Sunday, May 27, 2012


Well, today is the Indianapolis 500, and I’m doing Armenian food today. Being from Indianapolis, the whole city is one giant festival.  When I was a young kid, I thought the Indy 500 was a holiday in and of itself. But I did find out that back in the 1950s, there were two Armenian drivers in the Indy 500. You can read about it here, from the site where I got all of my recipes (awesome site, please check it out!).

These past two weeks, I’ve been reading all about baking. I thought that maybe I should probably figure out why sometimes my bread doesn’t turn out the way I think it’s supposed to. Well, it turns out that baking more or less needs to be exact, from the types of ingredients (unsalted vs. salted, different kinds of flour, etc.) to the exact amounts used, and the order and temperature they are used. One example said that unlike soup where you could add a pinch of salt at the end if needed, you can’t sprinkle salt on the bread once its done and think it’ll make a difference. (I suppose you can if you’re really hard-headed, but the bread's not budging.) So that being said, I gained a lot more confidence with this bread than I had before. And it turned out that my dough actually acted like dough!

My parents were right: THIS is why we have kids -- for putting them to work, like kneading dough.  
The bread – chorag – is a braided yeast roll that’s popularly eaten around Eastertime. (See, I told you in the blog post “Holidays & Celebrations” that this was coming!) I actually found the mahlab, but I couldn’t find it ground. And I never got the mortar and pestle for Mother’s Day, so I had to just crush it.  I omitted the fennel seeds and anise seeds and used caraway seeds instead (my husband feels the same way about fennel seeds as he does watching romantic comedies, and I just forgot to get anise seeds).   After the dough rested for two hours, you took small balls of dough and formed a long rope. Their method of braiding was a little different (and probably a little easier) than what I saw in some baking books. They have you break off 1/3 of the rope and make the longer part into an upside-down U. You put the shorter piece coming down from the middle: sort of like the Euro sign on its side (€). Then you braid the three parts. It still has to rest another hour, and after a quick egg wash, it’s ready to go into the oven.

It's braided, like a friendship bracelet, but tastier (after it's baked of course). I wouldn't recommend tying the
chorag around your wrists though. It won't stay. Not so friendly. 
Once it came out, it was so beautiful. The color, the smell – it put a tear to my eye that this is first time (after blogging eight countries so far) it turned out “right.” Even though when it was completely finished, I did brush it with melted butter in hopes that it would keep it from becoming too dry.  (Let’s hope.)

So beautiful. I may put this picture in a frame and keep it at work. Or in my car. Maybe next to my kid's pictures.  
I had gone into this with every intention of using ground lamb for the lahmajoun, but I couldn’t get anyone to ground the lamb for me. Apparently the good looks and charms that got me by in my 20s are wearing off in my 30s. So, I ended up using ground beef.   And unbeknownst to me, I evidently picked up hilal beef that was 100% zabiha. Thanks to Wikipedia, I found out it’s more or less being “kosher” for Muslims and was slaughtered in the approved manner.  See, you learn something every day.  And I did the short-cut recipe: I used flour tortillas instead of baking my own bread for it. After I mixed the ground beef with peppers, onion, garlic, parsley, and mint (which I should’ve been paying attention – I used 1 ½ TABLESPOONS instead of 1 ½ TEASPOONS. Hope they like mint!), you spoon it in a thin layer onto the tortillas and put it in the oven. My husband and I thought they were really great, and he put this recipe in the “must do again” pile.  The kids, however, were of a different sentiment. Can’t win ‘em all, but I know it was awesome. 

Lahmajoun. Let's just put it this way: I ate two and the kid's leftovers. I think my husband ate three and a half. 
This turned out to be a meal different from the others, because usually I serve everything at the same time, but this time it was spread out. There was another change in how I usually do my cooking days: I baked twice! When I saw the recipe for apricot-pistachio scones, I couldn’t resist. I really tried to, but avoiding this recipe was like trying to put down a mystery book at the point they discover who the killer is. While the scone itself is more native to the England and Scotland, the apricots and pistachios are more of an Armenian/Middle Eastern contribution to this savory treat. After it was finished, I buttered it slightly and drizzled a little honey on top, and it was absolutely heaven.

There's a reason I timed the scones coming out of the oven after the kid's bedtime. 
Overall, everything turned out well.  Dario Franchitti won the Indy 500, and I’ve got chorag and scones to take to the Memorial Day get-together tomorrow. I’ve also got baba ghanoush (I think called mutabal in Armenia) and pitas, but I went store-bought instead. It was 92 today, and I was trying to limit the length of time the oven was on (and laziness won out over cleaning the grill). I enjoyed this food immensely; it's definitely been one of my favorites so far. 

Up next: Australia



  1. That bread looks so beautiful! I would frame the picture too! Keep it in your wallet, and show it along with the pictures of your kids! ;-)

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