Lavash: Armenian Traditional Flatbread
Armenians love bread! Since ancient times one of the nutritional characteristics of Armenian nation has been consumption of bread made of wheat flour. The historical sources testify that at least two thousand five hundred years ago Armenians knew about the fermentation processes and baking of bread and Armenia is one of the homelands to the wild wheat. Baking of bread is sacred and sharing of bread is a necessary base of legendary Armenian hospitality. The most important Armenian bread, especially in terms of consumption is lavash flatbread, which in 2014 was included on UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list.
Lavash is a very thin (0.2-0.5cm), long (90-110cm) and easy to wrap flatbread that does not contain a yeast or traditional bread starter. This versatile bread can be soft, crisp or cracker-type. It is healthy and suitable for almost any diet. It is the most suitable and multi-functional bread to take with for hiking- can be used as a tablecloth, a plate, etc.
Lavash is baked in traditional underground clay tonir oven, which in pagan times used to be the symbol of sun. Tonir oven is sacred in Armenian culture. In old times, in small villages of Armenia where there were no churches, the priest would hold a marriage ceremony around the tonir over.
The taste of tonir baked lavash can not be described with words. There are many factors contributing to the taste, one of the important is constituents of fire, which vary from manure to grapevine chunks. Therefore, we recommend you try lavash baked in a bakery of a small Armenian village. Here you can not only witness the process of baking, but also taste the crusty remnants, which are considered to be the very palatable among Armenians.
Lavash flatbread is also popular overseas and one can find it in many stores. However, if you want to make your own homemade lavash, here is a quick recipe to bake in a frying pan. Of course, it will never have the same taste as the one baked in a traditional tonir over, but is still is a lavash:
1 cup warm water
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Wheat flour (add unless the dough is as soft as the earlobe )
Combine salt, vinegar and baking soda and mix with warm water. And flour little by little and knead with hands until the dough is no longer sticky and soft. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rest for twenty minutes. Before baking, cut the dough into small round shaped pieces. While stretching the dough heat the frying pan. Do not put oil or anything in the pan! Just put the stretched pancake shaped dough on the frying pan and bake it from both sides until flushed.
Tip: Lavash flatbread can be consumed within several days, if stored at room temperature wrapped in a kitchen towel. If put in a food storage plastic bag and refrigerated it can be kept soft for up to fifteen days.
Lavash dries out quickly and can be kept for up to four months high in layers. Dry lavash can be softened by sprinkling it with water and wrapping in a kitchen towel half an hour before serving.
By the way, our recommended recipe of lavash was used by many Armenian housewives during the post-Soviet hardship times. Leave a comment for us about your own lavash baking experience or share your own recipe of homemade lavash…