Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daring Bakers September Challenge: Lavash Crackers & Toppings

lavash 4 ways

I was so excited to find out that my very first Daring Bakers challenge would be a gluten-free treat. For months, I have been amazed at the wonderful posts of DB participants; I finally gathered up my courage to sign on. This month's challenged was hosted by Shell at Shellyfish and Natalie at Gluten A Go Go.

This month's challenge was to make gluten-free lavash crackers with a vegan, gluten-free topping. Lavash is a delicious middle eastern cracker bread.

The recipe that the Daring Bakers all followed came from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. However, we were given the freedom to be as creative with the flavoring as we wished to be.

Here's the recipe for the Lavash crackers as it was given:
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 … 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.

I decided to make two versions: For the first one, I started thinking about it in terms of color. I wanted a contrast between red and green.

lavash cracker with beet

I used beet cooking water for the first batch of dough. I added 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds for extra flavor. I also thought it would be fun to shape the cracker dough into little cups to hold the spread.

lavash cup stack

Then, I whipped up an eggplant, spinach and roasted garlic dip topping to go with it.

For the second batch, I wanted to create a different type visual point of focus. I used the recipe given but decided to incrust whole cilantro leaves in each cracker and coarse sea salt. I served it with a velvety butternut squash white bean dip.

It's wonderful to see how inventive everyone has been with this challenge. Some bakers made sweets with the very same recipe and with a dip to match. Some concocted brilliant salsas... Check out the creativity by going through the Daring Bakers Blogroll.

Here are the recipes for the dips I created:

Butternut Squash & White Bean Spread with White Truffle Oil

Butternut bean dip

12 oz frozen butternut squash, thawed
1 15oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
3 teaspoon white truffle oil
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor.

Eggplant Spinach Spread with Roasted Garlic

eggplant spinach dip

1.5 lbs small eggplants, end-cap removed (should be about 3 small)
1 head garlic, top layer cut off to reveal cloves
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup olive tapenade
3 tablespoons tahini
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped

Preheat oven 375F
Oil cookie sheet.
Sprinkle olive oil on head of garlic. Wrap the whole head of garlic in aluminum foil.
Place the wrapped up garlic and eggplants on the cookie sheet and bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven.
Let cool until cold enough to handle.
Cut eggplants in half and scrape the inside off with a spoon. Transfer to bowl of food processor.
Squeeze the roasted garlic into the food processor, followed by all the other ingredients. Pulse until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl a few times if necessary.


Elra said...

Alexa you are getting more and more impressive. Very creative and look at that crackers, they are so pretty! Eggplant and spinach dip sounds like a great combination. Well done Alexa!

RecipeGirl said...


What a great Saturday morning discovery! Your blog is beautiful, and I will add it to follow. Amazing pictures and I just love how you did your crackers. Very pretty and a gorgeous presentation!

oonsky said...

Bravo on your first DB challenge! You are indeed a daring baker. The crackers and dips were impressive! How I wish I were as creative as you are...can I include your site in my favourite reads?

Aran said...

alexa you went all out! wonderful job!

Sheltie Girl said...

You did a fabulous job on your crackers. I love the different versions you made and the presentations. The ones with the parsley leaves looked so beautiful.

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

Foodie Froggy said...

On voit que tu es une artiste, c'est superbe !

The Bahens said...

Wow! Both of your cracker batches turned out beautiful. I can't decide which I like better!
So creative!

VeggieGirl said...

My oh my, you really rocked this challenge, Alexa!! Love both cracker AND dip varieties!!

Argus Lou said...

So pretty, the lavash with the leaves! Great idea too with the little bowls. Bravo!

Lori said...

Inventive, I think you wrote the book on inventive. What great ideas. I love the leaf in the cracker look. So cute. And wow butternut white bean dip. That is right up my alley. Fabulous first challenge!

allison said...

Wow! Eggplant and spinach sounds great. I love the color of the dough with the beet water.

Maggie said...

I love the cilantro topped ones! They are gorgeous!!

BC said...

These are extremely creative crackers. My mind is stretched just with the possibilities!

Mary Ann said...

Wow Alexa, you really went all out on this one! Great job for your first challenge. I wish I could've tried your versions of the crackers and dip because they all look so good and the colors, it is just beautiful!

Barbara Bakes said...

Your crackers are a work of art! I bet they were delicious too!

Angela said...

Wow, these are incredibly creative crackers, Alexa! I love that you used beetroot cooking water for colour.

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Cute cute cute! So creative! Loved the cups and the leaf! Incredible!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

You did a great job here! Everything looks beautiful, scrumptious and interesting! You a definitely a creative individual!



Marija said...

WOW! You really are artsy foodie ;) Amazing crackers!

Dianne said...

Wow! You definitely went above and beyond! Gorgeous!

cuisine by monsoon said...

hi alexa,
I've just found another blog to add to the list of my favourites.:)
you really are a true artist!:)
Great ideas indeed; colour contrasts, shapes, design, flavours...:))))
those crackers with parsley (coriander?) leaves in the middle look like some antique tiles. Really beautiful.
Well done!

Katie said...

I love your creativity with the beets and the design of the crackers - everything looks aboslutely wonderful.

Gretchen Noelle said...

What lovely ideas!! The cilantro leaves are simply gorgeous and the cracker bowls are wildly creative! great job...and impressive entrance into Daring Bakers! Welcome!

rachel said...

tell me that you're one day planning on publishing a cookbook.

Eat4Fun said...

Great job on your Lavash crackers! The cilantro lavash look stunning and the cups are great, especially if you can hold more dip! :-) Congrats on completing your first DB Challenge!

chriesi said...

Beauitful take on your first challenge!

Alexa said...

Thanks to everyone for the kind comments. I read them all and was very touched by them. :-)

Jeanine said...

What a fantastic idea to make little bowls for the dip! And the herbs pressed into the crackers...that is awesome! Welcome to the DBers! Nice to have more alternative bakers join us. :)

jen said...

I love love LOVE the cilantro. Hub would love the beet ones, he has a strange love affair with them.

Fabulous job at your first challenge. I will be checking back regularly for more fun things. :)

Micha said...

Wow, these are wonderful. Very creative presentation with the cilantro - and the butternut squash white bean dip sounds really delicious...I love, love, love truffel oil with butternut squash!

Congrats on your first DB challenge!

maybelle's mom said...

AHH we made cracker bowls too (and we thought about dying ours with beets.) how funny. I particularly like the effect of baking in the herbs.

CECIL said...

You are beyond well done!! I consider myself as somewhat a creative person, but it seems to evaporate at baking and photography, and of course..gardening. :) I LOVE LOVE the cilantro leaves idea! Would never thought of doing that in trillion years. The red bowls remind me of diyas - earthen pot used for lighting in Diwali. So pretty!

Zoe Francois said...

These are really lovely, what a fabulous touch to add the beets and the herbs. Very nice post!

Mallory Elise said...

oh la la those are gorgeous, ahk!!!!

Jude said...

Looks so cute with the leaves on it. Awesome presentation :)

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

I love what you did with this challenge! Your lavash are creative, inspired and just plain lovely!

Both of your dips look wonderful too! Very impressive!

CookiePie said...

WOW wow wow!!! Your crackers look amazing - what creative and beautiful presentations! Truly inspired. Great job!!!

Mary said...

Glad to have you as a DB! I love, love, love the cilantro leaf detail. So creative.

Lynn said...

Absolutely lovely. I hate cilantro, but, I am going to try your presentation with a different herb. Well done. I am impressed.

Alexa said...

I feel so lucky to have such nice readers. Thank you all for taking the time to comment. :-)

silverrock said...

Where do I start?! I love your crackers and the cute little parsley leaves on them! Adorable! The eggplant, spinach and garlic dip sounds amazing; and that white truffle, butternut squash and white bean dip is equally as inticing. You're an epicurean genious!! Way to go on your first DB challenge... rock on!

Vera said...

Simply amazing! I love everything! What an artistic approach!

Helene said...

Everything is so beautiful. You did so much on this challenge. Wow!

jillian said...

The cilantro crackers are absolutely gorgeous! Beautiful work!

Y said...

Gorgeous! And so creative :)

Liz said...

I love, love, love the herbs pressed into the square crackers. I love it so much I'm tempted to make them again just to steal your idea. Gorgeous!

nadia said...

looks wonderful! what a beautiful way to present!

An Apron Straitjacket said...

You'll have to give me a second to pick my jaw up off the floor. Your Lavash are AMAZING!!! Oh and the butternut squash white bean dip sounds delicious!

misserbee said...

Wow, very clever interpretation of the challenge. I love the herb decorated crackers!

Bumblebutton said...

Your first DB is so very lovely and creative...I can't wait to see what other lovely treats you come up with as part of this challenging group! Bravo!!

Laurie said...

How beautiful your lavash crackers look, and your dips are amazing, especially the Butternut Squash & White Bean Spread with White Truffle Oil one!!
I folded rosemary leaves in my savory lavash crackers but you can't see them. I love how your crackers look with the visibility of the herbs. Very elegant!! :)

Lynnylu said...

Wow! I'm so impressed with your lavash. I love the herb lavash-so colorful and the dip is just perfect.

Meeta said...

Alexa! these looks divine. I especially like the cups! well done on your first challenge!

bee said...

what a superb-looking dish. i wanted to make this right now, but have no olive tapenade. sun-dried tomato pesto will work, i think.

MaryMary said...

Oh my--so stunning! I love the use of the herbs--Wow! (I was also checking out your beet salad--that looks like a definite "to make" in this house.)

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