Food Friday: Gata, Christmas Bread of Armenians

It is Christmas time again! It is a time to be happy and jolly,  and to be grateful for the people surrounding us. It is also the time to respect  the traditions that has been passed down to us genertion after generation. One of those traditions belongs to the Armenian community – the largest Christian popultion in Iran – when they serve Gata – the signature Armenian sweet bread – during Christmas and New Year.

There are several varieties to the making of Gatas, depending on the region, but there are mainly come in the form of a filling and shape. The most popular filling consists of three basic ingredients: flour, sugar and butter. Other variations include nuts and coacoa powder.

As tales have it, they used to place coins in the middle of the unbaked Gatas; whoever received the coin thought to be blessed with good fortune.

May your holiday season be filled with sweetness and warmth just like the sweet scent of freshly baked Gatas served with hot drinks!  

 

 

 Prep time: 30 min. + 1 hr rest time              

Bake time: 1 hr. 30 min.

Ready in: 30 min.                                   

Level: Intermediate                   

Yields: 6-8

Ingredients

250 grams butter (about 2 sticks and 1 ¾ tablespoon), room temperature

¼ teaspoon baking powder

5 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon active dry yeast

¼ teaspoon salt

3 eggs, room temperature

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon Saffron (optional)

1 egg yolk

 

Filling:

1 ½ cup butter, softened

¾ cup flour, sautéed

½ cup sugar

 

Directions:

1- Start off by preparing the filling first. In a non-stick skillet, sauté ¾ cup flour without oil over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. This is to take away the raw smell of flour. Transfer to a bowl and let it cool for few minutes.

2- Add sugar to the cooled flour. Then mix in the softened butter. The mixture will resemble crumbled dough. Place in the fridge to chill.

3- Next, in a large mixing bowl, put together eggs, butter, milk, active dry yeast, baking powder, salt. Mix well until butter melts into the mixture.

4- Gradually add the sifted flour as needed. Knead until it forms soft dough. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Dust a work surface with flour and knead the dough for 5 minutes. Then place the dough in a large bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes.

5- Divide the Gata dough into small pieces. Gently flatten with the rolling pin. Place a small amount of the filling dough in the middle and close around the filling. Once again, gently flatten with the rolling pin.

There are two ways of making Gatas: form them into mini round loaves (shown above), or as in pastry dough, fold them into three layers; start by making a somewhat rectangle shape. Place the filling close to one end. Fold half way. Add another layer of filling and fold completely. Gently flatten with the rolling pin.

6- Preheat the oven to 395 degrees F.

7- Arrange the Gatas on a baking tray and let them rest for another 30 minutes.

8- Brush the Gatas with egg yolk and saffron mixture. Draw shallow lines on top of the Gatas with a toothpick or fork. This is the signature look of Gatas! Bake in the oven at 395 for 30 minutes or until golden.

9- When the top has turned golden brown the Gatas are done. Remove from the oven and let them cool before serving. They are also very delicious served right out of the oven. However, beware since the inside will be too hot. Serve them with a hot cup of coffee or your hot drink of choice. Noosh-e jān!