Well, well, well... I decided to show my face here again... Where have I been?! Well, I'll tell ya. I got that LOVELY cold that's been going around (at least at my office) and seemingly the entire blogosphere. I got it the Monday before last and had it for a good week. I just could not bring myself to do much more than rest, so sitting in front of the computer was not an option. I haven't cooked much lately and I am missing it terribly. I also really missed all of you and sharing with you my favorite recipes. But I'm back now, feelin' good (finally!), and ready to kick this thing into high gear.
While I was away from here, I did spend some time on the internet seeing what else is out there for foodies. I came across sites like Foodbuzz and really liked the community aspect of it and the ability to share my recipes with more people. It's also an easy way to find great new food blogs. It's like MySpace, only made just for me!
But the reason I'm here today is to tell you about my latest completed Daring Bakers challenge! For September, the challenge was chosen by fellow Daring Bakers Natalie from gluten a go go and Shelly from Musings From The Fishbowl. They chose a savory challenge, which I was totally thrilled about because I'm first and foremost a savory person. The challenge was to make Lavash Crackers from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice (pp 178 - 180).
I found this challenge to be the easiest by far, but still very enjoyable. I now know that making my own crackers is not at all difficult and the possibilities in flavoring them and shaping them are endless.
I chose to flavor mine with cheese and chives. They ended up tasting like homemade Cheez its, but with style. For the cheese, I used gruyere and the chives were straight from the herb garden. I LOVE the taste of chives and to this day I cannot understand why some people don't like them.
These crackers could have easily been eaten alone, but with some delicious Trois Petits Cochons' Mousse Truffeé, which is a mousse pâté made with pork and chicken livers and black truffles. I could have made my own pâté, and I'm sure I will in the future, but when it's this good bought off the store shelf, you almost have to ask yourself, why? Pick some up; it's to die for.
So how do you make these cute little crackers you ask? Here's how:
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.
If you're going to flavor your crackers, this is the time. I added a cup of grated gruyère cheese and a heaping 1/2 cup of chopped chives. Turn your mixer back on and knead the dough (using the dough hook) until the flavorings are all incorporated into the dough. Continue kneading the dough for about 10 more minutes until the dough becomes silky smooth and soft and it passes the window pane test (which basically means that you are able to stretch a small portion of the dough enough to wear you can see through it without it ripping on you).
After your finished kneading the dough, 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. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size.
When the dough is done fermenting, it's time to roll it out and shape the crackers. I chose to make them into cute little heart and star shapes using cookie cutters. It's because I'm a dork. I've come to terms with it, though. :-)
Put your cracker cut-outs onto a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and pop them into a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top. You're supposed to mist the raw crackers with water before baking them, but I totally forgot to do that. I think it might have made them shinier, but that's about it.
When they come out of the oven, hit them with some sea salt and they're done! Easy, huh? I will definitely make them again because I have a bunch more ideas of how to flavor them and they were just plain fun to make.
Well, gotta go for now. I'm off to the West Side Market to pick up some goodies for tonight's dinner. I'm back, baby!
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 (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).
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.