Polly want a ___? This month's Daring Bakers challenge was a recipe for crackers... and it was a vegan recipe to boot! Our hosts, Natalie of Gluten A Go Go, and Shel, of Musings From the Fishbowl, dared us to bake the recipe for Lavash Crackers from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, and to create whatever vegan spreads we found interesting. My first reaction was, "YAY!!! A savory challenge!" Then I thought, "crackers? you can actually make crackers?" Who knew?
I know that some of you have probably made crackers before, but I've never done that. Actually, I'd never even thought that you could make crackers (they're fairly straightforward). I know, d'uh. So, even though it was an "easy" recipe, it was a challenge for me... and another one I'll make again. Natalie and Shel also suggested options for making these crackers gluten free. It was my intent to try this as well, but you know how things go... So, at the last minute, I made the crackers using a mix of all purpose and wheat flours.
Lane and I were not disappointed. In fact, the crackers were so delicious, we wound up eating the entire tray ourselves. The recipe doesn't indicate how many servings... but I would definitely double it for company. Also, I rolled the dough a bit unevenly (intentionally). I was curious to which crackers tasted better - thinner versus thicker. We both preferred the thinner version. As for spices, I used salt across the entire cracker dough, and then added poppy seeds to ¼ of the tray, rosemary and garlic to ¼, and cumin to ¼. We didn't notice much difference... so next time, I'll probably just stick with the salt.
The salsa recipe, recommended by Natalie and Shel was amazing. It was a honeydew-peach salsa. I used a crenshaw melon and white nectarines instead because that's what I had at home. I've never been inclined to make a fruit salsa before. I've had them and enjoyed them, but they're not quite my cup of tea. This recipe has changed my mind.
So, overall, a very happy challenge for me.... The recipes are below if you'd like to try them. And many thanks to Natalie and Shel for a fun and yummy challenge.
Lavash Cracker Recipe:
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
- 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. (I needed all the water.)
- 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.
- 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).
- 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. (Next time I'll roll mine out even larger... we liked the thinner crackers much better.) 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 (I used my Matfer Exopat 11-5/8-by-16-3/8-Inch Nonstick Baking Mat, which is perhaps one of the best baking tools I own!). 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
The Salsa recipe was a Honeydew - Peach Salsa from The Splended Table.
* juice of 1 lime
* 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
* 1/4 to 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
* 1 Red Fresno and 1 Hot Yellow minced chile (seeds removed)
* 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar,
* 1/2 ripe sweet honeydew melon, cubed into bite-sized pieces
* 4 small, ripe peaches, peeled and cubed into bite-sized pieces
* salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1/3 cup minced fresh coriander, or coriander and mint combined
In a medium bowl blend the lime juice, garlic, onion and chilies. Let stand 20 minutes, then blend in sugar and fruits with salt (a generous pinch) and pepper (to make piquant) to taste. Refrigerate up to 3 hours. Fold in fresh herbs just before serving.