Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Armenian Croissant: Ashma, Katah

Leon Kaye...This could be your lucky day!

To refresh your memories... a few weeks ago I posted a recipe search item. Leon  was looking for a gata (katah) recipe that his grandmother used to make.
He said:
"(The katah) were golden brown and crispy on the outside, and flaky like a croissant on the inside--though comparing them to a croissant would be an insult, because these were above and beyond any croissant you can find today."
Cookbook author Dorothy Arakelian (seen above), thinks she might have the recipe Leon is looking for.

 Her recipe for Ashma (Katah) comes directly from her cookbook, "Come Into My Kitchen", (with her permission, of course!).

Leon, we’d love to hear your verdict.

ASHMA (pronounced ush mah)
Also referred to as KATAH

This bread is the ultimate of all Armenian breads. Light, spongy, multi-thin layers of buttery dough with a flaky crust - this is to the Armenians what the Croissant is to the French.

1 lb. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup Crisco, melted
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105°)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
2 cups whole milk, lukewarm
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup Crisco, melted, lukewarm
2 tablespoons salt
Gold Medal all-purpose flour, about 3-4 pounds
(add enough flour to make a soft, smooth dough)
Egg wash (2 eggs, well beaten)
Sesame seeds*
Melt together the pound of unsalted butter and 1/4 cup of Crisco and set aside to use for brushing the sheets of dough. Dissolve yeast in very warm water with 1/4 teaspoon sugar, set aside to proof.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, add the milk, water, shortening and salt. Gradually add the flour and mix well with a large spoon. Mix in the dissolved yeast. Feed enough flour to the liquid mixture until it begins to pull together, adding just enough flour to make the dough smooth and pliable. Proceed to knead the dough with your fists, using a small amount of oil on your hands, only if the dough is sticking. Divide dough into six balls; cover and set in a draft-free area for 15 to 20 minutes.

Sprinkle flour lightly on work area. Using a regular rolling pin, roll the first ball of dough into an 8” circle. Using a long dowel, roll the dough out to a 24” circle (or as far as you can go). This dough stretches, so use the back of your hands to gently stretch it to the max; your ultimate goal is to stretch the dough to a 36” round.
Brush the entire surface of the dough with melted butter. Fold each side of the circle over to meet in the center, without overlapping. Continue buttering, one side of the dough, and folding it over until you obtain about an 8” wide strip; butter the length of the strip and fold loosely into an 8” square. Put the square aside and cover with plastic wrap; repeat these steps with the rest of the dough.

Taking the first square, gently fold and smooth back the four corners and shape it into a round; using the rolling pin lightly roll and shape the dough to form an 8”x1/2” round disk. Repeat this process with all the squares.

Place circles on an ungreased baking sheet without touching, in a draft– free area to rise, about 3 to 4 hours or as long as it takes to double in size.

Preheat oven to 375°. When loaves are ready to bake, brush tops with the 2 beaten eggs (egg wash) and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for approximately 25 minutes or until light golden in color.

To serve: Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature. (To serve warm, wrap in aluminum foil and place in a 375° oven for about 10–12 minutes.) Yield: 6 loaves

Note: Another popular variation for shaping this dough: Roll the dough to a 36” sheet, and brush with the butter. Gently roll the dough, jellyroll style, into a rope, and coil the rope into a round pinwheel, pinching the ends under; set aside to rise, covered. Using a light touch, with the rolling pin, gently roll each pinwheel and enlarge; set aside to rise, about 2 hours, and bake as above. This is a more uniform loaf, very attractive, however, since it is coiled, it will not rise as high as the former shape. This popular appetizer freezes very nicely for many months.

*Seeds can be purchased at Middle Eastern Specialty stores.


  1. Wow, this looks incredible! It's fairly similar to the katah my grandmother made--the recipe of which I got from my aunt via a cousin who watched my grandmother make it in 1965. I will send the recipe to Robyn soon--thank you so much for sharing, Dorothy!

    The big difference is that my grandmother used a butter and margarine mixture . . . and she used yeast cakes, which apparently are refridgerated and are now how to find.

    Could I use active dry yeast instead of the refridgerated yeast? I'm curious!

    Thank you again!


  2. Good questions. Hope Robyn posts your recipe. Thanx in advance.

  3. Leon, here is the equivalent information for fresh and dried yeast: (6-ounce) cube or cake of compressed yeast (also know as fresh yeast) = 1 package of active dry yeast. I don't see why you couldn't use the dry yeast instead.
    Once you send the recipe, we can compare & contrast! Thanks!

  4. Hands down, the katah made by the Holy Cross Church (Washington Heights, NY) women was KING!
    It's a lost art. And their "khalkha" with Armenian coffee couldn't be topped either.

    1. My Grandmother was one of those ladies, unfortunatly her katta recipe was taken by my uncles wife and never returned to me. I am praying that this recipe will be the one to make me smile :)

    2. Yes, my grandmother was also one of the Holy Cross Ladies. I dont have that recipe and have looked for it for years. Has anyone who knows the Holy Cross Katah made this recipe and found it to be similar? I have the Treasured Armenian Recipes book from the Detroit Womens Guild but there are a few recipes in it and am not sure which one is correct. Any assistance with trying to pinpoint a recipe that is close to the Holy Cross one would be awesome.

  5. Any chance the women from Holy Cross Church will share their recipes with

  6. How do u make the butter filling inside the kata which is called korese?

  7. According to Dorothy's cookbook, the "Koritz" or "Korese" filling recipe is as follows:
    1 cup unsalted butter
    2 cups flour
    2/3 cup sugar
    2 1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon
    Melt butter in a skillet over low heat. Add flour, sugar and cinnamon. Stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended. Continue cooking over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture browns slightly and gets pasty.
    Remove from heat and set aside.

  8. My Grandmother used to make this, I loved her so much! Thank you for this recipe! I'm a Native American that was adopted by my Father of whom is 100% Armenian. I love cooking and can't wait to toil over the stove like my Grandmother used to do. I would greater understand her love for her Family by making the treats she lovingly gave us every time we came over. I'm proud to wear an Armenian Name! Truly, Matthew J. Boyagian

  9. Matthew, What a wonderful sentiment! Enjoy your kitchen experience.

  10. I came across this website curious to learning more about our family recipe of Katah. I make this every Christmas and everyone loves it! My recipe is very simliar to this one, but different. If anyone out there is interested in our Katah recipe, please let me know.

    1. Could you please send your recipe?

  11. The Armenian Kitchen is ALWAYS interested in the sharing of recipes. Please email your version of katah to I'd love to post it, with your permission of course. Photos are a welcome addition, too, if available.
    Thank you!

    I have been trying to make my Grandma's Katta for years, but have never been able to make it. I worked for a bread company and they couldn't figure it out either. I am so happy to find your recipe and can not wait to try it.
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart,

  13. Thank you for sharing this recipe, My daughter & I are interested in making this bread. I'm making the bread today is there a demo of the shaping, I think I understand it but the folds are a little confusion, without some overlapping. I feel good about the dough it like challah or brioche in many ways.

  14. The "katah" made by those great metz mayrigs in Holy Cross was a flaky delight - no cinnamon, no khorits-moritz. It was a buttery concoction of thin layers-scores of them, with a slightly golden brown top. The katah they sell outside churches in Armenia pales in comparison. As I said - a lost culinary art.

  15. Get hold of "Treasured Armenian Recipes" , 1949 Detroit Women's Chapter of the AGBU . The closest thing to the real "old country" cuisine. Recipes from women who actually prepared these delicacies back nin the towns and villages of the Ottoman Empire.

  16. thank you for sharing your info. the first recipe is very similar to the recipe that my father in law ("full blooded " armenian")made sure I could prepare properly before he passed away. Another bread I "had" to master was Badach ( big bread) which i was told is only to be made on special occasions and only IF the people I would be serving it to were deserving enough to enjoy it. I miss my Father in law terribly even though some days he was a real pain in the butt.When you hit 85 years of age you've earned the right to be a pain in the butt and not be held accountable. ��. The katah he made had 3 different filllings and was rolled up in a pinwheel shape. I am actually planning to make some tomorrow. one short post on facebook and cousins ( by marriage) will be fighting to get one or two. the recipe i have makes 16-18 depending on size. anyways Thank you again for sharing your post.