This month, the Daring Bakers venture in a savoury direction, with a special hats off to our alternative bloggers, who go above and beyond each month to interpret the challenge in a gluten-free and/or vegan version. To give us a better appreciation of what it’s like to be an alternative baker, this month we were asked to go forth and try out hands at Armenian-style lavash crackers and a gluten-free vegan dip to go with.
The lavash dough itself was relatively easy to prepare – I actually enjoy kneading dough and find it rather therapeutic when I’m stressed out. I did end up re-stressing myself while trying to roll the dough out to the appropriate thinness, but compared to the danish pastry dough from the June challenge, even that part was a piece of cake.. err… flatbread?
My only disappointment is that I must have either underbaked the dough or not rolled it out quite thin enough before baking (despite the fact that it was pretty darn thin as it was), since it came out of the oven a little too chewy to be called a cracker, but still too crispy to be considered a flatbread.
Fortunately, this dilemma wasn’t a concern for most of my guests, because they were too busy snarfing down the entire batch to debate about the appropriate description for my in-between results. Since they’re normally a pretty argumentative bunch, I’m going to take that as a good sign.
As for the dips, I figured I’d be an over-achiever and made not one.. not two… but THREE dips, each one inspired by a different set of Middle Eastern flavours. You can opt to serve only one, but I find that the flavours of sweet carrot, tangy olive and smooth bean are a wonderful complement for each other.
Adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhart
1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp agave syrup or sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp water, at room temperature
Kosher salt and sesame seeds (black and white) or za’atar for topping
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) 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-Bread-Dough-Has-Been-Mixed-Long-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.
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) 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 (Note: I found it easier to split the dough into two batches and roll out to two sheets, each approximately 7.5 inches by 12 inches instead)
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.
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 salt and sesame seeds or za’atar. Be sparing – a little goes a long way.
If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter 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.
6) 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).
7) 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.
Moroccan-Spiced Carrot Dip
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 bunch carrots, peeled and roughly chopped (~2 cups)
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup tahini
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp each cinnamon, ground ginger, paprika and turmeric
1/4 tsp allspice
Pinch cayenne pepper
Fresh cilantro for garnish
In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add salt, carrots and garlic cloves. Cook, covered, until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.
In a mixing bowl, stir together remaining ingredients until blended; add hot carrots. Using a potato masher or a fork, gently mash until smooth.
Spoon into a serving bowl and garnish with a generous handful of roughly chopped cilantro.
Persian Olive, Walnut and Pomegranate Dip (Zeitoon Parvadeh)
1 1/2 cups pitted green olives
1 1/2 cups shelled walnuts
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup pomegranate juice
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste
Pomegranate seeds for garnish (optional)
In a food processor, combine the olives, walnuts, pomegranate molasses and pomegranate juice.
Pulse until the mixture beings to look smooth, scraping down the sides from time to time. Add the lemon juice and pulse until smooth. Season to taste with salt.
Spoon into a serving bowl and garnish with a walnut half or a scatter of pomegranate seeds.
Middle Eastern Bean Dip
2 cups fresh shelled beans such as scarlet runner, fava, lima or butter beans
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp za’atar
Salt to taste
Olive oil, za’atar and cilantro for garnish
Cook the beans in a large pot of boiling water until tender, which may take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes depending on the type of bean you’ve selected. Alternatively, you can skip this step and use canned beans such as white kidney or romano which have been drained and rinsed.
In a food processor, combine the beans, garlic and lemon juice. Pulse until the mixture starts to look smooth, scraping down the sides from time to time. Add the olive oil and continue pulsing until smooth. Stir in za’atar and salt to taste.
Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of za’atar and a sprig of cilantro.