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baking, cooking, and other adventures

The Daring Bakers’: Vegan Crackers and Dips September 27, 2008

When I saw that this months Daring Bakers’ Challenge was chosen by two of the Alternative Daring Bakers : Natalie from Gluten A Go Go, and co-host Shel, of Musings From the Fishbowl.  They chose for this months recipe to be Lavash Crackers from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

The Challenge was to make Lavash Crackers and create a dip/spread/salsa/relish to accompany it.  The catch was that all dips/spreads/relishes/salsas must be vegan and gluten free.  So essentially it is Vegan Crackers and Dip.  I was sad for a second that it wasn’t something sweet.  Then I was extremely happy for two reasons: it was vegan, and it was savory.  I have been making so many sweet dishes lately that savory was a nice change.  I was happy that it was vegan not because I am vegan (I am an omni actually) but because if you are a regular reader you know about my Vegan Adventure.

This challenge gave me the chance to make my first vegan dips and to make a recipe out of VeganomiconVeganomicon is the most recent vegan cookbook by Isa and Terry.  If you could imagine The Joy of Cooking for Vegans, that is what this book is.  I have been making most of my vegan recipes from Isa and Terry’s first two books: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and Vegan with a Vengeance.

Funny thing is, I completely forgot that the dips had to also be gluten free.  Thanks to Isa and Terry for their handy little index in the back of the book that lists recipes that are Gluten Free, and luck would have that the two recipes I made happen to be that 🙂 YAY!!!

For the dips I ended up going with a Mediterranean-Style Cashew-Cucumber Dip, and an Asparagus and Spinach Dip.  Both dips were fantastic, but I prefer the Mediterranean-Style Cashew-Cucumber Dip.  It had a great flavor and completely reminded me of tzatziki and brought me back to my college days sitting in that little Greek restaurant eating my Pita Pizza and dipping it in tzatziki.  Only difference is that this one was vegan, and it had a little kick to it.  Courtesy of me, of course.  I ended up sprinkling some black pepper in the dip and it gave it a nice zing.  You actually didn’t catch it when you were eating the dip; it was the after thought.  The Asparagus and Spinach Dip was very tasty, and I actually thought it was better as a warm dip.  Also, I think I put too much asparagus in the dip.  I forgot to use my scale, and just used what I thought was good.  I ended up modifying the recipe to make it easier and used 2 – 10 oz packages of frozen spinach, thawed, and squeezed of excess water.  It makes the recipe cheaper and quicker to make.  In case you were wondering this dip also makes a good side dish too, when it is warmed up.

The crackers turned out great.  I ended up sprinkling them with salt, pepper, and sesame seeds.  But as you can tell from the picture most of the seeds feel off.   Since I do not have a full sheet pan, and there is no way my oven can accomodate one.  I ended up baking this recipe on two half sheet pans.  I rolled the dough out as thin as possible, transfered it to the sheet pan, and then spread it the rest of the way in the sheet pan using my fingers.  The flavor of the crackers reminded me of Wheat Thins, yummy.

Lavash Crackers

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour
1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
1 Tbs (.75 oz) agave syrup
1 Tbs (.5 oz) vegetable oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1.  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 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2.  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 (see http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Bre … ong-Enough for a discription of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), 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.

3. 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).

4.  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.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit 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.

5.  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).

6.  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.

Mediterranean-Style Cashew-Cucumber Dip

Source: Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

1 pound seedless cucumber, peeled and grated (approx 1 1/2 cups, loosely packed)

1 cup raw cashews (5 oz)

2 large garlic cloves

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp lemon juice

pinch of ground white pepper

1 tbsp chopped fresh dill (optional)

A few kalamata olives, for garnish

Squeeze handfuls of grated cucumber over a medium-size bowl to remove as much juice as possible.  You can do this also by wrapping grated cucumber in a cheesecloth or heavy-duty paper towel.  Set aside the juice and place the squeezed cucumber in a larger bowl.

Combine the cashews, lemon juice, half the grated cucumber, garlic, olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper in a food processor.  Blend until creamy, scraping the sides of the processor bowl frequently.  add 1 to 3 tbsp of reserved cucumber juice to the sauce.  The final consistency should resemble a not-too-thick hummus.  Scrap into a medium-size bowl and stire in the remaining grated cucumber and chopped dill.  Cover and chill until ready to use.  IF serving alone, parnish with a drizzel of olive oil and a few kalamata olives, if desired.

Asparagus-Spinach Dip

Source: Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

1 tbsp olive oil

4 cloved garlic, chopped

1 pound asparagus, rough ends removed, cut into 2 inch lengths

1 pound spinach (about 2 bunches), washed well, stems removed, chopped coarsly

1/3 cup water

1 cup raw cashews

3 tbsp capers, with brine

salt to taste

Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (1/2 lemon)

Preheat a large pan over medium heat.  Sauté the garlic in the oil for about a minute, until fragrant, stirring to keep it from burning.  Add the asparagus and water, cover, and bring to a boil.  Let boil for about 5 minutes, until the asparagus is bright green.  Lower the heat to medium.  Add the spinach in batches, letting the leaves wilt so that there is room in the pan for more.  Cver the pan to make the wilting go faster; ot should take about 3 minutes.  Once all the spinach has been added, cook uncovered for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the cashews, capers, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender and blend until the cashews are small, coarse crumbs.  Scrape downt the sides to make sure you get everything.

When the spinach is done cooking, add to the food processor and puree until relatively smooth.  try to get as much of the garlic from the pan as possible, and any remaining water.  Add the lemon juice, adjust salt and pepper if necessary, and transfer to a container.  Cover and chill for at least an hour.


4 Responses to “The Daring Bakers’: Vegan Crackers and Dips”

  1. RecipeGirl Says:

    Those dips sound amazing! I had a tough time getting goodies to stick to the top of my crackers too. I even tried using a bit of nonstick spray and then gently pressing the seeds into the dough. Helped a little but not tremendously!

  2. Lauren Says:

    Ooo, your lavash looks amazing, and those dips look wonderful!

  3. Angela Says:

    I’m really intrigued by the cashew-cucumber dip! Not a combination that I’d ever thought of, but it looks good!

    Your lavash look great 😀

  4. Di Says:

    Nice job on the crackers and dips. I had problems with my sesame seeds sticking, too. I even tried to press them in with my rolling pin, but it didn’t work.

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