Seeded Sourdough Lavash Crackers
Made With Sourdough Discard And Other Goodness
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE bread, and that's not going to change! However, there are times when there is nothing as satisfying as a cracker. The crunch! The burst of flavor! These crackers are a bit of trouble, but I think you'll love the results!
We've been making these amazing crackers for at least 15 years, and they have so much history - both personal and culinary - I don't know where to start discussing them. I do know that every time we serve them, they are a big hit! People tell us we should sell them. Rolling them by hand is such a bother, we never felt we could do that. Now that we have a pasta machine, we're reconsidering. Lavash crackers are related to Lavash bread which a Persian friend tells me, "is is the best bread in the world." When we gave her some of these crackers she told us that while they were OK, they weren't Lavash Bread. She was right, these are Lavash Crackers which are wonderful crackers. We like to break them into irregular shapes, put them in a basket or vase, and serve them with hummus, tahini or any dip. However, they are just fine all by themselves!
There are a number of great things about these crackers. They are a way to use up sourdough discard. We have made it with sourdough starter that has been sitting at room temperature for a week, alone, unfed and unloved (we do NOT advocate starter abuse, but, as the saying goes, stuff happens). We have made it with fresh and active starter. It always turns out great!
Another great thing about these crackers is their culinary flexibility. You can top them with herbs and/or spices to kick them up to another level, or leave them plain so they'll merely be delicious. You can mix in some spent brewers grain to add more crunch, more flavor, and have a way to use left over, or spent, grains from brewing beer. If you don't brew, spent grain is grain that was used to brew beer. The sugars have been extracted, but the fiber, fat and protein remain. Brewers usually have to pay to get rid of the grain, so you can usually get spent grain from a local brewer for free.
Yet another great thing about these crackers is how wonderful they taste and how popular they are. Once people try them on a buffet, they tend to munch on the crackers until they are gone.
The dough for Lavash crackers is VERY stiff. However, it softens in the overnight rise, so don't give in to common sense and add more water - it isn't needed. Really. Also, if you use a KitchenAid mixer, don't scale this recipe up too far - it is a HEAVY load for a KitchenAid!
|Volumetric Measure (Cups)||Ingredient||Grams||Baker's Percentage (4)|
|1/8 Cup||Water||25 Grams||9.9%|
|2 TBSP||Honey (1)||36 Grams||14.5%|
|1 2/3 TBSP||Olive Oil||24 Grams||9.7%|
|3/4 Cup||Active Sourdough Starter||170 Grams||69%|
|2 Cups + 1 TBSP||Bread Flour||250 Grams||100%|
|1/4 Cup||Brewers Spent Grain (Optional, but delightful)||25 Grams||10%|
|3/4 Tsp||Salt||5 Grams||1.9%|
- If you prefer to not use honey, you may substitute a light sweetener such as Agave syrup. I wouldn't use molasses, ribbon cane syrup or other heavier sweeteners as they would overwhelm the delicate taste of these crackers.
Knead the ingredients for 5 minutes, cover and let rest 5 minutes. Knead another 5 minutes. This dough is VERY stiff, so it may require longer kneading to become a smooth dough. I know it is counter intuitive, but the timings are the same whether you are using an electric mixer or are kneading by hand. With a dough this stiff, I do not recommend the stretch and fold process.
Cover the dough and allow it to ferment overnight. In the morning it will be a much more manageable dough. While you can roll out the dough using a rolling pin, we suggest using a pasta roller. In the movies we'll add in the next week or twelve, we are using a KitchenAid pasta roller. We have also used a manual Atlas pasta machine.
Get ready for the next step by lining four half size sheet pans with bakers parchment or silpat. You may use larger pans if your oven will hold them. Preheat your oven to 350F/175C.
The video above walks you through rolling out the cracker dough, which is very similar to rolling out pasta dough. If you have made pasta, you probably don't need to read the next few paragraphs or watch the video. In any case, divide the dough you let ferment overnight into several pieces more or less half a pound each, squash the dough a bit so it will go through the pasta machine and then lightly flour the dough. Set the pasta machine to the widest opening (0 or 1, on the machines I've seen). If you are using a KitchenAid pasta machine, start the mixer at speed 2. Then run the dough through your pasta machine. The dough will probably be a bit rough and ragged, and that's OK - it will get better! It may even shred apart! If it does, pat the shreds together and pass them through the machine again. The dough WILL get better! Fold the dough over in half lengthwise, flour the outside, and then run it through again. Repeat this step 3 or 4 times. The dough will get smoother and better developed each time. Do this for each dough ball.
Some people complain that pasta machines are too hard to clean. I used to be one of them. The issue is my, and their, dough was too wet. You want a dry dough. Flouring the dough helps keep the dough nicely workable. Let the pasta machine dry for an hour after you use it then use a brush to clean the machine. Do not use water to clean the pasta machine!
Once the dough is nicely smooth, close the pasta machine rollers 1 step. From 0 or 1 to 1 or 2. Run all of your dough balls (now sheets) through the pasta machine once. Close the machine another step and repeat. How thin do you want your crackers? I like my Lavash crackers very thin, so I roll the dough out to step 4 or 5, depending on the machine. I find I can put two strips of dough lengthwise into a sheet pan. Cut the dough to fit.
Once the dough is in the sheet I use a butter or table knife to cut each strip into two smaller strips. You don't have to cut all the way through as once baked the strips will break apart cleanly.
Using a spray bottle, mist the strips of dough. Sprinkle the dough with your choice of herbs, seeds and spices. We've enjoyed sprinkling the dough with anise seeds, caraway seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or coarse sea salt. Be careful with the salt as it will dissolve instantly making it hard to see how much is on the dough. Once baked, you'll again have salt crystals, and it is easy to have too many of them. Don't ask me how I know this.
We've not really enjoyed black sesame seeds on their own, finding them too bland, but they present an interesting visual contrast if mixed with white sesame seeds.
A friend of ours loves mixing nigella seeds and rosemary. If you do this, be sparing with the rosemary as it can take over the flavor of anything if used too heavily! We also like not topping them at all, but leaving them plain. As with focaccia, the crackers are a blank canvas and you can paint whatever you want on the canvas. If it works, you have a new recipe, if not, well, it wasn't that expensive an experiment!
Once the cracker dough is rolled, put on sheet pans, sprayed and seeded, and the oven is at temperature, put a few pans in the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the pans half way through the bake. You want a nice brown color without the crackers scorching. We bake these on the sheet pans so they won't get too dark. If you under-bake the crackers they will have an unpleasant doughy texture inside. Don't let this happen to you! You really should note the color of the crackers and shoot for a good color. Sometimes they are a bit light or dark if you just watch the timer. The timer is a reminder, not a harsh ruler!
Take the parchment out of the sheet pans, and then slide the crackers off the parchment onto cooling racks. The crackers will cool very quickly.
We like to break the long crackers into more manageable pieces and put them in baskets or jars on the table. And now all that's left is to enjoy the fruits of your labor!