Daring To Be Crispy

Well, sorry I’m a day late on the Daring Bakers reveal.  I baked it on Thursday as I was leaving for my Ladies’ Retreat and didn’t have time to compose a post before I left.  So, by now, the whole world must know that the Daring Baker challenge this month was a lavash cracker (I did not make mine gluten free) with a vegan dip or spread.  I followed the cracker recipe as given, letting the dough retard in the fridge overnight before rolling out the crackers and using only kosher salt on the tops.  The Husband loved these.  It reminded him of the pilot bread that he loved while fishing in Alaska.  As I was making them I thought I probably wouldn’t want to make them again, but The Husband may be requesting them and The Tartlets seem to have enjoyed them as well!

For the dip I made some curried red lentils.  The Husband ate the remainder as a thick soup.  This is not an exact recipe, but seasonings can be adjusted to taste:

Curried Red Lentils

1 lb. red lentils, washed several times.
3 c. vegetable broth (or chicken broth if you weren’t concerned about it being vegan)
1/2 c. red wine (optional)
1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1/2 tsp. fresh grated ginger (or that’s what I would have used if I had it, instead I used a pinch of dry)
1 t. ancho chile powder
1 t. cumin
2-3 Tbsp. mild Indian curry powder (I used Sharwood’s)

water as needed

Place lentils, broth, wine and onion in a medium pan over medium-high heat, cooking until most of the liquid is absorbed, adding water if needed. Reduce heat to medium-low and add seasonings, stirring frequently until lentils are tender.

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 unbleached bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb 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, sugar, 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 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. 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 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.

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