Poppy-Seed Lavash

LavoshI think the word lavash is elegant, but also evokes the daily rituals of life in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkey.  In Tunisia, the baguette is our bread currency, a legacy of French colonization, but as you move farther east, fabulous flatbreads are the staff of life.  Typically baked by slapping a yeast dough against the side of an underground clay oven called a tonir, the breads have a rustic shape and brown inconsistently, giving them some chewy parts and some toasted, crisp bits.

Armenian cooking can be complicated, incorporating an array of no less than 300 types of herbs and wild flowers.  This recipe, however, simply features poppy seeds.  I recommend making up a batch of this dough when you want something to bring a meal together or give it a little heft as with soup or roasted meat and salad.  Lavash can provide that burst of toasted flavor and chewy/crispy texture to make it a satisfying meal.  It is also great as a leftover.  Turning crispy in the air, you can use it the next day with a dip or crumbled in a salad.

Poppy-Seed Lavash

Reprinted from Martha Stewart Living and Matt Dillon, chef at Sitka & Spruce in Seattle

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour or a combination (I used 1/4 rye flour)
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons course salt
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds, plus more for sprinkling
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
  • Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling

Steps

1.  Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan and heat just until butter melts.  Place warm water in a small bowl, sprinkle yeast and sugar on top, and let stand until foamy and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Whisk together flour, course salt, and poppy seeds in a large bowl.  Gather mixture into a large mound and create a well in the center.  Pour milk and yeast mixtures into well.  Gradually stir together mixtures with a wooden spoon, starting in center and working outward, until a dough forms.

2.  Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and, with lightly floured hands, knead dough, adding more flour if necessary if dough is too sticky, until smooth and shiny, about 10 minutes.  Cover dough with a lightly floured kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until dough is doubled in size, about 2 hours.

3.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees with a pizza stone placed on rack in lowest position, or heat a covered gas barbecue to 500 degrees.  Meanwhile, punch down dough with lightly floured hands, cover with towel, and let rise again until doubled in size, about 1 hour.  Divide dough into 4 equal portions.  Working with 1 portion and keeping remaining portions covered, roll out dough as thinly as possible without tearing, about 1/8 inch thick, with a floured rolling pin.  Prick dough all over with a fork and transfer to a lightly floured pizza peel, baking sheet, or grates of gas grill.  Lightly brush with oil and sprinkle with poppy seeds and flaky salt.  Slide dough onto pizza stone and bake until dough bubbles and blisters in places and edges become crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Repeat process with 3 remaining dough portions; serve warm.

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