I think it’s fair to say that this month’s Daring Bakers challenge had me a little kerfluffled. The challenge was to make a vegan (and, optionally, gluten-free) flatbread called lavash, and a dip of our own choosing. Lots of people were psyched about it, but I was decidedly more…meh. Let’s run down the evidence: I’m a pastry chef by profession. The blog is called Cake or Death. I really, really like making (and photographing, and writing about) desserts. While I eat savory foods on a daily basis, they’re not really what sparks my creativity and passion. Plus, I’ve already experimented with making crackers, so there wasn’t even the thrill of a new technique to discover. In short, I had a bad attitude. And to top it off, I didn’t check the posting schedule, so I’m posting this a day late! In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, D’oh.
But, after all of my whining and foot-dragging, the challenge turned out to be a fine idea. The hubs and I had tickets to see Beck and Spoon at the Hollywood Bowl, an outdoor venue where picnicking is practically mandatory, so I had a great excuse to whip up homemade crackers and two of our favorite types of hummus: traditional tahini-based hummus, and spicy black bean hummus.
Making the crackers was really simple. I’d say this was the easiest (fastest, least messy) challenge I’ve yet participated in. The dough came together beautifully in my kitchen aid mixer, then it rose overnight in the fridge. The hardest part was probably rolling it paper-thin so that it was crispy and not chewy upon baking. I rolled mine in two batches, which made the task significantly easier. One batch was topped with oregano and a mix of paprika and cayenne, and the other batch was topped with garlic and fresh rosemary. Of course both were generously doused with salt and pepper as well.
I first made my standard hummus recipe. This is my failsafe, go-to appetizer, because it is so good and authentic. Lots of lemon, lots of tahini, and of course lots of garlic and salt. Top it with a sprinkling of hot paprika, some toasted pine nuts, and a big drizzle of olive oil. Yum.
The “black bean hummus” is a bit of a misnomer, since it doesn’t contain garbanzo beans or tahini. But it is a fabulous spicy bean dip, with pepitas, cilantro, and a big kick from chipotle peppers and extra adobo sauce. My (culinarily gifted) aunt created this recipe for a recipe contest a few years ago, and I’ve always thought it was a travesty that she didn’t win. I now always refer to it as “award-winning black bean hummus!” in my head.
Lavash recipe is after the cut…
Adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.
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.
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.
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).