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When I saw the Daring Bakers challenge for this month, I was nothing short of ecstatic! Don’t get me wrong, I love the creativity behind all the cakes and pastries we have been baking as of late, and if I hadn’t done them, I would still be thinking that baking things like this was something un-attainable for me. But I am always much more into the land of savory. So this was going to be a real treat. I have never made crackers before, but I am a HUGE lover of crackers, eating them almost daily. So I figure it was high time to start making my own!

I was also excited because this is the first time the DB challenge is hosted by gluten free blogs, Natalie from Gluten A Go Go , and co-host Shel, of Musings From the Fishbowl. So when you look at the recipe, be sure to take note that there is a gluten free and non-gluten free version available!

So what is Lavash? It is an Armenian flatbread which is traditionally cooked in a clay oven or Tandoor and is usually used like a tortilla – as in you wrap a filling in it (like a kebab) and eat it like a sandwich. But we bakers are daring, so we are all attempting to make it into crackers using conventional ovens! :)

I love the foods of the Middle East, so to fulfill the other part of this challenge – making a topping for the crackers, I decided to stay in the same vein by preparing an Armenian Spicy Walnut Dip

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and and an Afghani style Cilantro Chutney

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(this was a discussion on the Leftover Queen Forum and now I can’t find the thread and I can’t remember the creator of the thread….if anyone recalls, please remind me!!!!).

I decided to make this treat for movie night accompanied by the Lentil Koftas I made some time ago.

The lavash was nice and crispy and the toppings were both fantastic!- the cilantro chutney is full of clean green flavors, while the walnut was very earthy and robust. I even had some leftover dough so I made a few breadsticks!

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I loved that this challenge was something I have never made before, yet didn’t take hours or even days to complete! Plus, there is just so much wonderful versatility possible here! So I am no doubt going to be making them again very soon and just play around with the flavors!

The Lavash recipe comes from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart

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).

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(This dough is really a dream – look at that soft smooth surface – and when I lifted the bowl, it felt like it weighed nothing! This dough may have gotten me to enjoy kneading for once…well…maybe…just a little)

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.

For the Cilantro Chutney:

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cilantro, 1 large bunch, including minced stems (about 1 semi-packed cup)
green onions, 1 large or 2 small, all parts (about 1/4 cup)
hot green peppers, minced, 1-2 serranos, or 2 jalapenos, or 1 Anaheim (about 1-3 tablespoons)
ginger, 1 coin, grated (about 1 teaspoon)
garlic, 1-2 cloves, pressed with juice (about 1 teaspoon)
lime juice, from 1-3 limes (about 3 tablespoons), with optional lime zest
cumin seeds, roasted and ground (about 1/2 teaspoon)
mint, pinch, dried, or several leaves, fresh
walnuts, 1-2, crushed, possibly roasted (even candied–sugared–ones might work here), (about 2 tablespoons)
salt, pinch or to taste
coarse black pepper, pinch

Blend or use a mortar and pestle.