Roaster Pepper Dip

Another month, another Daring Bakers’ challenge. This month challenge is quite different from the previous ones. First of all, it’s a savory dish and the second, it’s vegetarian. Even more, the dip or spread for serving with crackers is supposed to be vegan. Well, the eggplant dip matches this category, but the roasted pepper one is not-so–vegan, since I couldn’t resist the temptation and added the anchovies. I love these gutsy things that much.

The both dips are delicious and different. The crackers that I served with Italian pepper dip are sprinkled with coarsely ground pepper, sea salt, and fennel seeds. And the second batch, meant for the Asian eggplant dip, I sprinkled with sesame seeds. I didn’t serve them all at once of course. Every dip-crackers set was served, on its turn, with a nationally appropriate dinner.

Eggplant Asian Dip

The dough recipe is adapted from Peter Reinhart.

Makes about 6 dozens crackers; 2 cups pepper dip; 4 cups eggplant dip

For the crackers:

  • 1 cup unbleached bread flour
  • ½ cup stone-ground whole wheat flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/3 to ½ cup + 2 tbsp water, at room temperature
  • Freshly ground black pepper, good quality sea salt, fennel seeds, and sesame seeds for sprinkling

For the Italian roasted pepper dip:

  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 6 sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil, coarsely chopped
  • 4 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 scant tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Roaster Pepper Dip

For the Asian eggplant dip:

Adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 2 to 3 eggplants, total weight about 3 lbs
  • 1 ½ tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 3 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp sweet Thai chili-garlic sauce
  • 3 tbsp (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 plum tomatoes, seeded, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 ½ tsp Asian sesame oil
  • Some chopped green onions for sprinkling

Asian Eggplant Dip

Make the crackers:

Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set aside.

In a bowl of the stand mixer, stir together the flour, salt, yeast, sugar, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full ½ cup + 2 tbsp of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

Place the bowl onto the stand mixer base and knead with the dough hook for about 6-8 minutes at medium speed, until the dough is satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled, the dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81F. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, rolling it around to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let ferment at room temperature for about 1 ½ hours, or until the dough doubles in size. You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading. Bring the dough to room temperature before rolling.

Punch the dough down. Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Cover with a big bowl and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

Divide the dough in half. Roll each half very thinly on the floured surface. Pasta roller is a wonderful tool for this task. Roll as thin as possible.

Cracker Dough

Cut the rolled dough into the long strips fitting them onto the prepared baking sheet. Mist the top with water and sprinkle with seeds and/or salt and pepper. Don’t overdo the salt and pepper. Roll a rolling pin over to embed the seeds into the dough. Score the dough into desired shapes with a pizza wheel.

Bake in batches, for about 10 minutes, until the crackers begin to brown evenly. The time greatly depends on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough.

Crackers Baked

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let them cool slightly on the sheet on a rack. Snap them apart and cool completely on the rack.

Make the Italian roasted pepper dip:

Roast the bell peppers. Place an oven rack 4 inches from the grill. Preheat the broil to high. Line a baking sheet with foil. Arrange the peppers on the prepared sheet and grill, turning often until blackened and blistered on all sides, about 15 minutes. Transfer the peppers into a large bowl, cover with foil and let steam. It will loosen the skin from the flesh, making them easier to peel.

After the peppers have cooled, peel off the skins. Remove the ribs and seeds. Do not rinse the peppers under water, use paper towels to blot excess juices. Coarsely chop the peppers.

Place the sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies, garlic, and olive oil into a bowl of the food processor. Run until the mixture is smooth. Add the roasted peppers and pulse several times until the peppers are finely chopped but not pureed. Transfer to a small bowl, add the capers. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Serve with the pepper and fennel seed crackers.

Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature.

Make the Asian eggplant dip:

Preheat the oven to 425F. Pierce the eggplants all over with a fork. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast in the oven until the eggplants are very soft and deflated, turning once, about 1 hour. Cool slightly.

Cut the eggplants in half; scrape the flesh into a strainer set over a large bowl. Let drain for 30 minutes. Transfer the eggplant to the food processor. Pulse until almost smooth.

Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the green onions, ginger, garlic, and chili-garlic sauce; sauté just until the onions soften, about 45 seconds. Stir in the brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Mix in the eggplant puree and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the chopped tomatoes, and the sesame oil. Cool to room temperature. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with the green onions and serve with the sesame seed crackers.

Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature.