So I've gone and done it. I've joined the Daring Bakers!
September was my first challenge, and what a challenge it was! This month's hosts are alternative bakers Natalie from Gluten A Go Go, and Shel, of Musings From the Fishbowl. They chose a vegan and/or gluten-free challenge: Lavash crackers and vegan and gluten free dips, spreads and toppings.
For a dish to be called vegan, it cannot contain any animal product or byproduct (this includes dairy, honey, etc.). Gluten free means that it cannot contain any wheat, barley, rye, or other grains or food additives that contain gluten.
Lavash crackers are a very thin, crispy cracker often topped with poppy seeds or sesame seeds. For the crackers, we had the option to make them gluten-free or use all-purpose flour. I chose the all-purpose flour route because I had plenty of it on hand. Peter Reinhart, the recipe's author, says that the key to a crisp lavash is to roll out the dough paper thin. I thought that I had rolled the dough out thin enough when I put it in the oven, but I found the crackers to be far too thick. Next time I'll roll them much thinner!
Source: The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart
1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour or all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon agave syrup or sugar (I chose to use agave syrup which you can find in many health and natural food stores. I bought mine at Trader Joe's.)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, at room temperature
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings (I went with cumin, caraway seeds and sesame seeds.)
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 amount of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.
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. The dough should be 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. 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.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F 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.
I chose to make two toppings for my crackers. The first was a spread that was suggested by the challenge hosts, Tahitian Almond Dipping Sauce. This is a sweet and very thick dip. It would be a nice topping for celery sticks.
Tahitian Almond Dipping Sauce
Source: The Complete Book of Raw Food by Robert Yarosh and Lisa Soto
1 1/2 cups almond butter
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (you may want to add more juice or add some water, depending on the consistancy you like)
1 1/2 tablespoons agave syrup
Blend all ingredients together until smooth (in your blender or food processor).
For my second topping, I went with an Alton Brown recipe that I adapted in order to make it vegan. I was apprehensive at first about substituting a dairy product for a vegan soy product, but I really could not tell the difference! The flavor of the vegan cream cheese was so similar to regular cream cheese.
Roasted Vegetable Spread
Adapted from: Alton Brown
1 red bell pepper, sliced into rings
1 medium onion, sliced into rings
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the bell pepper, onion, garlic, zucchini, and olive oil in a medium mixing bowl and toss until the vegetables are coated. Spread the vegetables evenly on sheet pan lined with foil and place in the oven. Roast, tossing occasionally, until they are soft and are beginning to turn brown around the edges, approximately 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
Place the vegetables in the bowl of a food processor along with the cream cheese substitute and process until well combined and spreadable; do not process until completely smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to one week.
This was my first attempt at making a vegan dish. I will admit that I was a bit intimidated at the beginning of the challenge. Not only did I have to make a vegan dish, but this was also my first time using yeast. (I know ... for shame!) In the end though, I think everything turned out fine. Though, I will say that I don't think I'll be going vegan any time soon.
I'm looking forward to next month's challenge and now that I've completed my first challenge, I can happily say that I'm a proud member of the Daring Bakers! Yay!
Now hop on over to the blogroll and check out what the rest of the Daring Bakers did with the challenge!