Crack(er)ing the Mystery of Lavash

A few months ago, I made crackers; or, rather, I tried to make crackers. What I made was a crumbly mess. I didn’t even bother trying to bake them.  So, when it came time to make the Lavash Crackers for the BBA Challenge, I was a little nervous. All the more so because my cracker fail was with a different Peter Reinhart recipe.

Although I guess I must not have been too nervous, as I decided to make two batches of crackers — one with yeast and the other sourdough. I figured I’d mix the dough according to the recipe in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and then try my hand at sourdough crackers. That way, I’d have an idea what the dough should look and feel like.

I gathered my ingredients and started mixing.

Lavash Cracker Ingredients

If you make these crackers, you’ll notice that the recipe calls for honey and oil (in that order). If you weigh your ingredients (and you should), I recommend that you to measure your oil first, then use the same bowl to measure the honey. The oil remaining in the bowl with keep the honey from sticking.

PR points out that this is a very stiff dough, somewhere between French bread and bagel dough, and he recommends kneading it by hand. I took him at his word, and kneaded the dough for 10 minutes.

Kneading Lavash Crackers

As you can see, it was a rather small lump of dough, so even though it was pretty stiff, it wasn’t much of a chore to knead. I had added all but about an ounce of the water called for in the recipe to get the dough to come together, and I found I had to add a bit of flour to get the it to the correct consistency — stiff, supple and not at all tacky. I got a nice window pane at the end of 10 minutes of kneading, and set the dough aside to ferment.

After about 90 minutes, I rolled out the dough. I found that I didn’t have to stop and rest it, as PR said I might. Rather, the dough rolled out beautifully with almost no pull-back. I had decided to bake the crackers on my Silpat, so I rolled the dough out to the edges, which made it somewhat larger than the recipe called for. But I figured, the thinner the better for crackers.

Rolling Lavash Crackers

I topped the dough with alternating rows of sesame and poppy seeds, and sprinkled Diamond Crystal kosher salt over the whole thing.

Lavash Crackers with poppy & sesame

Then I cut the edges into a nice rectangle, and cut the crackers into diamonds.

Lavash Crackers Cut

While the Lavash dough was fermenting, I mixed up the dough for my sourdough crackers. I had just fed Adrian the night before, and I measured out 5 ounces into my mixing bowl. Since I keep my starter at 100% hydration, I cut back the flour and water in the recipe by 2 1/2 ounces each. And of course I omitted the yeast. I had to use almost all of the water to get the dough to come together, and again added quite a bit of flour during kneading. And I had to knead a few extra minutes to achieve a window pane.

The sourdough didn’t rise much during the bulk ferment, and I let them go a bit longer than the straight dough. But the dough still rolled out nicely and easily stretched to cover my Silpat.

I decided to top the sourdough crackers with pumpkin and sunflower seeds  and Maldon smoked sea salt. (Aside: if you haven’t tried smoked sea salt yet, do yourself a favor and sneak a box into your shopping bag or your next King Arthur order.)

Sourdough Lavash with pumpkin & sunflower

PR notes that you can cut the dough into crackers before you bake it or bake it whole and break it into pieces for a more rustic look. I decided not to cut the sourdough crackers. I don’t know if it was the difference in the dough or if I had underfermented the sourdough and so ended up with monster oven spring, but whatever the cause, my sourdough crackers blew up like a giant pita.

Baked Lavash Crackers

Both batches were delicious and have helped me overcome my fear of homemade crackers. The sourdough version may not be much to look at, but I think the combination of the seeds, sourdough and smoked salt gave these crackers the clear edge in the taste department.

Chalk up another great recipe for Peter Reinhart. And another baking challenge for me.

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13 Comments

  1. February 5, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    [...] Of Cabbages & King Cakes [...]

  2. misterrios said,

    September 19, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Awesome crackers. Funny about the sourdough, but I guess “It’s Alive!”

  3. September 16, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    [...] Michelle of Big Black Dog made each cracker ‘finger” multi-flavoured Our buddy Phyl Of Cabages and King Cakes made both cut and snap types. Carolyn of Two Skinny Jenkins did some lovely artsy crackers. Jeff of [...]

  4. Mustangterri1958 said,

    September 5, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Lovely crackers. Thanks for teaching me a bit before I try them. Glad they came out for you.

    • gaaarp said,

      September 5, 2009 at 11:36 am

      Thanks. These were fun to make and really delicious. If you want really thin, crispy crackers, make two pans out of one batch of dough (see my updated reply to comment #3 below). Good luck!

  5. September 1, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Your post reads like a fairy tale with a happy ending. The crackers are beautiful. I just bought a jar of smoked jalapeno fleur de sel so I think I’ll “crack” it open for this occasion. Thanks for the idea!

    • gaaarp said,

      September 1, 2009 at 11:00 am

      Thanks. Definitely go for the smoked salt; it was amazing on the crackers.

  6. mags said,

    September 1, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Your crackers turned out wonderful! I’m making mine today and hope for success too.

    • gaaarp said,

      September 1, 2009 at 10:59 am

      I’m making a second batch today, too! These were such a bit hit with my family, they want more. I’m going to try making two batches out of one recipe of dough, so they will be rolled really thin.

      Update: I made the two-fer batch this afternoon. It worked out great. The dough didn’t stretch out quite as far as the original batch, but the crackers were paper thin and crispy. I did a repeat of the smoked sea salt and pumpkin seed crackers, and did the other pan with cracked pepper, sea salt and a sprinkle of cornmeal.

      My other experiment was with scoring the crackers. I did one batch with a fork and the other with a serrated knife. I didn’t cut the dough with the knife, I just pressed the knife into the dough in rows. The “knifed” crackers came out better — nicely scored and easy to break into pieces.

  7. Nancy/n.o.e said,

    August 31, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    When I finally get to the crackers (us slow folk are on cinnamon bread now) it will all be completely new for me, so I’m glad to have your tips. Beautiful crackers – both versions!

  8. Di said,

    August 31, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Both versions look great! I’ve done the large sheet of lavash before, but I can’t remember if I docked it before baking or not. That might help reduce the pita effect.

  9. August 31, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Your crackers look great! I’ll be attempting them for this week’s challenge. Wish me luck!

    • gaaarp said,

      August 31, 2009 at 5:20 pm

      Thanks, Cathy! I’m sure your crackers will be great. I think next time I might score them with a fork to make perferations.


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