This month we had our first “Alternative” Daring Bakers’ Challenge! Natalie from Gluten A Go Go and Shel of Musings From the Fishbowl teamed up to bring us a two-part challenge. The first part involved making homemade lavash. Lavash are thin Armenian-style crackers. They are very popular here in Australia, and packets go for big bucks in the gourmet stores. Funny how easy it is to make them yourself! Lavash are great with cheese, but the second part of this challenge was to concoct a vegan and gluten-free spread or dip to go with them.
Lavash dough is a simple yeasted dough, rolled out thin and often sprinkled with a seedy topping. We were allowed to flavor the dough itself if we so desired, so I subbed a couple of tablespoons of the bread flour for wheat germ. This gave the baked crackers a subtle, almost Wheat Thins-like flavor. I made a full batch of the dough and divided it into two pieces–one to use straight away, and one to park overnight in the fridge. I used different toppings and made a different spread for each.
When it came time to roll the dough, I busted out my pasta machine (for the first time since moving to Sydney, so I was glad to actually have used it and justified its move). I’ve made some form of cracker in every restaurant I’ve worked in, and have always used a pasta machine to roll them out. It makes such quick work of it and is the easiest, least frustrating way to get your crakcers paper thin. Use the lasagna sheet section, work with one bit of dough at a time, and take it down to the thinnest setting.
For my first batch of cracker, I rolled out long, wide pieces that I sprinkled with black and white sesame seeds, cumin seeds, cayenne pepper and Kosher salt before baking (brushing on a little water first acts as glue for the topping). I simply broke these big pieces into more manageable shards after baking. I served them with a chunky avocado relish with heaps of cilantro, lemon juice and spices.
For my second batch of cracker, I got a bit more fussy. Instead of just baking off big pieces in whatever form they took when rolled, I used a pastry wheel to cut them into rectangular crackers. I sprinkled them with poppy seeds and Maldon salt. I had a huge bag of fava beans (a.k.a broad beans) from the farmers’ market, so I took about half of them and whizzed them into a dip for this batch of lavash.
I was really pleased with challenge! The lavash and dips made perfect pre-dinner snacks (with a glass of wine, not too shabby!). And how impressed would your friends be if you served them homemade crackers at a dinner party?
Check out the DB blogroll! And visit Gluten A Go Go or Musings From the Fishbowl for the lavash recipe (which was adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhart). I made my two spreads pretty much freehand, but the basic procedures are below.
Chunky Avocado Relish
leafy green herb (such as basil or cilantro)
juice of half a lemon
olive or avocado oil
ground spices to taste (I used garam masala, cayenne, and cumin)
salt and black pepper to taste
-Scoop out the avocado and dice into chunks. Chop your herb. In a small bowl, make a dressing from the lemon juice, a slight splash of oil, the spices and salt and pepper. Add the avocado and herb to the bowl and toss gently to mix.
Fava Bean Dip
1 1/2 cups fava beans, shelled from the outer pod
1 clove of garlic
leafy green herb (such as basil, parsley or cilantro)
squirt of lemon juice
salt and black pepper to taste
-Bring a medium pot of water to the boil. Blanch the fava beans for about thirty seconds, remove with a slotted spoon and shock in ice water. Pop the garlic clove, peeled or unpeeled, into the boiling water and blanch for about 1 minute (this just helps take the edge off the raw garlic).
-Pop the papery outer skins off the blanched fava beans and discard. Peel the garlic clove if you haven’t already, and rough chop.
-Put the fava beans, garlic, lemon juice, herbs, splash of olive oil, salt and pepper into a mini food processor. Pulse until it’s the consistency you like (you can use a couple tablespoons of water to thin out, if needed). Taste for seasoning.
I woke up this morning to some good news: my Rhubarb-Filled Yogurt Cupcakes won Cupcake Hero’s Earth Day event! I’m so excited, and not to brag (hahaha), but it’s actually my second CH win! Thanks so much to Laurie, Tempered Woman, Joy and Leigh, who collect, bake and round-up the CH entries each month. That takes not only heaps of ingredients, but lots of time, effort and witty paraphrasing skills as well. Definitely check out the round-up to see all the Earth loving cupcakes they received last month.
Now, onto the bread. I have some bread baking experience, but it’s pretty limited. I’ve made zillions of batches of brioche, bagels and English muffins through my various jobs, and I make my own pizza dough all the time at home, but I never bake my own baguettes or dinner rolls, and I rarely even make a simple loaf bread.
What brought this on then? Laziness may sound like a weird reason to bake your own bread, but that’s what it was, pure and simple. I was too lazy to walk the 25 minutes down to the grocery store (I don’t drive). R has been in Malaysia on business the last couple days. If I were in New York and R was away, I’d likely use that freedom to go and get bombed with my single friends if it weren’t a work night (you can keep that on the down-low), or at least order some yummy delivery if it were. Since I don’t know too many people in Sydney to go boozing with, and there aren’t really any delivery options where I live, it was a tuna sandwich and the company of Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style for me last night. I can’t manage a whole can of tuna myself, so I still had half my salad to eat for lunch today. But…you guessed it…no bread.
Being lazy today, I’m lucky that making this type of bread is so freakin’ easy. I had originally wanted to use a recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum, but it required making a sponge starter and then it needed three rises for the dough. While it would have had great flavor, it also wouldn’t have been ready by lunch-time, and that was the whole reason for getting the yeast out! Then I remembered a recipe that I’d torn off a bag of King Arthur flour a couple years ago. It only takes about two hours of total rising time, and if you use a stand mixer, measuring out the ingredients is really the only work there is. It’s baked in a loaf pan, so there isn’t even any tricky shaping to do. And I don’t know if it was because the bread was so fresh and soft, or if it was because I was so antsy after waiting for it to cool down, but that was one tasty tuna sandwich!
In true lazy fashion, I’ll just show you the way to King Arthur’s recipe, rather than type it myself. I made mine in my stand mixer, using the dough hook. I know that King Arthur’s AP flour has a higher protein content than most. Since I can’t kind KA flour in this neck of the woods and I have no clue as to the protein content of the flour I buy here, I substituted 1/4 cup of the AP flour in the recipe with bread flour. I substituted another 1/4 cup with whole wheat flour, just for fun. Be sure take your baked bread out of the loaf pan and cool it on a rack for about an hour before slicing into it. This rest period helps set the bread’s texture and crust.
Ahhh…finally, today is the day when I can reveal my experience with the latest Daring Bakers challenge– it is something I really look forward to every month. This go-around Tanna from My Kitchen in Half Cups had us roll up our sleeves and bake bread! She chose a recipe for tender potato bread from Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour & Tradition Around the World by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. This is a book I have on my own shelf, so I was extra-excited to give the bread recipe a try.
Besides being true to the base recipe, we had to knead the bread by hand (I hadn’t done that in forever!) and it had to be savory. But other than that, Tanna really encouraged us to play around with the shape of our bread and the flavorings used. I did cut the recipe in half, which is my usual MO, because R and I can’t (or shouldn’t) eat sooo much bread. I used the maximum amount of mashed potato suggested by Tanna (16 ounces for a full recipe, or 8 ounces for my half recipe), and I can say that kneading the dough was definitely a sticky process. But it wasn’t impossible on a well-floured surface…as the additional flour was worked in, I could feel the dough gaining structure and becoming easier to handle.
I split my dough into one small loaf and one small focaccia. I kneaded some grated aged cheddar and cracked pepper into the loaf portion just before placing in the pan for its second proof. The cheese bread was soft and had great flavor. I still have half the loaf in my freezer, just waiting to be eaten with a bowl of soup. The dough made for a fantastic focaccia as well– I put olive oil, olives, rosemary and Maldon salt on mine. It had a nice, crisp bottom crust from baking it on a ripping-hot pizza stone.
Thanks Tanna for giving us a good break from the sweet stuff. If you are afraid of yeast, don’t be– bread-baking is a truly satisfying experience! You won’t believe how delicious warm homemade bread is! If you want the recipe for the basic potato bread, look here on Tanna’s site.
And before I go, I’d like to wish a very happy birthday to Daring Bakers! This not so-little-anymore group turned one this month. Started by Lis and Ivonne, just two buddies wanting to make their own pretzels, the group is now more than 300 strong! To see how we all interpreted this month’s potato bread challenge, take a look at The Daring Bakers’ Blogroll.