Lavash – Variations On A Good Thing
There is something very satisfying about a homemade cracker. There is also something very satisfying about making a forgiving cracker like this recipe for lavash, which is exceptionally difficult to mess up so badly that it doesn’t taste good.
Lavash is essentially a very thin flatbread which is thought to have originated in Armenia. In Toronto, almost every grocery store – and even many convenience stores – sell crispy pre-packaged lavash in a variety of flavours. You should know, however, that this is the bastardized North American understanding of lavash, and does not hit particularly close to home. Traditional lavash is soft and supple, rolled out in enormous paper thin sheets that can be up to a meter in diameter (that’s about 3 feet for my Yankee peeps). As it dries out it becomes crispier but still quite dissimilar to crackers as we know them. My dad would occasionally bring us a bag of real lavash (folded into a perfect square. How cool is that?!) when he went to pick up fresh pita from the Middle Eastern grocery store. I had no idea that this was lavash, I just thought of them as “The Big Pitas”. Note: they are nowhere close to pita, but I was a child. Don’t be judging.
In the mid 90′s, lavash went mass market in Canada. I first had grocery store lavash about 10 years ago. It was served with a plastic container of grocery store hummus. I will cast my eyes downwards as I say this, and may the food gods smite me down and curse me to a lifetime of burnt oatmeal breakfasts, but….it was love at first bite. Even the shoddy and tasteless excuse for a chickpea dip (oh, don’t get me started on why you should only eat homemade hummus!) was really just there as an excuse to eat more lavash, which was dipped into that paste as gingerly as possible and purely out of obligation.
Grocery store lavash is like an Elvis impersonator in Vegas – it is ubiquitous, trite and overdone. It is a farce when compared to the original, but still it’s something that we seek out from time to time and actively enjoy when it’s there. Traditional lavash is soft like a tortilla, while grocery store lavash is crispy and likes to snap. Lavash should be paper thin and almost translucent, but this is thicker and heartier. Grocery store lavash may be fragile, but never delicate like the real McCoynian. The problem is, as I see it, that I prefer this cheap, cop-out, counterfeit lavash more than the original thing. Who likes the movie more than the book? Who prefers cheez to cheese? Who likes George W. better than…..oops, better not go there. Anyway, NOT ME most of the time…except with lavash.
Ergo, here I present to you some cheap, cop-out, counterfeit lavash that you can make at home. And it’s easy. And it’s fast. And it’s oh, so very guiltily delicious. So go ahead….make some fake lavash, and OWN it. Don’t just do it, do VARIATIONS. Two of them, to be precise. Neither one is traditional, but both are very tasty and you might just like them better than the real thing. You’d be surprised. I certainly was.
(If this blog had an Armenian audience, they are officially lost to us forever)
Lavash – Variations On A Good Thing
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup plain yoghurt
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- cold water as needed
Variation One – Sesame Spiced:
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp garam masala
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp ground coriander
- 1.5 tbsp sesame seeds
Variation Two: Rosemary and Poppy Seed:
- 3/4 tsp dried rosemary
- 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1.5 tbsp poppy seeds
If you would prefer to only make 1 flavor of lavash, feel free to double the quantities of spice/seasoning and make 1 batch instead of diving the dough.
In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Make a well in the center and pour in the yoghurt and extra virgin olive oil. Mixing from the inside of the well and going outwards, start stirring these together.
As the dough starts to bind it will be easier to stir by using your hands and kneading slightly. If it is not coming together in a ball, add cold water 1 tbsp at a time until it forms an easily workable dough. If it is too dry, it will look like this:
The dough should be moist and not dry because extra dry ingredients will be added through the spices and seasoning. How much water to add will depend on two factors:
1. The water content in the yoghurt.
2. How dry the flour is.
My house tends to be a bit dry and I prefer a thicker Greek or Middle Eastern yoghurt, so I generally add up to 1/3 cup of water. The thing is though, using a soupier yoghurt (like an Astro) often means no water at all needs to be added, so you can use your discretion. Go by touch – it should not be sticky and if you pull off a chunk you should be able to roll it out without the dough sticking to the work surface. If it is too dry to do this, add slightly more water until it feels good and Play-doh like. If you’re used to making bread, this isn’t a glossy and elastic dough, but it should hold together nicely and be easy to knead.
Divide the dough into two (2) equal portions. Into one half add the rosemary and sugar.
Into the other half add the Indian spices, with the exception of the sesame seeds.
Knead each of the doughs several times, working them until the welcome new additions are evenly mixed into the mounds. The turmeric has a gorgeous ochre hue that will start to permeate through the ball. Don’t worry if it looks evey so slightly mottled. This will become more uniform as it bakes, and a bit of color variation is rather charming, don’t you think?
Preheat the oven to 400F and let the dough rest in the fridge for about 10 minutes as it heats up.
Divide each ball of dough into 2 pieces, and pull out your first piece. Keep the others covered so that they don’t dry out.
Measure out a piece of parchment paper the same size as your baking sheet, and put this down on the work surface. Roll the dough out as thinly as you possibly can. It should be less than 1/8 inch thick. Try to make sure that the thinness is uniform so that some parts don’t cook faster than others. You should have a round-ish shape, but look at mine! I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and that’s okay because a rustic look is totally acceptable here. This will be about 11 inches in diameter.
Sprinkle 1/2 of the seeds onto the dough. Run your rolling pin over the whole thing again, pressing the seeds right in. Using a sharp knife cut straight into long strips of about 1 – 1.5 inches, but don’t take these off the paper.
Carefully lift up the parchment paper and slide it onto a baking sheet. Cook this in the center of the oven for 8 – 10 minutes, watching carefully because it cooks up fast. The edges will be slightly browned and the strips will be kissed a light golden colour when it is done.
Slide these off of the parchment paper and onto a wire rack to cool fully. They will become crispier as they cool down, and you should be able to snap pieces off like a cracker.
Repeat this process with the 3 other pieces until they’re all done.
At any point if it just happens that maybe you could have spilt poppy seeds all over the floor, which is a soul-sucking job to try to sweep up, be sure to blame it on the cat. Whether or not it was their fault is irrelevant, because you know that s/he will be delighted with your failure the accident and WOULD have done it, given half a chance.
There we have it! Two variations on a good thing. These are great served with your choice of dip, but I strongly recommend that you try something like an Indian Spiced Eggplant Dip for the sesame ones. It’s a good combination. Nay, in fact, it’s a GREAT combination. Just saying………