or the type of oven in which they are baked (or on which they are baked, as many of these breads are cooked on stones or red-hot pans with a convex surface)...

The key to a crisp lavash, to roll out the dough paper-thin. The sheet can be cut into crackers in advance or snapped into shards after baking. The shards make a nice presentation when arranged in baskets.

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe) I used 1cup general gf mix, 1/2 cup buckwheat to get a wholemeal style plus xanthan gum.
* 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 (several people noted that the water needed to be increased I used about 3/4 cup in the end.)
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings.
I did four different toppings, poppy seeds, course salt, cajan spice mix and balti spice mix.

1. 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. (as noted I used more than this to get it to join together)

2. 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.

3. 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).

4. 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. (I found this much easier than I expected as it didn't stick) 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.

5. 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.) (forgot to mist but did re-roll once toppings were added to fix them well. which worked well) 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.

5. 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).

6. 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.

They came out very nice indeed, we nearly ate them all while discussing what to make for tea! The salt ones were a good replacement for crackawheat which I still crave at times! I have plans to try some with ground hazelnut instead of buckwheat.

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