Thursday, October 2, 2008

Whole-wheat crackers with Ajvar and Yogurt ‘cheese’

Having been sidelined by hurricane Ike and a fabulous trip to the Oregon wine country, I apologize for my late entry in this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge. Somehow I missed the memo about the posting date, thinking that it was always on the first of the month, so I thought I had plenty of time to write my notes when I returned home.

Fortunately, I bought all of the ingredients before Ike struck! After a week of tending to my parents, who had two of their neighbor’s tall pines favor the roof of their house during the storm, I hurriedly made my crackers and two dips and set up my tasty treats on the patio table. I took my final pictures and headed for the plane to Portland.

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Here is how I made my crackers: I used whole-wheat flour and added 1-tablespoon fresh key lime juice. Having a key lime tree with limes coming out the Yazoo is a wonderful thing – I use it everywhere! I also proofed the yeast, just in case. I kneaded the dough for about 5 minutes until it became velvety and smooth. My dough required very little extra flour and it did not stick to the counter. It was very pleasing to work with.

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I divided it in half, and when rolled out, each half covered two 11x17 pans. I found that it needed several breaks to rest before I rolled it out again, and most of my upper body strength. I trimmed the dough and shaped the crackers with a pizza cutter. The first batch was sprayed with a fine mist of oil (instead of water), and sprinkled with kosher salt, red pepper flakes and fresh cracked pepper. The second batch was decorated with oil, kosher salt and black and white sesame seeds. They were fully baked and crispy after 10 minutes and ready to be served when cool with my two dips.

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Being Serbian-born, I was raised on a relish called Ajvar (eye-var). It was a no-brainer that it was going to be one of my dips. The main ingredient is roasted red peppers, which evokes memories of a trip I made to Serbia with my husband years ago. During the fall, the predominant sight and aroma in every town and village is that of smoke rising from the fires that char the skins of the peppers and the sweet smoky nose. It’s also a bonus that Ajvar is low in calories, high in vitamin C and goes well with grilled meats and vegetables.

My second dip is a very simple and cool Yogurt ‘Cheese’, which complements the spicy Ajvar. Here are the recipes:

Ajvar
6 red bell peppers
1 small eggplant
1 whole garlic bulb
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
½ -1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Roast red peppers on high flame of bar-b-que grill until the skin is charred on all sides. Place in a bowl and cover tightly with foil so that the skin separates from the flesh. Roast eggplant and garlic bulb at the same time, on the top rack of the grill, until soft and brown.

Peel peppers while still hot. Cut them in half, but be careful not to burn your hands as you allow the steam to escape from the inside. Discard stems and seeds. Place in colander. Cut eggplant in half and scoop out the flesh, discarding the seeds, if possible. Add eggplant to peppers in colander. Slice one end of garlic crosswise and squeeze about half of the garlic cloves on the peppers and eggplant. You can use the rest to flavor your mashed potatoes! Place colander over a bowl and allow the peppers, eggplant and garlic to drain for about 3-4 hours or overnight.
Place peppers, eggplant, garlic and the rest of the ingredients in a food processor and process until blended but not smooth. It should still be a little chunky. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

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Yogurt ‘Cheese’
1 32-ounce container plain yogurt (I used Dannon Lowfat Plain Yogurt)
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Place a sieve that can hold the yogurt over a bowl. Line it with two layers of cheesecloth, having some extra hanging over the bowl. Carefully place the yogurt onto the cheesecloth and fold the extra cheesecloth over the yogurt. Place in refrigerator overnight to drain. You will have about 1½ cups of thick and creamy yogurt ‘cheese’ the next day. Unmold on a serving plate and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.

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Serve crackers, Ajvar, and yoghurt ‘cheese’ and enjoy! And thank you for allowing me to share my first Daring Bakers Challenge experience!

- Dragana

2 comments:

Em said...

Seeing those gorgeous peppers roasting just immediately made my tummy grumble... yum!!

And thanks for the info on making yogurt "cheese" - I will have to try this!!

Great job :)

gabe's girl said...

Wonderful job, Dragana! I have never made my own crackers. You make me want to try.