Another month has gone by already and I can't believe it! Time really does fly when you are busy I guess. For that, I am grateful that this month's Daring Baker's challenge, hosted by Natalie from Gluten A Go Go, and co-host Shel of Musings From the Fishbowl and of course created by Lis and Ivonne, was not anything that was a long, drawn out process. I don't have anything against projects that are really long or take a lot of time, but this past month with my 5-year old just starting kindergarten, and everything going on with our very active 11 month old, I don't think I would have been able to make it.
So, I'm glad that this month the challenge was to make Lavash, a type of cracker. I have always thought about making crackers, but have never gotten around to it, so I was happy to give this a try. The real challenge for me this month was the fact that our lovely hostesses challenged us to go vegan. Yes, vegan. Me. I know. Laughable, really.
I am always up for a challenge and I have great respect for those of you out there that have the conviction and make the choice to be vegan or vegetarian. I am pretty sure I would die of starvation.
It finally occurred to me what I wanted to do just last week. I had recently made two kinds of homemade jam/preserves and though I had thought about topping my lavash with cinnamon and sugar, I opted to just go with some raw turbinado sugar. It ended up looking very pretty and being very tasty, with or without the jams. For one of the jams I made Peabody's mom's Pear Nutmeg Jam (visit Peabody for the recipe - it is a truly unique and extremely delicious jam - thanks again!). I also made a small batch of plum preserves which is incredibly good. Be looking for both jams to appear on this blog again soon with a recipe I have been playing around with that I love.
Thanks to Natalie and Shel for a great challenge and a great new recipe - and for making me think outside my regular options. Be sure to check out the Daring Bakers' Blogroll for more fabulous cracker and dip creations.
Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers
1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour
1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
1 Tb (.75 oz) sugar
1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
Raw Turbinado Sugar for topping
1. 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.
2. 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.
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. 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.
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 (or sugar) 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.
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.
Gourmet July 2002
Active time: 45 min Start to finish: 2 hr
Servings: Makes about 2 1/2 cups.
2 lb firm-ripe red, black, or fresh prune plums, halved and pitted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick (I used 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
Coarsely chop plums (I pulsed them to small chunks in the food processor) and stir together with sugar, water, and cinnamon stick or powder in a 2-quart heavy saucepan.
Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally (more often toward end of cooking to prevent sticking), until thickened and reduced to about 2 1/2 cups, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Discard cinnamon stick (if using) and cool preserves. Transfer to an airtight container and chill, covered.
Cooks' note: • Preserves keep, chilled, 1 month.