Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Lavash Crackers with Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

This month's Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen by Natalie from Gluten A Go Go and Shel of Musings From the Fishbowl. This challenge was a first for the Daring Bakers. This challenge was vegan, and the bakers also had the option of making the dish gluten free. Our challenge was to make lavash crackers, a crisp Armenian-style cracker, and a vegan accompaniment. That's it. We were given a lot of freedom to make whatever dip/topping/salsa/relish that we wanted, just as long as it was vegan. I liked the idea of this challenge a lot. I had never made crackers before, and I had been meaning to make some homemade hummus for a while. The recipe for the lavash is courtesy of Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. The hummus I chose to make was a Roasted Red Pepper Hummus. I adapted the recipe from descent into dessert. I had some red peppers from my garden, so it was a perfect choice, and it goes great with the crackers. Also, be sure to check out The Daring Bakers Blogroll to see what other Daring Bakers did with this recipe.

For the crackers:
-Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers
-This recipe provides directions for making both traditional (with all-purpose flour) and gluten-free crackers, so pay close attention to the directions. I made the traditional 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. (I needed all of the water to bring my dough together.)

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 How to Determine if Bread Dough Has Been Mixed Long Enough for a description 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). (My dough took about 2 hours to double in size.)

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).

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 hummus:
-makes about 2 cups

  • 2 red peppers stemmed, halved, seeded, and deveined
  • 1 15 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed an drained
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • juice from a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 teaspoons chili-garlic paste, or sambal olek
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chives, snipped

First, roast the peppers. Preheat the broiler. Place the pepper halves, cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast the peppers until the skin is charred, remove from the oven and place in a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the peppers steam at least 10 minutes. Remove the chard skins from the peppers.

Place the roasted red peppers and the next 8 ingredients in a food processor and blend until the desired consistency is reached. Place in a serving bowl and sprinkle the snipped chives on top. (Can be made the day ahead, and placed in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to blend).

Final thoughts:
I really liked the crackers. The dough was very easy to make, and the instructions were easy to follow. I seasoned my crackers with a mixture of cumin, kosher salt, and paprika. I think it is important to roll the dough very thinly or you will not get the desired crispiness for a cracker. Alternatively, I think this recipe would be good for a flat bread if the dough was rolled out thicker. Make sure that you pay close attention to the baking time. At 15 minutes the crackers were still very light in color, but by 20 minutes, the they were beginning to burn. I had pre-cut my crackers into long triangles, and the shorter ends were turning dark brown. The crackers were thin and crispy and had a really nice flavor. I would definitely make them again because they are a easy to make, and a nice change to store bought crackers.

I liked the hummus also. It had a really nice flavor. However, the consistency was a little off, and I just couldn't get the hummus to be as smooth as I wanted it to be. The hummus appeared to still have bits of chickpea and garlic in it. I think next time I make hummus I will roast the garlic first to mellow out the flavor. My food processer is very old, so I think that might have been a factor as well.


Jenny said...

Your crackers look great - I think you're right that the difference between crackers and flatbread is merely how thick you roll it out, and I actually liked mine a little bready.

Eddy said...

Sounds delicious. I love hummus.

Anonymous said...

looks great! i'll have to try making crackers!