As in many cultures of the Caucasus and Middle East, bread and wheat are important elements of Armenian lifecycle events and festivals. Families offer bread and salt to their houseguests to welcome them. Hosts of births and weddings serve or display wheat kernels and special stews and breads. A new bride has a piece of lavash placed on her shoulders, signifying luck, wealth, and the new life she will bring into the family.
To break bread with someone is to share a common experience, and to experience Armenia you have to witness the baking and enjoy the simple pleasures of lavash. Many Armenian words and expressions derive from the simple, yet significant, act of breaking bread. For instance, the word for a gathering or party, utel-khmel, literally translates to “eat-drink.” The word for friend, enker, means “eating together.” Foods create and mark relationships and identity wife and husband, family, community, nation.
Making lavash requires flour, water, sometimes yeast, the wood-fired tonir oven, and time, but preparations differ almost from village to village. Just as Armenia’s mountainous South Caucasus terrain creates multiple distinct microclimates that nurture diverse plant and animal species, so too did the mountains create a historic diversity in cultures and foods.Neighboring villages were isolated by cliffs and gorges, so each developed different ways of baking this seemingly simplest of foods.
1.8 cups all-purpose flour
2. 1 tbsp salt
3. 1 heaping tbsp baking powder
4. 2 tbsp sugar
5. 1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
6. 3 cups warm water
7. 1 egg mixed with a little water for egg wash
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
2.Place the flour in a large mixing bowl. Sift the salt, baking powder, and sugar into the flour. Stir well.
3.Add the melted butter and most of the water.
4.Mix well until dough forms. If the dough seems too dry, add some of the remaining water and continue to mix.
5.Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide the dough into 5 or 6 balls.
6.Working with one ball at a time, roll dough into a rectangle shape that will fit on a 16”x12” baking sheet.
7.Fold the rectangle-shaped dough into thirds, then in thirds again, creating a little bundle.
8.Roll this bundle into a large rectangle a second time (this will create flaky layers). Place rolled dough on an ungreased 16”x12” baking sheet.
9.Brush the surface with egg wash.
10.Bake on the lower oven rack for 15 minutes, or until bottom starts to brown.
11.Move the tray to the upper oven rack for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the top becomes a golden brown.
12.Remove from oven. Cool completely. Cut into 12 or 16 pieces.
13.Repeat this process until all balls of dough have been shaped and baked.
14.Store in an airtight container for two weeks or serve immediately with cheese and fruit.