Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Lavash Crackers

This month's challenge was hosted by Natalie of Gluten A Go Go and Shel of Musings From The Fishbowl.

It's been a long time since I have made lavash crackers (think culinary school-5 years ago), and I had forgotten how easy and tasty they are! I'm glad to have had a reason to make them again, for they shall surely become part of my regular menu! I have listed the recipe and directions below, and the cool thing about it is that they are already gluten free, so I didn't even have to make any changes! Score!!

I made mine with 2 separate toppings: half with cinnamon-sugar and half with kosher salt. We were also required to make a dip that had to be gluten free as well as vegan. I only made one dip, which is meant for the cinnamon crackers. Technically, it's not even a dip, it is an icing. I just whisked together about 1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar with a splash of soy milk and about a tsp of vanilla. Easy shmeezy!

One thing I recommend is to use 2 silpats to roll the dough between if you have them, as wax paper really stinks to peel off of the crackers. I try to avoid wax paper at almost all costs. Also, gluten free dough hardly rises with yeast, so don't expect it to double in size, like the recipe says. It will still work just fine :)

On to the directions....

Here's a simple formula for making snappy Armenian-style crackers, perfect for breadbaskets, company and kids...It is similar to the many other Middle Eastern and Northern African flatbreads known by different names, such as mankoush or mannaeesh (Lebanese), barbari (Iranian), khoubiz or khobz (Arabian), aiysh (Egyptian), kesret and mella (Tunisian), pide or pita (Turkish), and pideh (Armenian). The main difference between these breads is either how thick or thin the dough is rolled out, or the type of oven in which they are baked (or on which they are baked, as many of these breads are cooked on stones or red-hot pans with a convex surface)...

The key to a crisp lavash is to roll out the dough paper-thin. The sheet can be cut into crackers in advance or snapped into shards after baking. The shards make a nice presentation when arranged in baskets.

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers*

*1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.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. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. 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. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

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 pre-cut 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.

6. 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.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Grain Fed Meat

I recently had someone ask me if it is safe for me to eat grain fed meat since the packaging doesn't specify what grains the animal eats. I had to stop and wonder, because in all of my research, I have never found anything talking about it. I don't know the answer to that question. I never even thought about it.

So my question for you today is if anyone knows if grain fed meat is safe for a gluten free diet. Please leave a comment and tell me your thoughts on this!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Shrimp Mac

This is a fairly classic dish that is so easy to make, and super delicious. I'm not a huge shrimp eater, but my husband loves the little buggers, so I try to surprise him sometimes. They are a bit expensive here in Colorado (I'm sure you can figure out why), so they are definitely a treat in our home.
This is a basic recipe that you can change up to fit your liking. I almost never make the same thing twice because I always change the ingredients to go along with what we have around the kitchen and what we are in the mood for. Go nuts and see what you end up with!

Shrimp Mac

1/2 Lb of 41/50 peeled and de-veined shrimp
1 lb of GF pasta (we like the Ancient Harvest Quinoa Veggie Curls here)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil (Extra Virgin is nice)
1 small Onion, diced small
1 or 2 cloves of Garlic, minced
2 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Cup Milk
a couple of handfuls of Spinach
2 Tbsp Corn Starch mixed with water to form a slurry
about 5 slices of Bacon, cooked to a crisp and chopped into bite-size pieces
Parmesan Cheese, sliced with a vegetable peeler
Salt and Pepper to taste
any herbs you like, we used rosemary, thyme and oregano

Cook your pasta according to the package directions. In the meantime, heat up the olive oil in a skillet, add the chopped onion and begin to sweat it (not caramelize). Add the minced garlic and cook for just a minute or two, then add the chicken stock and milk. Simmer for a few minutes, and add the corn starch slurry to thicken. Add the spinach (fresh or frozen is fine) until it is completely wilted. Season with the salt and pepper, as well as with your choice of herbs. Add the shrimp in and let them simmer until cooked. They only take maybe 5 minutes tops, until they are pink and a bit curled. Over-cooking will make them chewy and rubbery.

Toss the pasta and sauce together, sprinkle the bacon and parmesan slices over the top. Voila, pasta perfection!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Arepa BBQ Sandwich

During the summertime, my craving for BBQ sandwiches increases. This is my first summer eating gluten free, so it has been an adventure trying to convert all of my favorite recipes. I knew what I wanted, but was not feeling up to making sandwich buns. Enter the Arepa. This little puff of corn goodness is so easy to make, and is more than satisfactory in place of a bun. I used the same technique to make the Arepas that Shauna taught us, so I will not re-post a recipe for that, since she has done such a good job on it. The only change I made was instead of cooking them on a skillet or flat top first and then baking them in the oven, I just lightly oiled the outsides and popped them straight into the oven on a baking sheet. Super simple. I baked them for maybe 20 minutes...pretty much the time it took me to cook up the BBQ pork.
Arepa BBQ Sandwich

Technique for Arepas HERE

For the BBQ pork, I just took a pound or so of cubed pork and cooked it up with some sauteed onions, and added my favorite GF bottled BBQ sauce along with some salt, pepper and garlic powder for some extra spice. So easy! I then split the arepas with a thin knife and piled on the pork!! MMM, so tasty!
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