Gourmandistan

Pita, parity, pasta makers and pressing the perfect lavash cracker

lavash and meze

Recently we’ve been messing around with meze, cracking the spines of Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem and Claudia Roden’s Arabesque and The New Book of Middle Eastern Food in search of small somethings to serve alongside what has turned out to be a surprisingly addictive version of David Lebovitz’s baba ganoush. (We’ve been roasting the thin-skinned Asian eggplants from our farm share under the broiler until charred and soft, then blending the skins and flesh into the mix. Smokily delicious!) We also needed something to scoop with, since Michelle frowns on simply dipping fingers into a jar or bowl. (Steve tried to explain about the difference between one’s left and right hands, but was ignored.)

lavash and baba ganoush

Steve thought of pita, and turned to Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, where he thought the editors had made a mistake since the page the index led to read “Lavash Crackers.” A sidebar informed him that “the same dough makes a nice pita bread,” as well as a softer, rollable kind of flatbread. All doughs being equal, we decided to go for the crunchy stuff—and that’s where Steve’s trusty pasta machine stepped in.

lavash

We first saw the cross-cultural benefits of a pasta press when we started making shao mai. And when Steve read that “the key to crisp lavash…is to roll out the dough paper thin,” he immediately enlisted the machine, which produced what you can see are quite lovely results. Making lavash isn’t much more of a chore than making matzo (though it does require more time due to its chametz nature) and it doesn’t necessarily even need a pasta machine. Salt, pepper, seeds, paprika or whatever spice you crave, this crunchy cracker is simple and sure to make your next meze a hit.

LAVASH CRACKERS

(adapted from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice)

  • 1-1/2 c. unbleached bread flour
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. instant yeast
  • 1 TB honey
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1/3 to 1/2 c. water, room temperature
  • Salt
  • Optional black and white sesame seeds, poppy seeds, paprika, kosher salt, pepper and/or cumin seeds

Stir together the flour, salt, yeast, honey and oil. Stir in the water, using only enough to bring everything into a somewhat dry yet kneadable ball. Knead the dough by hand on a floured surface or in a stand mixture fitted with a dough hook for about 10 minutes, until it’s smooth and supple. Place the ball of dough into a lightly oiled bowl, making sure the dough ball is coated with oil on all sides.

Let the dough rise for about 90 minutes or until at least doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

After rising, use a rolling pin or pasta press to form paper-thin sheets of dough. To use a pasta press: put the dough into pieces that will fit through the press, rolling the sheets to level 5 thinness. Alternatively, roll the dough out as thin as you can with a rolling pin on a floured surface, then slice into 3′” to 4″ wide pieces. Place the dough sheets onto parchment paper-lined baking trays. Let rest for about 5 minutes.

Moisten the tops of the dough sheets with water from a spray bottle, then sprinkle on salt and seeds or spices to taste. (We used a combination of black and white sesame seeds, poppy seeds, paprika, salt and cumin seeds.)

Bake for about 15 minutes, until the crackers are brown, crispy and puffed. While still hot and on the baking sheet, cut with a knife into whatever size you want.  Or break into shards once cooled.

About these ads

64 comments

    • Thank you! (She who made neither the crackers nor the baba ganoush says. :)) The good thing is the crackers do stay fresh for several days if you keep them out of the air.

  1. Absolute brilliance on pasta maker — need to try that cross-utilization technique very soon! And I really really wish my dinner tonight had consisted of everything in that first picture. Looks fantastic!

    • I really have grown to love Middle Eastern food of late. Though I do have a problem. With every dish I make, I think of another I want to go along with it. Consequently, it takes hours and hours before we can eat!

  2. Janet Rörschåch

    What a winner, and absolutely love that you are utilizing kitchen tools outside the box! Smart bears. Will now see if Boulder library has a copy of Roden’s Arabesque. Cheers!

  3. Yes, I also learned fairly recently that pita and lavash bread do use the same dough! But what a wonderful use for the pasta machine! I’ll have to try that way next time I prepare a mezze-dinner. The other dishes on the picture look heavenly too!

  4. I’ve used my pasta machine when making crackers, too, though mine aren’t nearly the beauties you’ve created. It’s just that my use of a rolling pin leaves very much to be desired. It’s either use the pasta machine or make a cracker about as thick as a Chicago-style pizza. :)

    • It is a great idea, isn’t it? Steve has “bad wrists” as he calls them, so he’s always looking for a way to use machines instead. (And I’m quite sure that your crackers were beautiful.)

    • Thanks, Rosemary. As I said to somebody above, though, this Middle Eastern kick is quite time-consuming because every dish makes me think of another I want to go along with it.

  5. How incredibly good is Arabesque?! I covet my mum’s version and have made quite a few things from it – I must get Jerusalem – people rave about it. And I echo comments above…sheer genius to use the pasta maker….the opportunities are endless!

    • Arabesque is lovely. Every time I look at it I find something else I want to make. I haven’t cooked from Jerusalem much, though I’ve drooled over the pictures. I like Ottolenghi’s earlier books, too.

      • You know what they say about great minds. :) Yes, Lebovitz’s recipes are always good. I have never much liked eggplant except in Asian preparations and have often loathed baba ganoush.. But this totally made me rethink! Maybe if I ever had a good one, I’d even like moussaka! (Though I doubt it.)

        • I completely understand what you mean… Eggplants are too squishy after cooking. The baba ganoush however is completely different. I could keep eating it… So creamy & mousse like. Perhaps charring it removes some of that moisture that makes it squishy.

  6. Love this. I am addicted to Jerusalem at the moment, I just tried the hummus recipe and it is amazing. If you like meze recipes, The Moro Cookbook my other favourite middle-eastern cookbook, it has fantastic recipes.

  7. These look fantastic, and the pasta machine makes so much sense, saves hours of rolling. I have just made some venison liver pate and was contemplating what cracker to make, now solved by your sharing of this lovely recipe, plus I can use some of the mountain of black sesame seeds I have :) Love your choice of cookbooks, some of my most used recently too. Thanks.

  8. Genius! I’ve never thought to use the pasta roller for lavash. Think of all that time I’ve wasted with the pin! I’ve made Peter Reinhart’s lavash crackers—a wonderful alternative to hands (left OR right).

    • Sometimes I think Steve uses tools when doing it the old-fashioned way would be easier. But I agree that this technique really worked. Wish we still had some of those crackers. :)

  9. Ooh, love! I have never thought of using my pasta press for yeast based doughs, I would have assumed they would get all gummed up. But they do not, eh? Wonderful. I will make this, as I too have been making a lot of (my own) baba ghanoush with all of the new season eggplants.

    • Steve

      Even with honey and oil, I can keep this dough dry enough to squeeze through my machine. I’m becoming quite fond of crackers. This is not a good thing.

  10. The left/right hand explanations is exactly the same sort of thing that seems so compelling to me–and causes my wife to roll her eyes and tell me to stop talk. These look great, perfect with the baba ganoush. Ken

  11. This looks delicious ! I also love Yottam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks. I am French, but I hope I’ll be able to go to one of his restaurants in London, soon ! Your blog is really beautiful. Have a nice day.

  12. Pingback: Lavash with oregano, cheese and sesame seeds | So hungry I could blog

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,377 other followers

%d bloggers like this: