The recipe comes straight from the pages of Saveur (January? February? can't tell), my new favorite food magazine. Every issue has one or two recipes that completely capture my imagination. And not only do I love-love-love this tahini 'n' sugar sweetened bread, the dough itself is so beautiful to work with, I think it's my 'new go to' recipe for cinnamon rolls.
Saveur describes the rolls as a 'croissant mated with halvah' and goes on to say, "This unprepossessing sweet yeast bread - eaten by Christians in that country during Lent, when the church forbids the consumption of dairy products - awakens the senses the moment it leaves the oven, with the seductive aromas of sesame and cinnamon. The real joy, however, is in the bread's flaky yet chewy texture ..."
The rolling technique is a little messy -- not difficult, just messy with oozing tahini. Next time I'll roll the dough differently. The roll in the picture above was the size of a salad plate -- too big except to share several ways but also too thick for the flaky sweetness to easily form while baking. Shoot for the golden dark color in the lower-most left-hand corner of my photo, it took more oven time than specified to develop.
NEXT TIME It's easy to imagine adding pistachio nuts, currants, other bits of dried fruit.
(And yes, I'm stretttcching the definition of 'veggie' to include the 'plant seeds' in the tahini's sesame seed paste, just for the fun of it. And I beg the indulgence of the Fat-Free Vegan, who's hosting this week's Vegetable Love, to permit the stretch for this really special dairy-free, egg-free 100% vegan sweet bread.)
A YEAR AGO Vegetable Coconut Curry with Shrimp Check the comments to see who mentioned moving to St. Louis! She has!
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ARMENIAN TAHINI BREAD
Then: About 2 hours to rise
Then: 20 minutes to roll out
Then: 30 minutes to bake
Makes 6 large rolls (or maybe 24 small ones)
[this is a half recipe]
PROOF THE YEAST
1/2 of a package of active dry yeast (1 1/8 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water
Stir together the yeast, sugar and warm water and set aside. If it gets bubbly, you know the yeast is good. Mine took a long time to proof, nearly 30 minutes, I almost started over since it should only take about 5 minutes. If it doesn't get bubbly, then the yeast is dead and you do need to start over with new yeast.
MIX & KNEAD THE DOUGH
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Whisk the water and olive oil in a large bowl, then add the proofed yeast and the flour and cinnamon. Mix into a rough dough. Move dough to a countertop dusted with flour; be sure to keep the flour bin nearby. Now knead the bread for 8 - 10 minutes, adding flour to prevent sticking, til it becomes smooth and elastic.
[How to knead bread? If you’re new to kneading bread, it’s really quite simple. Sprinkle a plate-size area of countertop with a tablespoon of flour, keeping more flour within reach. With your hands, form the dough into a flat round and place on the flour. Palms down, grasp the dough lightly. Press it firmly away from you with the heel of one hand. Then fold top of the dough toward you. Turn the dough a quarter turn. Repeat the press-fold--turn process in continuous motion – you’re kneading bread! When the dough starts to stick to the counter or your hands, lift up the dough, sprinkle flour on the counter a tablespoon at a time, then work the flour into the ball by continuing to knead. Soon you’ll feel the dough become thicker and more pliant as the leavening (in this case, the yeast) begins to work.]
Wash the large mixing bowl, then swirl with a tablespoon of olive oil. Roll the dough ball around in the olive oil, moistening all around. Center the ball in the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot to let rise until doubled, about two hours. [My new favorite way to help bread rise is to put a glass cutting board atop an emptied metal mesh wastebasket, then to set a small space heater at 70F next to the wastebasket. It works perfectly, winter and summer.]
SHAPE THE BREAD
1 cup tahini (Saveur used 1 1/2 cups, I'm not sure how)
1 cup sugar (Saveur used 1 1/2 cups, this kept the 1:1 proportion the same and seemed right to me anyway)
Let dough rest for 10 minutes. (Divide into two pieces if following my rolling method.) Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. [I used two different types of baking sheets. The Airbake seemed to help form the flakiness better. I wouldn't skip the parchment, not for easy clean-up but for even baking.] Lightly flour the counter to roll out the dough.
- Saveur's way: With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a 25" circle. Spread with tahini and then sprinkle the sugar evenly over top. Cut a one-inch circle in the center of the dough and put aside, this creates a 'donut' of sorts. Starting from the middle, roll the edge of the dough over itself, working your way around the hole in the center. Continue rolling the dough over itself until a large circular 'rope' is formed. Cut the rope into six pieces. With each piece, form a tight coil and place onto the baking sheet, leaving room between. Press with the palm of your hand to flatten. [Again, the thinner the better.] [Hmm. I skipped this next step, I'm guessing it was important and would have promoted the browning and flakiness.] Mist each round of dough generously with water.
- My way, the next time: With a rolling pin, roll half the dough (keeping the other half covered) into a rectangle. Spread with half the tahini and half the sugar. From the long edge, roll the dough over itself to form a rope. Gently stretch the rope to lengthen. Cut each long rope into as many lengths, each one should be long enough to form a tight coil. Transfer to baking sheet and flatten. Mist each round of dough generously with water.
Suggestion: demerara sugar
Sprinkle tops of buns with the raw (demerara) sugar. Bake for 20 - 30 minutes (my big ones took up to 40) until the exterior turns quite brown and flaky. Remove from oven and cool.