Monday, July 23, 2007

an ancient bread

a bread of antiquity, lavash is common to many mediterranean and middle eastern countries, covering an area from turkey all the way to the caucasus. its origin is said to have come from persia (today iran) where it is still very popular. mostly, it seems, it is commonly associated with armenian and turkish food despite it being found far and wide.

a daily bread composed of nothing more than wheat flour, yeast, water and some salt, lavash can be either soft or dry and crisp and comes in a variety of shapes such as round, rectangular or oval. depending upon its country of origin, it can also sometimes garnished with sesame seeds and salt. this important bread is found in sizes from fairly small to extremely large.

as with many ancient breads, lavash is traditionally cooked in a clay or brick style oven which is set in the ground commonly known as a tandoor (though the name changes from country to country). halfway down page of this site, you can see how they make it in a tonir (tandoor) oven; the breads are very large. you can also see it being cooked here and here. the original "ovens" however were most likely large rocks heated in a fire.

lavash, as found here in north american supermarkets, is dry and sold as a crackerbread. it can be easily made yourself in a very hot oven with really good results as i show below. it is excellent on its own or used as a spoon or eating utensil for dips such as hoummous b'tehina or those made with sour cream or yogurt, like tzadziki.


lavash

often called, or marketed as a 'cracker bread' in north america, this stores for a very long time without any deterioration in flavour and is good for entertaining or everyday snacking. bake it on a cool day though as the oven needs to be at its highest temperature for best results. you can cut the recipe in half, too, if the full amount is too much. this version uses yogurt but it can be omitted — just increase the water content to replace it.

makes 10 lavash

ingredients:

1/2 oz (14 gr) fresh yeast or 2 tsp dry* (instant preferable)
1/2 c warm water
4 tbsp plain yogurt
1/2 c warm water, plus extra as needed

2 1/2 c bread flour (AP is ok)
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp salt


method:

if using fresh yeast, dissolve it in the half cup of warm water and mix until completed incorporated.

if using dry instant yeast, prove the yeast in the 1/2 c warm water but add a 1/4 tsp sugar*. if using active dry type, use 2 1/4 tsp of yeast.

once proved, add the yogurt and the extra 1/2 c warm water and mix will until all is blended.

while the yeast is proving, mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl or mixer.

in the center of the flour, add the wet mixture and mix until you get a ball of dough. you may need to add up to 1/4 c extra warm water depending on the season and day you're making it. add the extra water in tablespoons. the dough should be fairly stiff.

knead the dough for a full 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.

put the dough in the bowl again and add 2 tsp oil and coat the ball of dough. cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place to rise.

the rising time will vary with the temperature and type of yeast you are using. it can take anywhere from 1 hour to 2 or 3 hours. the dough should double. i put mine in the oven with the pilot light on.

once doubled, punch the dough down and make it into a ball again. cover and put it back for 1/2 hour this time and then remove it to the counter.

preheat your oven at this point to its highest temp., minimum of 450 F. and place two baking sheets in it which can withstand the temperature. they need to be absolutely hot.

take the dough and divide it in half. keep one half of the dough covered.

with the first half, divide the dough evenly into 5 balls (make a rope 10 inch long and cut every 2 inches). cover 4 of them with a towel or plastic wrap to prevent drying out.

on a well floured surface, roll the lavash in a round shape. do this to the next one and let the first one rest while you are rolling number 2. go back to the first and stretch it with your hands trying to make it thinner. make sure to reflour your work surface, and roll it out as thinly as you can, turning the dough every so often. try not to make any rips in the dough. it will be delicate. remember, it takes some practice so if the first don't work too well, keep persevering.

continue the process with the other balls. your timing and rolling will depend on your rolling space and how quickly your oven heats to the right temperature.

carefully remove one of the pans and quickly and carefully slap down the lavash and return it right away to the oven and let cook for only 6 to 8 minutes. they will bubble up and brown a bit.

the timing will depend on your oven so i cannot give you exact times. i can tell you, however, that i turn the lavash half way through (3.5 min per side @ 500F). the lavash will be darker around the edges but that is okay. they need to be very, very crisp and not chewy. note that they will crisp further as they cool. example below is half cooked and not dark enough yet.

continue rolling and stretching the other lavash while they are baking. you can stack the uncooked ones, but make sure to use parchment between each of them to prevent sticking.

remove and place on cooking racks. store them in plastic bags. they will be good for a long time.

serve with your favourite dip and enjoy!

8 comments:

Nafeesah said...

Wow....that looks interesting, at first glance I thought it was one of those arab breads which they bake in those clay ovens...I dunno what they call them in english, and i just knew it as khubz..but this is totally different.

In the first pic what is that lump in the bowl? I'm guessing it's yeast? is that what you call fresh yeast then?

Also, what types of dips do you recommend for this kind of bread BB? :D Your recipes are so interesting!! ;)

Roberto said...

Interesting....mmmm

burekaboy — said...

hi nafeesah - i'm sure it's a cousin to "khoubz" :) comes from the same part of the world and is cooked (originally) the same way. only difference is the final texture.

yup, that's fresh yeast. weird, huh? LOL. feels like plasticine that kids use in school. also has a strong 'yeast' smell to it but it works very well. down side to it is that it takes a bit longer to work (rise) that regular dried yeast, i find. it also doesn't keep for long periods of time, so you have to use it up or freeze it in portions. this one was frozen.

as for dips for the lavash, anything goes basically. whatever you like. i like tzadziki, hoummous, salsa, etc. the lavash is quite crisp and crunchy (and 'plain ' tasting) so it goes well with a dip of some sort.

roberto - hola ;)

Maninas said...

looks great! :)

Emily DeVoto, Ph.D., said...

Whoa, my computer dies for a few days and you gets extra busy! Looking forward to delving into some of these new, cool recipes...

burekaboy — said...

hi em - ooooh, sorry to hear about the computer thing. hope all is back to normal (or better). yep, miss a few days and you've missed the parade! LOL ;) hope you like what you try; it's mostly summer fare. i'm sure the lavash would be good for your brunches or pot lucks. they look pretty impressive when whole. they don't taste like much on their own though (reminds me of matza) — much better with mezze stuff.

Tammy said...

Hi Burekaboy,

I thought while I'm waiting patiently for my crumpet rings to arrive, I'd try this recipe. Question again being: What do I replace the bread/AP flour with? I hope you don't get tired of answering my flour question. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge. Thanks so much.
Tammy

burekaboy — said...

tammy - perhaps try making a 1/2 recipe the first time around to see if it works and if you like it -- can't guarantee anything as i've never used anything but what i posted for ingredients.

try using 50/50 spelt & pastry for the AP and then use whatever wholewheat you normally use. i imagine that should work.

make sure to bake these well as i mention in the post; this will make them nice a crispy as they cool. also, roll VERY thinly.

good luck :) let me know how it goes with your trial/s.