Archive for September, 2008

Daring Bakers: Lavash

September 28, 2008

I decided to come out of blogging hiding to write about this month’s Daring Bakers challenge. When I saw that the challenge was making Lavash, an Armenian cracker, I was not so excited because I’m not a big cracker person. I was even less excited when I read that we had to make a vegan dip or spread to go with the crackers. VEGAN?!? I’m the furthest thing from a vegan you will ever find! I can’t live without my meat and I DEFINITELY can’t live with cheese or eggs!!!

Despite my reservations, I decided to suck it up and give it a shot. After all, being a Daring Baker is all about being challenged right? Well, I’m glad I didn’t pass on this month because it actually turned out to be a great experience! I really enjoyed the Lavash and I never would have thought it could be so easy to make your own crackers. Plus, I love the rustic look of the broken apart shards that you get. These would be great for a party!

I made my Lavash with whole wheat flour and I sprinkled Kosher salt, dried rosemary, and sesame or poppy seeds on top. I really loved this combination of toppings! The first batch of Lavash didn’t turn out as crispy as I wanted (parts of it were more like pita bread) so I learned my lesson with the second batch and rolled it out even thinner. The second batch turned out perfectly!

For the vegan spread I decided to improvise and make a very simple Sun Dried Tomato and Artichoke Spread. Basically it’s just a can of artichokes, a few sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, a splash of the sun dried tomato oil, juice from half a lemon, salt to taste, and about a tablespoon of olive oil. I just threw everything in a food processor and ground it up until it was pretty smooth. It turned out suprisingly good for being so simple and not have any dairy products in it!

Thanks to Natalie from Gluten A Go Go, and co-host Shel, of Musings From the Fishbowl for challenging me to step outside my non-vegan box!

Lavash

RECIPE – 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,…is 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) 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)
* 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

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.

2.  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 discription 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.

or

2.  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.

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.  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.

or

4.  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.

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.)  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.

Long Time No Blog

September 11, 2008

I’d like to apologize to any loyal readers that I have left out there in the blogosphere for my recent lack of posts. I have been cooking, although admittedly not on the same level as I normally do. I do have a few archived recipes that I should blog about soon but I’m not sure when that will happen. Let me take a moment to give you all my excuses for my absence so you will not think that I am simply a horrible, lazy blogger….

Excuse #1 New Job: I recently started substitute teaching to keep myself busy and make a little money. Surprisingly, I have worked everyday since the 3rd day of school and I’m totally exhausted when I get home most days. I have a new found respect for all teachers in this world. It’s hard work!

Excuse # 2 New Volunteer Position: I recently accepted a volunteer position called the Family Readiness Group Leader. Basically I am the go-to person for any questions, concerns, etc. that any of the spouses and/or parents of the soldiers in my husband’s unit have. I have to conduct monthly meetings and disseminate information to the families as it becomes available. It’s a huge time commitment and basically all of my time that I would be using for blogging is now going to this position. Hopefully things will slow down soon though and I can get back to blogging.

Excuse #3 New Dog: We recently adopted a 3 year old Terrier mix named Libby from a rescue shelter. She has brought so much joy to our house but it’s always an adjustment when you get a new dog. She’s absolutely adorable and so very well-behaved. I’m think I’m never getting another puppy again…it just feels so good to know that we “rescued” her and that we don’t have to potty train her!

Excuse #4 Absent Husband: My husband is at a month-long training session with his unit in preparation for their deployment to Iraq and it really affects my blogging because who wants to cook for themselves only?!? Plus, I will admit being at home in the evenings without him is a little depressing so even when I have intentions to cook it usually ends up not happening.

So I hope these excuses will help you understand why I’ve been so missing in action lately. I promise to start blogging again when time permits! Please stay tuned….