Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ritzy Lavash (Aremenian Flatbread)

As mentioned in my earlier post, we stayed at the Ritz Carlton at Palm Beach for our Spring vacation this year where I was privileged to visit the main kitchen, (thank you Chef Artim!) Surprisingly, the facilities were smaller than I imagined, but an amazing volume of food was being prepared for the three on-site restaurants as well as the Club level and room service. While in the kitchen I met Elizabeth Alfieri who was making fresh lavash (Armenian flatbread) in bulk. Traditionally, lavash dough is rolled out flat and slapped against the hot walls of a clay oven. While quite flexible when fresh out of the oven, the bread dries out quickly and becomes brittle and crispy. Lavash is sometimes used in Eucharist ceremonies by the Armenian Apostolic Church.

It was stunning to see the number of sheets of lavash she was making! I mentioned that we really enjoyed eating lavash with hummus and she graciously shared her recipe with me. Her ingredients were measured in grams, so I converted them to standard measurements and divided the recipe in half, but I think I did Elizabeth’s recipe justice.

  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 teaspoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, and cooled slightly
  • 2/3 cup water

Place the flour, salt, sugar and shortening into a medium bowl and beat to combine. In a separate small bowl whisk together the water, egg, molasses and butter, then add 1/3 cup water and stir. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix until the dough comes together, adding up to 1/3 cup more water if the dough is dry. Knead the dough in the bowl 5 to 6 times, then turn the dough out onto the counter, divide into thirds, cover with a tea towel and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes. The longer it rests the better.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease the back of a half sheet pan (yes, the bottom) using cooking spray or butter. Working with one ball at a time, roll the dough out to an even 1/8-inch thickness. I found it easier to roll if I flipped it over every minutes.

Gently stretch the dough over the greased upside down sheet pan. The dough should fall slightly over the edge of the pan and will hold the dough in place. Dock the dough to allow air to escape by using a fork to gently pierce the dough, and then lightly brush the dough with an egg wash (one beaten egg) and sprinkle toppings over the top. Elizabeth uses grated Parmesan at the Ritz. You can also try sesame or poppy seeds.

Place on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the lavash to a cooling rack. Repeat this process with the remaining dough using a cooled sheet pan each time. Break each sheet of lavash into shapes and sizes as desired. Once completely cooled, you can store the lavash in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

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