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.)
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.
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.
(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
- 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.