Everything about Armenian food!

Celebrating a heritage of Armenian recipes


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bread From the Past

As you know, TheArmenianKitchen.com was designed to be interactive. By this I mean our readers would have the opportunity to share their family's stories and recipes.
Our thanks to all of you who have contributed! (and please keep them coming!)

If you've been following our blog, you'll know that California resident Leon Kaye (originally Kooyoomjian, he said), has been looking for a reasonable facsimile of his grandmother, Ovsanna Kaye's, much-missed katah recipe.

We posted a katah (ashma, Armenian croissant) recipe provided by cookbook author, Dorothy Arakelian, while the Kaye family went on an all-out hunt for his grandmother's recipe. While Leon agreed that Dorothy's recipe was close, he was still determined to locate his family's version.

GREAT NEWS! One of Leon's relatives found, and sent him Grandmother Ovsanna's recipe. As promised, Leon sent it, and the story behind it, to us to share with you.
Our thanks to the entire Kaye family and Dorothy and their enthusiastic efforts!

Here is Leon's story followed by his grandmother's katah recipe:

"Bread From the Past"
by Leon Kaye
"My grandmother grew up in the Sepastia region of Turkey, outside the city of Sivas. In 1915, at the age of 10, her family was forced out of their home, forced to march through the deserts of Anatolia and Syria until she finally ended up at an orphanage in Beirut. She, her sister, and two brothers were the only ones in their family who survived.

Her long journey took her from Beirut to Cuba, New York, Detroit, and finally, Fresno. In 1946, she and my grandfather opened a grocery store in Calwa, south of Fresno, which they ran for 20 years while raising my father and aunt.

Despite managing and working at the grocery store 7 days a week, she somehow always found the time to cook and bake.

One of my memories was her katah, a slightly sweet roll: crispy and browned on top, with fluffy yet at the same time, dense layers which are revealed underneath. After a weekend in Fresno, our Dodge van would be loaded with bags of food. It’s a wonder that van made its way through Pacheco Pass back to Silicon Valley, where my father eventually settled. All of that loot was delicious: the lahmejoun, kufteh, and even her chocolate chip cookies were phenomenal and dripping with love: but what we all raved about the most, I think, was the katah, which I often took for my lunch as a kid. They were perfect in the morning, with grandma’s homemade jam!

High blood pressure took a toll on her as she reached her late seventies, and she eventually stopped cooking. She passed away in 1990. No one learned how to make the katah, but through the years it would come up in conversations during which we reminisced about her.

Twenty years later, I have decided to stop reminiscing and now I plan on baking. After this Easter in Fresno, my aunt decided to do some investigating and racked her memory. It turned out that a cousin of another aunt spent the day with my grandmother on day in 1965, and she mailed her notes to my aunt. Now I’m sharing it with you. I plan on trying it soon as a labor of love. Of course nothing has been the same as what your grandmother made, but everything she had cooked in some form can be found elsewhere—but not her katah—nothing I have seen or tried compares.

What I love about this recipe is that is summed up the times during which she lived. There are no “organic” or “macrobiotic” ingredients in this recipe. It doesn’t matter: this beats any artisan bread you can find out there. The only challenge is that she used yeast cake, which is a challenge and I’m trying to find a substitute. If you know whether I could use regular dry yeast, please let me know."

**Robyn's note:  one compressed yeast cake is equivalent to 1 package of dry active dry yeast, or one tablespoon (15ml) of  active dry yeast.

Ovsanna Kaye’s Katah Recipe

2 sticks butter
1 sticks margarine (total= 1 ½ cups; reserve ¼ cup)
1 quart milk + (another 1 pint, approximately)
1 yeast cake ** (see Robyn's note above)
3 tablespoons sugar
4 lbs. flour

  • Mix 4 lbs. of flour and 3 tablespoons of sugar in a large mixing bowl.
  • Warm milk* in a pan, add the yeast.
  • *Robyn's note: Milk should reach a temperature of about 105 - 110 degrees F.
  • Melt 2 sticks of butter and 1 stick of margarine in a second pan. Reserve ¼ cup of butter, margarine for later.
  • Combine flour-sugar mixture with 1 ¼ cups of butter and margarine and milk and yeast.
  • Mix until pliable. Knead about 10 minutes (you want to feel a popping in the dough).
  • Add just a bit of the reserve butter/margarine mixture to the pliable dough. Then divide the dough into 10 separate rounds. Cover them with waxed paper.
  • Remove 1 round of dough. With a long narrow stick, roll out the dough using enough flour to prevent sticking to the rolling pin. You should have an 18 inch diameter circle. Add a bit more reserve butter/margarine to the surface of the circle.
  • Place another round of dough on top and continue to roll the two layers together until it is as large as a kitchen table. Spread a bit more reserve butter/margarine on the now very large circle of dough.
  • Fold one side of the circle in and then fold the opposite side over. You will have a rectangular shape and 3 layers.
  • Spread a bit more butter/margarine reserve over the surface of the rectangle.
  • Roll, like a jelly roll this time, from the longest side and shape the coiled dough into a horse-shoe shape. Place on a piece of waxed paper and cover with waxed paper.
  • When you have formed 2 horse-shoe shaped dough strips (by repeating the previous instructions) using a rolling pin, roll out the length and flatten each one.
  • Make a cut every 1 ½ inches along each strip. You’ll have 17 or 18 cuts along each strip.
  • Keep in a warm place with waxed paper under the tray. Let rise for 2 or 3 hours.
  • Repeat directions with the remaining 3 rounds which will give you a total of 5 strips.
  • After 2 or 3 hours when the first strips have risen, brush tops with egg/milk combination (a standard egg wash recipe should do). Cleanly separate cut pieces and bake at 350 degrees on a greased baking sheet for about 20-25 minutes.

Leon Kaye
Check out GreenGoPost's new look! http://greengopost.com/
213.804.9606

16 comments:

  1. A wonderful story and it sounds delicious.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My nene and aunts used to make Kata with filling. Unfortunately I don't have the recipe of that heavenly Katah. I'd die to go back in time and have some of my nene's love-in-a-bun!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous, do you recall what the kata was filled with? Perhaps, if you let me know,I could find a recipe for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We had a wonderful Armenian bakery here many years ago and my favorite was Kata. Under this was printed "clove rolls". I have been looking for a recipe for these and this sounds similar, but as of yet... no cloves in the filling. Do you have any recipes for this treat? It was round, light in color and dusted with flour, shaped like a mushroom cap, about 5 inches across and about 2 inches high in the middle. The filling was light in color, not very sweet and the clove flavor was subtle. How I would love to taste this again! Can you help?

      Delete
    2. Hi Anya,
      I'll do some investigating to see if I can find a recipe with clove filling. If there is a way for me to contact you directly, please let me know. You can email me the information: robyn@thearmeniankitchen.com. Thanks!

      Delete
  4. OMG, I am trying so hard to figure out how my Grandmother, from Van made what we referred to as Bargargh or Pargargh ( depending on your accent). it was a large,flattened, round loaf, similar to what others refer to as Katah. You sliced pie shaped wedges of it to serve. It was FILLED with a very rich mixture which I know believe people call koritz- some sort of combinATION of flour and butter. I have tried to make it and come close on taste but do not know how to role it correctly or the correct way to make the filling. I saw the receipe for Ashma Katah and that rolling technique sounded like it might work but then it says cut into individual pieces which is not how my grandma's came out. Can you help- Bargagh soreley missed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My grandmother's katah is extremely simple. The khoritz mixture was simply a large tab of butter in a frying pan, with equal mounds of flour and sugar added, then chopped with the spatula over low heat for a few minutes while it became slightly brown.
      The dough was 3.5 C flour, 1 pack yeast, 1 cup warm water, 1 cup melted then cooled butter-oil mix, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt. I put it in the bread machine to knead and rise. The outcome is identical to grandma's.
      After it has risen I roll a handful at a time into a rectangle. Put khoritz along one long side then fold the other half on top. Pinch the edges. Slice light marks to form pieces without cutting through. Brush with egg. Sprinkle with sesame and nigella.
      Bake at 400 for 25 minutes.
      This is from the village of Erzincan. I hope you find this and enjoy it. Happy Easter!

      Delete
    2. My grandmother must have lived next door to yours. You have described EXACTLY the katah recipe she made, then my father made, and now I make, and I also use my bread machine. In fact I have a batch in the oven at this moment. I do EXACTLY what your words describe. My grandmother always said that this was the recipe in her village of Erzincan. Oh, I see you have said that at the end of yours! I not noticed because I had started writing, in amazement, before reaching the end of what you wrote. Even some of my relatives have said I have the recipe wrong, so I appreciate your confirmation. Best wishes to all from Erzincan! I am glad our recipe is so much easier than most!

      Delete
  5. Dear Anonymous,
    If you can hold on for a while, I have a dear friend who has promised to create a video for our website showing her technique for making bargharch (spelling varies!). I don't know exactly when this will happen, so be sure to check back frequently.
    Thanks!
    robyn@thearmeniankitchen.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. please Robyn, I will be waiting anxiously to see it. It's frustrating because I have several receipes for Katah but none seem like they are 100% what I am looking for.
    It would be great to see the video for bargargh..

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hello Anonymous,
    I'm anxiously awaiting my friend's video also. We'll have to be patient, as she has a very hectic schedule. In the meantime, have a wonderful holiday season!

    ReplyDelete
  8. My wife is armenian and I have learned a few of the family recipes. Katah and Badach ( spelling variety) were just a few of the recipes I had to master. Our badach "mountain bread" is delicious but not cut in wedges ,rather it is scooped out with a big spoon. the madzoon and butter poured over it.I can share the recipes ( if I dont suffer the wrath of generations that have gone before me)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. CnySahd, If you could share, I'd love your family's recipes! If given permission, please email them to: robyn@thearmeniankitchen.com. Thanks so much!

      Delete
    2. I have been searching endlessly for authentic recipes to make for my father. His grandmother was from Istanbul, Turkey and his grandfather survived the Armenian genocide. My father is now 75. He mentions his grandmother's kata and badach all the time. I would love to try making these for him! If you can share your recipes, please email to: Stephr617@gmail.com
      Thank you!

      Delete
    3. I have been searching endlessly for authentic recipes to make for my father. His grandmother was from Istanbul, Turkey and his grandfather survived the Armenian genocide. My father is now 75. He mentions his grandmother's kata and badach all the time. I would love to try making these for him! If you can share your recipes, please email to: Stephr617@gmail.com
      Thank you!

      Delete
  9. Pagarch/bagarch is not katah. katah is sweeter, buttery, more like a breakfast bread with numerous layers of dough folded upon itself. pagarch is, to the best of my knowlege , a peasant dish from the hardiff/keghi region. it is a crusty bread that has the top 1/3 cut off. the inside is then scooped out and mixed with butter, yogurt and garlic. this is then placed back into the bread and served with additional yogurt mix, if desired.

    the hardiftses in detroit, until recently, use to have a pagarch dinner as a scholarship fundraiser. a local bakery bakes the bread according to the armenian recipe. one time i went to the dinner and the bread was something like 4 feet (possibly bigger) in diameter and made quite an amazing presentation mounded high with the filling. more recently, the breads are more typical in size with multiple loafs to feed the crowd. this is rich (lots of butter), stick to the bones food that when served with a salad is delicious.

    when round loaves of sour dough bread first came out, i had bought a loaf. seeing the round shape, my father, a genocide survivor from khegee, was immediately transported to his previous life and decided to convert the bread into pagarach. when i got home, returning from a long day at work, my father proudly presented his creation.....PAGARCH!!!!! i can only imagine the strong will it took for him not to dive right in and eat it after preparing it, but he waited for me...his daughter. the sour dough bread gave it a bit of a different taste, so i don't know if i would recommend it as an example of real pagarach. however, the texture was pretty much there and it "works".
    if desired, i can try to get the recipe from my relatives in detroit.

    hope this explanation helps, and hope you enjoyed my dad's story, it was a very special moment in my life because my mother had recently died and this was one of the first meals that my father had attempted.

    ReplyDelete