Monday, September 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Loving Lavash

September's daring bakers challenge departed from the sweet side of these last two months and landed on the savory side.

This month's challenge: Make lavash crackers and create a dip to accompany it.

And not only did we make crackers, we also made Daring Bakers history: for the first time ever, the torch has been passed to our Alternative Bakers as our September challenge is vegan and/or gluten free. This month's hosts are Natalie from Gluten A Go Go, and co-host Shel, of Musings From the Fishbowl.

The recipe for the lavash crackers is from "The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread," by Peter Reinhart.

I was intrigued by the challenge not so much because it would give me a chance to practice my "alternative" baking skills but more because I had never made crackers before and had actually never even contemplated making crackers. Baking fresh bread can't really be replicated but certainly what could be special about home-made crackers?

Well, I'm sure you can see where this is heading, the crackers were amazing. Certainly none of the gourmet crackers purchased at my local market even came close to tasting this good.

I made scallion hummus (vegan) as an accompaniment and the entire batch of crackers were almost consumed by my family in a matter of minutes.

I topped my crackers with sesame seeds and kosher salt but I've already started wondering how I can change the toppings in my next batch.

The key to crisp lavash is to roll the dough paper thin. Once the dough is rolled out, you can use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut the dough into squares or diamonds. Or, you can bake the sheet whole and break the sheet into shards once cooled.

The shards looked very cool in my basket.

Peter Reinhart is a well-known author and instructor. I especially liked the commentary that the author includes in the margins by each recipe. The commentary to this recipe included how to make a softer variation of the dough to use for making roll up pinwheel sandwiches.

Although I have been a bread baker for quite a while, I had never heard of the windowpane test to determine when the gluten development is sufficient in the dough. To test for this, cut off a small piece of dough and gently stretch and pull and turn it to see if it will hold a paper thin translucent membrane, or windowpane. If not, knead the dough for another minute or two and try the test again.

So, whether you call them lavash, pita bread or flatbread, you will be crackers over this delicious and easy recipe from Peter Reinhart.

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