I still remember the first time I ever had Armenian gata — it was in a wine cellar in Tbilisi, Georgia. Luck would have it that we were there, drinking wine by the litre on a virtually empty stomach when the Armenian neighbours came by to say that they had these pastries to offer us. I took one bite of this rolled sweet bread and knew from that moment that I was going to need to develop a delicious Armenian gata recipe for myself.
After travelling through Armenia and eating this unique sweet on numerous occasions, I also began to realise how diverse and varied the pastry can be. Though I was always eating a delicious, tender bread with a light and sweet filling, I noticed that they could be shaped differently, filled with things like walnuts and even they are sometimes referred to as nazook.
After some research, I learned that regional differences play heavily in gata, however, the kind that I have developed are the most common that I’ve found both in places like Yerevan or even in bakeries in Tbilisi, Georgia where there is a large Armenian population (and very few local Georgian sweets save for churchkhela!).
So if you’re looking for a unique sweet to make at home or if you have been searching high and low for a delicious Armenian gata recipe, then look no further! This one is sure to be a hit.
What is Armenian Gata?
Before jump into how to make gata, we probably need to discuss exactly what it is. Simply put, gata is an Armenian sweet bread that is baked with a filling called khoreez, which is a mixture of flour, butter and sugar. The pastry can be filled and baked into a circular bread or, more commonly, rolled up like a cinnamon bun so that the filling is beautifully spiralled and baked into individual pastries.
Depending on who the pastry is being made by and the region that the gata is from, you will also see this pastry being referred to as nazook. From my own research, this seems to be a more common name for the pastry that is made in southern Armenia, closer to Iran, and is often filled with walnuts along with the khoreez. However, regardless if you call it gata or nazook, there is no denying that this is a very delicious sweet.
Another common variation that you will see is that some people will make the dough with yeast as the leavener and other times you will find it leavened using baking soda. It kind of depends on who is making the pastry how it is leavened, but I personally like the way a yeasted dough tastes so that’s how this Armenian gata recipe is made.
How to Make Armenia Gata
Without further ado, let’s get right into how to make this delicious Armenian pastry.
This gata recipe isn’t hard to make, but it is worth knowing that it does take time (unlike my banana bread recipe that can be completed in just over an hour!), including time for the dough to proof and an overnight rest in the fridge, so you’re not going to be able to quickly whip up some gata in an hour or two. Don’t let the length of time it takes put you off, however, as this recipe for Armenian gata isn’t all that difficult to execute and the vast majority of the time is inactive. Just make the dough the night before and bake the next morning.
To start off, you need to make your gata dough. For most yeasted doughs, this is going to begin with blooming your yeast. In a small saucepan or in short 5-10 second bursts in the microwave, heat a small amount of milk to about 40°C (102°F). Pour the milk into a small bowl and whisk in your active dry yeast until it’s dissolved. Set it aside for a few minutes until the yeast has puffed a bit and has become very fragrant.
Into the bowl with the milk and yeast, whisk in your sour cream, egg and sugar. It’s always a good idea to ensure that these are all at room temperature. Set this mixture aside for a minute while we contend with the dry ingredients.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Then, add your butter one pat at a time and, using your fingers, toss the butter to coat it in the flour and then squeeze the butter between your fingertips. Continue doing this until the butter is well combined in the flour and the pieces of butter are the size of peas.
Then, make a well in the flour and butter mixture and pour in your wet ingredients. Using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, stir the mixture until it’s well combined and the flour is completely hydrated and a soft, shaggy dough has formed. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead it a few times, just until it completely comes together and the dough is smooth and just barely tacky to the touch.
Gather your dough into a taught ball and transfer it to a greased bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel. Set it in a warm place and allow it to rise for about one and a half to two hours, or until the dough has increased by about 1.5 times its initial volume. How long this takes will really depend on the warmth of your room. If it’s warmer, then it will happen quicker. Keep in mind that you won’t see a drastic difference in volume just because of how enriched the dough is.
Once your dough has gone through its first fermentation, gently punch it down, return it to the bowl, cover it tightly with plastic and transfer it to the fridge. Allow the dough to ferment in the fridge for at least eight hours and up to 12. It’s best to do this overnight.
The next day, it’s time to make your khoreez, or filling. This simply involves whisking together your flour and salt in a small bowl and then combining in the butter very similarly to how you did in the dough. Add your sugar and whisk until everything is well combined. Set the filling aside until it’s needed.
Now, remove your dough from the refrigerator and turn it out onto a very lightly floured work surface. You want to avoid adding too much flour to your surface because as more is incorporated into the dough, the tougher it will become. So just use enough to prevent the dough from sticking.
Pat your dough into a rectangular shape and roll out until it reaches a 40 x 30 cm (16 x 12 in) rectangle, ensuring that it is of even thickness all the way around. Position the dough so that the longer side is parallel to the countertop, facing you. Sprinkle your filling evenly all over the dough, leaving a slight perimeter on the top long end of your dough so you can easily make a seam.
Working from the bottom to the top, carefully and tightly begin to roll your dough into a tight log. Pinch the seam to completely seal and transfer it to a cutting board or baking sheet, ensuring that the seam side is facing down.
Using your hands, press dowon on the top of the log to gently flatten your gata. Cover the log loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate just until the dough has had the chance to firm up a bit, only about fifteen to twenty minutes.
Remove from the fridge and cut your log into eight equal pieces. I do this first by trimming the ends so that they are straight and even. Then, using a very sharp knife, I cut the log in half to make two pieces. Then I cut each half in half to get four equal pieces. Finally, I cut each of those four pieces in half to make eight equal pieces.
Transfer the pastries to a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to proof until lightly puffed, about one hour.
In the meantime, preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F) and, in a small bowl, beat together one egg with a splash of milk. Once your gata have proofed, gently brush them with the egg wash and transfer to the oven.
Bake the gata for 30-35 minutes or until they are very puffed and have turned a deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving and enjoying!
- 60ml (1/4 cup) whole milk
- 3g (1tsp or 0.1oz) active dry yeast
- 125g (4.4oz or 1/2 cup) sour cream, room temperature
- 25g (0.9oz or 2tbsp) granulated sugar
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 350g (12.3oz or 3 cups) all-purpose flour
- 2g (0.07oz or 1/2tsp) salt
- 125g (4.4oz or 9tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
- 100g (3.5oz or 3/4 cup) flour
- 2g (0.07oz or 1/2tsp) salt
- 100g (3.5oz or 7tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
- 100g (3.5oz or 1/2 cup) sugar
- In a small saucepan or in 5-second bursts in the microwave, heat your milk until it reaches about 40°C (102°F). Pour into a small bowl and whisk in the yeast until it dissolves. Set aside for 5-10 minutes until it is fragrant and lightly foamy.
- After the yeast has bloomed, add your sour cream, sugar and egg and whisk together until combined. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the butter and, using your fingertips, coat the butter in the flour and squeeze the butter pieces until they reach about a pea-size.
- Make a well in the flour and butter mixture and pour in your yeast, milk and sour cream mixture. Using a wooden spoon or a silicone spatula, mix it together until well combined and the flour is completely incorporated -- it will be slightly sticky. Turn out onto a clean work surface and knead just until the dough has come completely together. Gather into a smooth ball.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and set aside in a warm place for 1.5-2 hours or until the dough has risen about 1.5x its original size -- the time will vary depending on the warmth of your room.
- Gently punch the dough down, cover tightly with plastic wrap and transfer the dough to the refrigerator and chill for at least 8 hours or overnight.
- The next day, whisk together the flour and salt in a small bowl.
- Add the butter, toss to coat in the flour and, using your fingertips, pinch the butter pieces until you reach the consistency of small peas or coarse sand.
- Add in the sugar and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Forming and Baking
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and turn it out onto a very lightly floured work surface. Pat it into a square shape and, using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a 40cm x 30cm (16in x 12in) rectangle, ensuring that the dough is of even thickness throughout.
- Sprinkle your filling evenly across the entire rectangle, leaving a slight perimeter at the top long side. Working carefully, slightly roll the dough starting from the long side into a log.
- Pinch the seam to seal and transfer to a cutting board or baking sheet, ensuring that the seam side is facing down. Press down on the log to slightly flatten it. Cover loosely in plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes, or until it has firmed up slightly and it is easier to slice.
- Remove the log from the refrigerator and, using a sharp knife, cut into eight even pieces and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to proof at room temperature until lightly puffed and, when poked, the gata retain the imprint of your finger but bounces back slightly, about 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 180° (350°F). In a small bowl, beat together one egg with about 15ml (1 tbsp) of whole milk. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the gata with the egg wash. Transfer to the oven and bake until the gata are puffed and deeply golden brown, about 30-35 minutes.
- Transfer to wire rack and allow to cool completely before enjoying!
Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, the gata will keep for up to 3 days, however, they are best enjoyed on the day they're made.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 401Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 60mgSodium: 390mgCarbohydrates: 60gFiber: 2gSugar: 17gProtein: 7g
Nutritional information is automatically generated and provided as guidance only. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Though they take a bit of time, this Armenian gata recipe is not hard to make and it is so delicious and rewarding. The next time you’re looking for a unique, sweet treat, why not turn to the Caucasus and make these delicious Armenian pastries?
Are you searching for the perfect recipe for Armenian gata? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments!