Bread and hospitality go hand in hand in Armenia. A meal isn’t complete without a variety of bread or hatz (pronounced “hots”) on the table.
An Armenian World Vision staff member recalled a visit to a neighboring country and going to a restaurant for dinner. The waiter brought out a small bread basket with a couple of the same kind of rolls. The staff member expressed their surprise and explained to the waiter that in Armenia, bread is served in quantity and variety, which includes breadsticks, several kinds of rolls, and the nearly paper-thin lavash.
Between 1915 and 1916, many Armenians were forced from their homes or fled growing persecution. That diaspora took them all over the world, and in many places, they settled in Armenian enclaves — keeping their culture alive. And of course, that culture included their many types of bread.
One of the recipes they carried with them was for tahini rolls called tahinov hatz. Tahini (a paste made from ground sesame seeds), sugar, and cinnamon fill pastries made of pita dough.
This treat is usually reserved for Lent. In the Armenian Apostolic church, the Lenten fast means no meat, fish, eggs, or dairy products. And while it fits the fasting requirements, this recipe tastes like anything but a deprivation.
It takes a bit of work, but it’s well worth the effort!
2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
¾ cup water, 105–115° F
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup tahini
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar (you may not use all of it)
2 teaspoons cinnamon (optional)
To prepare dough:
- In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the ¾ cup water. Let sit for a minute. Stir to combine, then let sit until frothy — about 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl or a food processor fitted with a dough blade, combine flour, salt, sugar, yeast mixture, and olive oil until the dough comes together. On a lightly floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic.
- Lightly grease a large bowl with vegetable oil and add the dough, turning to coat. Cover and allow to rest until doubled, about 2 to 2 ½ hours.
To make the rolls:
- Preheat the oven to 400 F.
- Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
- Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Divide the dough into 3 parts. Roll each part into a 12-inch circle.
- Spread 1/3 of the tahini over the entire surface of each circle, then sprinkle with one third of the sugar and cinnamon mixture.
- Roll up the circle jellyroll style. If it sticks to the work surface, you can sprinkle more sugar on the roll.
- Using your hands in a forward and backward motion, stretch each piece gently to create a rope 3 ½ feet in length.
- Cut the rope into 6-inch pieces. Wind each piece into a pinwheel shape. Then, using a rolling pin, flatten each pinwheel into a 4-inch disk.
- Divide the disks among the 3 baking sheets and bake each sheet for about 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven.
- Cool completely. Serve. Any leftovers may be stored in a tight container in the fridge or frozen for a couple of weeks.
Adapted from Tara’s Multicultural Kitchen and Taste of Beirut