Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bread: Our Staff of Life - and a recipe for Banerov Hatz (Cheese-Onion Bread)

Remembering Hatz Baboog got me thinking about the different breads that make meal-time or holidays so special.

There is one bread that my grandmother, Yeranuhe Nanny, made that was truly outstanding -- Banerov Hatz (Cheese-Onion Bread) -- another one of her labor-of-love recipes.

You knew a special event was just around the corner when Nanny started to chop so many onions. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

If you've never heard of Banerov Hatz, picture this: rectangular pizza dough rolled as thin or thick as you like, then smothered with some of the cheese-onion topping, baked until the dough is slightly crisp on the edges and golden on the bottom, the onions are tender, and the cheese is soft and slightly melted. The aroma is heavenly - and the taste, even better!
(FYI: My personal preference: thin crust.)
Nanny's Banerov Hatz (Onion-cheese Bread)

Banerov Hatz (Cheese-Onion Bread)
Yield: about 7 loaves

Dough Ingredients:
1 pkg. dry yeast
5 lb. bag pre-sifted flour
½ c. oil
1 ½ tsp salt
Water (about 5 cups)

Directions for dough preparation:
1. Dissolve yeast in ¼ cup lukewarm water.
2. In large bowl combine flour, oil, salt, dissolved yeast, and enough water to make a smooth dough. (The amount of water you use isn’t exact. There may be some trial-and error involved here.)
3. Knead dough for 5 minutes. Place in a large bowl.
4. Lightly oil the top of the dough. Cover, and let rise for 30 minutes to an hour.
5. Divide dough into 7 balls, keeping them covered until ready to use. (Short on time? Buy prepared pizza dough in your local grocery store!)

Cheese-Onion Topping Ingredients:
2 lbs cottage cheese
4 to 5 lbs finely chopped onions (Frozen, chopped onions that are defrosted can be used, but that’s cheating!)
4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
½ cup Parmesan cheese
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. paprika
3 Tbsp. dried oregano
3 Tbsp. red pepper paste (Note: Red pepper paste can be purchased in some Middle Eastern stores. If it is unavailable, you can use tomato paste, but something will be lost in the substitution. **A recipe for making your own red pepper paste is below.)
about 1/2 cup olive oil 

Topping Directions:
1.Combine cottage cheese and some of the red pepper paste to achieve a reddish color.
2. In a separate bowl add onions, blue cheese, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and seasonings, mixing well.
3. Add the cottage cheese and stir well.

Assembling Directions:
1. Lightly grease a large baking sheet.
2. Roll out one ball of dough into a rectangular shape large enough to fit into the baking sheet.
3. Spread cheese filling on the dough to about 1/2-inch from the edge.
4. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven until dough is golden brown on the bottom and around the edges (approx. 20 minutes).
5. Continue this procedure until all 7 loaves are done.
6. Cool each loaf completely on wire racks.
7. To serve: cut into large squares (roughly 3“x3“).
8. To store: completely cool, cut each loaf into squares. Wrap and freeze. When ready to serve, defrost in the refrigerator, then heat in a 350°F oven until warm.

**Homemade Red Pepper Paste

Yield: about ½ cup

1 (24 oz.) jar roasted red peppers, drained
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (add more if you like more heat, but be careful!)
Dash of paprika
Olive oil, for later use

1. After draining the peppers, cut them into smaller pieces.
2. Grind in a food processor, using the metal S-blade. Place ground peppers in a colander and squeeze out any excess liquid.
3.Place the ground peppers in a bowl.  Stir in the salt, cayenne pepper, and paprika.
4. Spread the mixture in a large, non-stick skillet; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cook, stirring periodically for about 45 minutes, or until the pepper mixture begins to resemble a thick paste. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
5. Spoon the red pepper paste into a container that has a lid. Pour a little olive oil over the top of the paste. Cover tightly, and refrigerate. This should keep for about one week.

NOTE: At this point you can freeze the red pepper paste. The trick is to use a plastic ice cube tray. Place about a tablespoonful of paste in each ice cube compartment. Freeze. When solid, place individual pepper paste cubes in a plastic freezer bag. When ready to use, remove the number of red pepper paste cubes you need and defrost in the refrigerator. Keep the other cubes frozen until needed.


  1. This sounds so yummy. Would the original recipe have used another cheese for which blue cheese is a substitute? Also: Is this served as a meal? A side dish? A snack? It truly sounds like Armenian pizza to me.

    1. at 2006, I was in Turin, Italy , participating to an international seminar of the organization SLOW FOOD. I was presenting our traditional cheese SOORKI & this recipe BANRE HUTS. An itallian ethnographist had told me, that the origin of pizza is like banre huts. the humble people had only simple ingredients, like curd, tomato pasta, onion, olive oil, oregano & spices.They had mix all those & put on the bread dough & cook in the oven. After centuries, the other ingredients had started to use for pizza.

  2. This was a specialty bread that my grandmother made for holidays and special occasions. She called it "boonderoom hootz", in her Armenian (Musa Daghtsi)dialect. It was served as an appetizer mostly, but we loved to eat it whenever we could get our hands on it!

  3. this sounds delcious except the blue cheese doesnt sound very armenian nor parmesan and oregano..? did she use that in place of feta and parsley maybe or mint ?

  4. I truly don't know why Nanny used blue cheese and parmesan. I suppose she picked these ingredients because she liked how they tasted, and they were readily available in her new homeland, America.

  5. Blue cheese and Parmesano combined will imitate the taste of our ancesral cheese - 'soorki or chucalick' which is aged and somewhat similar to the french rockfort cheese.
    you can mix farmer cheese mixed paprika, cayanne and age it for some ten fifiteen days to form a fungus, and use in the banir hatz

    1. dear Anonymous, are you Musadaghsi? because only musadaghians' & the people from Andiyok prepare soorki.

    2. I'm from Anjar (Musadagh), but I lived in Syria. Syrian Armenians also know the chukalik or surki, because Arabs also make it and call it shinglish.

  6. Thanks for this very interesting ancestral cheese information!

  7. yes I am mousadaghsi - I grew up in Anjar Lebanon, Ihave been in the united States for forty years - soorki is still my favorite cheese and banirov hatz is top of the line:)

  8. I'm so happy to hear that, I'm also Musadaghtsi, from Ainjar. now for 22 years I'm living in Armenia, you can visit my website to read more recipes of musadaghians. best regards.

  9. My grandmother made the best cheese-onion bread I ever ate. I've tried to replicate but Grandma's always put a secret something in everything they cook. I will try this recipe but we use pot cheese instead of cottage cheese.