p3: Lavash Crackers

#10, Lavash Crackers

My yearly Father’s Day dinner/brunch gift ended up belated this year, a combination of my father’s returning from vacation and a very busy last week I just had. A few days after getting back he made his official request: Tuna Tartar, Crab Cakes, and Lemon Bars. The last two have nothing to do with this post, but the tartar found me looking for something to serve it on top; originally, my thoughts went towards just grilling the white loaf bread I was PLANNING on making, but then I did a double-check through the book and found a more obvious answer. Instead of making that (maybe I’ll do it next week, we’ll see), wouldn’t it just be better to explore my first homemade cracker for the classic crispy route?

lavash-stack-800x562Lavash itself is one of a group of flatbreads made throughout the Middle-East and North Africa by different names and different thicknesses and baking; which makes me already feel better going into it. I’m sure even if I DO screw up getting them ideally thin, the main issue (supposedly ‘paper-thin’ is the goal), I’ll have probably made one of the other ones anyway! Now, back to the cracker itself, which has mainly Armenian and Iranian connections. One of the things that drew me to it, and the reason it’s in the book of course, being the fact it’s a yeasted, rising cracker, as opposed to the typical unleavened kind we’re actually used to. Definitely gives that extra element of intrigue and challenge; and as such more excuses for when I inevitably screw something up on this first try!

20150628_111717Recipe
1 ½ cup/6.75oz Bread Flour
½ tsp/0.13oz Salt
½ tsp/0.055oz Dry Yeast
1 Tb/0.75oz Honey
1 Tb/0.5oz Vegetable/Olive Oil
1/3-½ cup/3-4oz Water, Room Temp
Large-grain Salt and Whole Spices for topping

Directions

  1. Stir all measured ingredients together, starting with 1/3 cup of water and adding only as much as needed to bring everything into a ball.20150628_111903
  2. Sprinkle flour on counter and knead dough for about 10 minutes until it passes the windowpane test, is somewhat firm, not tacky or sticky, and stretches when pulled.20150628_112152
  3. Lightly oil bowl, transfer and roll dough to coat, covering tight with plastic wrap. Bulk ferment 90 minutes, or until doubled in size.20150628_135423
  4. Lightly mist counter with spray oil, plop dough down and press into a square, lightly dusting the top with extra bread flour.20150628_135713
  5. Taking a rolling pin, roll your dough out into a large rectangular shape (if able, or just a big circle-ish blob thing), until the dough is ‘paper thin,’ or as thin as one can make it. Every now and then, one will want to pause, briefly lift from the counter to let the dough ‘pull back,’ cover with a towel/plastic wrap, and let the dough rest before continuing. Otherwise the gluten will just end up tight and spring back when it’s moved and thus re-thicken up.
  6. Once rolled up, cover with towel and let relax 5 minutes.20150628_140802
  7. Preheat oven 350F.20150628_141358
  8. Transfer dough to parchment-paper lined sheet tray and mist the top with water.20150628_141937
  9. Taking your desired spices/seasonings, sprinkle a covering over the dough in whatever alternating, evenly distributed, shaped, or other pattern desired over the dough. May want to gently pat them down afterward.20150628_142328
  10. If one desires shaped crackers, take a pizza cutter and quickly slice through dough to create the desired shapes. Do not feel the need to get particularly deep and thorough cuts, as dough will easily snap apart at the creases once baked and cooled later.20150628_145521
  11. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (if crackers are thick and not cooked throughout like desired, lower oven temp to 275-300F by this point and cook until fully dried out).
  12. Remove from oven, let cool at least 10 minutes, and snap off shards or pre-cut shapes.20150628_175005
  13. Place into serving basket or other container and enjoy alongside desired dip, topper, or other use.

What Have I Learned This Time?

Thinner, THINNER Damn You! I mean me. Damn Me.

20150628_135928Even after rolling it out to what seemed really thin, having made sure it had rested a few times, and without it shrinking back down a bit after lifting up (and even so I sorta re-stretched it a bit wider again), I’m still damn sure this is thicker than desired. It took longer to cook too, likely leading to the probably-darker-than-desired result you see in the pictures. Next time I attack a recipe like this, I think I just have to set myself to the reality that rolling out the dough should take at least half an hour, giving it multiple ample resting periods to prevent draw-back and to make sure I can get it wide safely.

Two more things; the book stated a measurement of 15”x12”, what I basically got it to, and still not where it should have been. So I’m just gonna say F-it next time.

NO MORE FLIPPING! I’m not sure if you do this, but when rolling out pie doughs and the like, I’ve developed the habit of flipping the dough over every now and then to make sure no side gets particularly stuck to the counter; plus help with even rolling. This is a BIG No-No for the cracker apparently, when there’s oil on the counter; after a couple flips just made it sticky and hard to roll out, probably cuz it was mixing with the dusting of flour.

Less Salt, More Whole Spices… at least go easy on the sodium sprinkles if needed.

Any Thoughts?

Why did I cut them into triangles again? Tartar works so much better on rectangular-ish thingies…

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

Not sure, was hard to judge the dough itself this time, though it was rolling really well in the beginning so I think this one had potential to not hate my guts… good job me in turning that aside!

p3: Buckwheat Pita

20150608_171155#8, Buckwheat Pita

Think I may have mentioned, I have a bunch of buckwheat flour that I need to put to use, this after buying it for those Buckwheat Crepes a while back. Was hoping I could just find a fun and unique bread recipe to use this with… well, considering it’s completely gluten free, that adventure was basically shot to hell. All ‘breads’ that use this as the sole or majority are… barely breads, they’re like simple soda breads or beer breads, only the texture looks even worse. No kneading, shaping, proofing, etc, since… well, no gluten. There was one that seemed promising, with yeast and a simple rise, and I debated doing that, though the final product looked like a pile of… um, brown sticky expletive. Though to be fair, I think that may have been the writer’s fault, not the recipe (HAH! Screw you gluten free people!… I’m sorry).

T0713_buckwheat-pittes_001hen I came across a recipe for Buckwheat Pita Bread, a fun concept, and one that could actually yield some plausible results! It certainly looked good in the pictures, almost like a regular pita just with different colors, pressed flat and such. So I thought I’d go ahead and explore it!

Now, I will actually make note of some results before going into recipe. Firstly, again since there’s no way to knead it to smoothness, this really is quite the sticky dough! It gets better after the yeast ‘rises’ for an hour, but it’s still there. They use the technique of rolling between parchment paper, which is definitely better than on the counter, but transfer to the cooking surface still isn’t ideal. As such I decided to try out a few different methods to get my ideal transfer and cooking surface.

The recipe calls for sprinkling with polenta after rolling, which I’m coming to realize really doesn’t do anything for the situation. I brushed each side with olive oil before rolling, since the recipe also calls for brushing the oil in the skillet for cooking; that was certainly better, still not perfect, and I’m not exactly positive I actually liked having that oil on my personal cooking surfaces of the day. But my third experiment was practically perfect in its result! I’ve got it listed in the recipe.

20150608_190033Also, I mentioned a cast iron skillet, which is what the blogger used for his pita, and I’m sure can certainly be used to quite success for others. At the time however, and I’m now realizing is quite the coincidence, I had my electric crepe machine out from the day previous; considering how hot that gets, thought it’d be a fun thing to try using instead! And no, no it did not turn out that well (though it’s really hard to judge with these things… damn gluten-free, I shall vow to avoid it the rest of my life!), but I was running a secondary plan for half of my dough anyways, so no worries. A baking stone in a 500F oven did just the trick, so I can stop with the explanation talk and get to the recipe.

Recipe
375ml Lukewarm Water
10g Dry Yeast
500g Buckwheat Flour + extra for dusting
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 Tb Olive Oil

Directions

  1. Combine Water and Yeast, let sit 10-15 minutes to activate20150608_171459
  2. While this is happening, mix Flour, Sea Salt, and Oil. Once yeast is cloudy and activated, mix that in, working slowly until it all comes together into a dough (will be sticky)20150608_172826
  3. Cover with plastic, let rise for 1 hour20150608_184658
  4. Divide dough into 6 pieces (or just scoop out whatever sized chunk you want really), roll each piece into a ball and pat to a disk shape in your hand20150608_184955
  5. Set onto a piece of parchment paper, generously dusting each side of the dough with more buckwheat flour. Cover with another piece of parchment and gently roll out, rotating a bit with each roll, so it turns into a ¼” flat disk20150608_185210
  6. Poke a few holes with a fork and set aside20150608_190904
  7. Heat a cast iron skillet, or preheat oven with baking stone inside to 500F20150608_190041
  8. When ready, brush pan (perhaps stone too) with a bit of extra olive oil, and carefully transfer pita. Cook a few minutes, until lightly poofed up and the side has gained some color, flip and cook the same amount of time20150608_191709
  9. Transfer to cooling rack or plate and hold aside for use20150608_223128
  10. Brush with butter or oil while hot for a uniquely buckwheat experience, or let cool and carefully slice horizontally down the middle (helps to cut circle into two halves first) and stuff with your preferred fillings. Enjoy

What Have I Learned This Time?

My rolling skills are still shitty, though I did get a couple decent round guys going at one point.

Buckwheat doughs really do SUCK… can only make them not-sticky if you add a lot of the ‘flour,’ otherwise you’re stuck with sticky and little to no real rise.

20150608_190229The value of experimentation and persistence in solving problems… I mean, I already knew that, just had yet to apply it here, as mentioned with the whole not-so-easy rolling-out-and-transferring thing.

For sticky dough, if I need to transfer (and don’t NEED to worry too much about exact shape keeping), shaping on parchment paper first and then lifting and upending from the paper works really well! Sort of like pitas and other flatbreads in Indian that use that pillow thing to slap on the inside of a tandoor.

Any Thoughts?

If you DO make these, they really are best hot, with butter or something, when that funky buckwheat flavor is just upfront and the dough is sort of tender. Cold, it really isn’t much to compare to a regular pita, sort of chewy/dry-ish (and that was an interesting line, cuz they either feel like it’s still dough or just plain ‘dry’), and are really only good for cooking into pita chips or dipping, for heavy soakage, in a soup or stew of some sort.

Found it interesting that the original recipe person said he wanted to make them thinner since this thickness felt chewy, which I can definitely see. But I just cannot see getting thinner and then transferring to a pan, no matter how much buckwheat flour or whatever technique one uses. And if anything, even this thick it’s hard as hell to slice down the middle to make a sandwich pocket; so I’d actually rather make them THICKER, hope it solves its usefulness issues.

Though very likely I’ll just make an all-flour pita next time. I am very interested in it now! But that’ll be quite a while in the future, I wanna go back to my book for the next few recipes.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

No, but to be fair I’m pretty sure this one just has a bad attitude.