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Grape blessing day

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Zibaxa Zibaxa | 11:21 UK time, Friday, 17 August 2012

Armenia is a country of traditions! The tradition I want introduce calls "Grape Blessing Day".

Every year in August Armenian Apostolic Church with great exultation and sublimity is celebrating the feast Assumption of the Virgin Mary -The blessing of grapes.

The night before the ceremony pious people abided by their faith come to the church to sing religious songs and sleep inside the sacred walls. In the early morning with the sunrise they were getting ready for the celebration - sweets and infinite quantity of fruits accompanied by songs, dances and funny games. It is not necessary to stay and sleep inside the sacred walls, some people buy the grapes in the early morning, enter the church as "forbidden fruit" and leave it blessed.

After church ceremony we start to celebrate fruit festival.

Now as I promised some recipes. First of all is Gata also called Khata, we cook this for cheerful events and ceremonies as a kind of sweet. It is very tastefully, so I hope you can cook it.

4 cups flour
1 yeast cake
2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup butter
Pinch of salt

Filling (Koritz):
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour
1/4 cup chopped raisins (optional)
1/4 cup chopped nuts optional)
1/4 cup sugar (optional)
Cinnamon to taste (optional)

Soften yeast in one cup of milk, melt the sugar in the other cup of milk, then combine the two.
Add melted butter, saving two tablespoons to use in brushing the dough.
Gradually add the flour and salt to the liquid and when all of it is absorbed, knead well. It should be a soft dough.
Cover and let it rise.
When dough has doubled in size, divide it into six portions. Take one portion at a time and roll out to thickness of 1/4" or less.
Brush the entire open dough with melted butter. Then fold the dough to a square 5" x 5". Place some koritz in the center of this square and bring over opposite corners of the square to cover the koritz.
Then roll out the dough to the size of a small pie. Brush with eggs, and design on top of dough with a fork or some other gadget. Let this rise again, then bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) until browned.
Koritz: Melt your butter and blend in the cup of flour, on low flame, and keep stirring until the flour and butter are well blended and the color of the koritz is pink. Stir in other desired ingredients.

The second one is Mahlab. It cames from Sirian Armenians.

For the brioche dough:
1 package (5/16 ounce) dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110° F)
2/3 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/2 tsp
3-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus 1 Tbsp
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, brought to room temperature
2 extra large eggs
1-1/2 Tbsp vegetable shortening
1-1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil, plus 1 Tbsp
1 Tbsp finely ground mahlab
1/3 cup warm milk
1 egg yolk for glaze
Poppy seeds to top rolls (may substitute sesame seeds if desired)
For the filling:
8 oz pitted chopped dates
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2-3 Tbsp honey

Mix yeast with water, 1/2 tsp sugar and 1 Tbsp of flour and stir until smooth.
Proof 10-15 minutes, until mixture begins to rise and is foamy on top. This step assures yeast is live and active.
Beat eggs together in large mixing bowl (for use with an electric mixer).
Add sugar, butter, shortening and 1-1/2 Tbsp of vegetable oil, mixing thoroughly.
Add ground mahlab, proofed yeast mixture and begin alternating with flour and milk.
Mix using the dough hook of an electric mixer and stir until dough is firm, smooth and elastic. If needed, add up to 1/4 cup more flour (or up to 1/4 cup more milk) to ensure dough is the correct consistency.
Thoroughly grease a large bowl (non-aluminum and non-stainless steel, so as not to create too cool an environment for the dough to rise) with remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil. #
Place dough in bowl, turning once to coat entire surface with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and keep somewhat warm, ideally 75-80°F if possible (placing covered bowl inside an unlit oven with door shut creates a temperature-controlled environment -- just make sure the oven is turned off and stays off). Allow dough to double in size; this should take approximately 2 hours.
[If dough isn't rising as it should, find a warmer area to store the bowl or proof another package of yeast (by adding yeast, warm water, sugar and flour as directed above and allowing mixture to rest 10-15 minutes, becoming foamy and risen), then knead proofed yeast mixture into existing dough.]
After dough has doubled, punch down center, cover, place back in unlit oven (or warm spot) and let rise another 1-1/2 hours. Punch dough down a second time and let rest 10 minutes before shaping into individual rolls.
If necessary, you may refrigerate the dough at this point, then shape into rolls and bake the following day. Should you need to refrigerate, simply coat dough surface (lightly, yet thoroughly) with vegetable oil and seal tightly in plastic wrap (you may wrap the dough itself or cover the entire bowl -- just make sure it is airtight so dough does not dry out). Also, if refrigerating, be sure to remove dough from refrigerator a minimum of 1 hour before shaping into rolls. Dough must come to room temperature, have time to rest and be punched back down if necessary before shaping rolls and baking.
On easy-release aluminum foil or parchment paper, divide dough into 20 equal-size rolls (approximately the size of a ball that fits comfortably between your palms). Let shaped rolls rest approximately 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F. If baking more than 1 sheet of rolls at a time, use convection setting if available. To begin filling dough, simply flatten each roll between the palms of your hands, creating a circle. Using a standard spoon, place a scant spoonful of date, honey and walnut filling in the center of each circle and pull edges of dough up and over to cover filling and create a sealed ball (i.e., pouch).
Continue shaping ball (pouch) with your hands, ensuring that filling is evenly covered and dough is sealed, then return filled ball to easy-release foil or parchment paper and allow to rest until each pouch is filled and ready to bake. Fill one pouch at a time for best results.
As filled rolls rest, lightly brush the surface of each with egg wash and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds as desired.
Place rolls 2 inches apart on lined cookie sheet (or jelly roll pan) and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for approximately 15-20 minutes. Watch brioche carefully -- rolls are done when they turn light golden in color and bottoms are set. If baking rolls in more than 1 batch, be sure to make a note of finished baking time for subsequent batches.


  • Comment number 1.

    Hello Zibaxa,

    I read your post about the Grapes Blessing Day. It is the first time I hear about this religious rite. Is this celebration special to Armenia or is it general to all Christians. Would you please explain to me why this fruit is forbidden before entering the church and how it becomes blessed after then? Is there any special treatment like washing or cleaning or any religious ritual applied to the grapes or do they become blessed just by going into the church? Is this the case for other fruits or is it only for grapes? It is a very amazing tradition anyway.

    Would you mind telling me what other religions do you have in Armenia? Do you have Judaism, Islam or other religions? What's their representation in comparison with Christianism? What's the type of christianism do you have in your country?

    By the way, I would like to thank you for the gata and mahlab recipes.

    Best wishes,


  • Comment number 2.

    No comments. Everybody gone to cook:)

  • Comment number 3.

    Dear Elmansour
    Thank you for your reply. First of all I'm Apostolic christian. I cant be sure if there is another country celebraiting grape blessing day. As I know all Christian countries should have some tradition like this. From grape you can make wine and as Bible sais wine is a blood of Christ. Thats why we blessing grapes. As you understand grapes are saint fruit, thats why they need be bleesed befire eating.
    During the ceremony priest blessing grapes and grapes must be in the church during ceremony.
    We have not Judaism, Islam or other religions here in Armenia, maybe there are few peple, but in general we all are Apostolic Christians.
    You are welcome for more reciepts. Hope you like gata.
    Best regards

  • Comment number 4.

    Dear Victor
    Thank you for beeing with me during my blogtime on bbc.
    Hope you cooked and like our sweetness

  • Comment number 5.

    Hello Zibaxa,

    it was nice to read your blog. You have made the great effort to write these recipies down. Unfortunately recipies are too complex for my cooking skills, maybe I ask my wife to cook. She is the better one in the art of gastronomy. Anyway I'm sure they tastes great.

    I had some years ago a friend at work from Northern Irak who baked us delicious kulitchas (I hope I wrote it right). They were like those khatas you descriped us. It was nuts, raisins and some orange inside this delicious bake. I really hope I had a possibily to taste those once again. They really were great.

    Thank you of your great blog. Can't wait to read more you lovely writing.


    - Ompputhecat -

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi! I'm mexican and I want to practice my english, I'm studying now the pre-intermediate level and I want to find some friends for chating... regards!

  • Comment number 7.

    Hello Zibaxa,

    You said you are apostolic Christian. What is it? Are other types of Christians? What are there?

    On the other hand, you promised to give us more information about your Armenia and now we are August 27. If it is not too late please do it.

    Looking forward to hearing from you very soon.


  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Zibaxa, it's my first time here, i read almost all of your posts, i love the way you write, because you don't feel ashamed talking about your feelings, and that's not so easy for a lot of people. So i hope you will write something more before the end of the month. if you do so, pleas write something about your friend Sona, i hope you are still friend, i think she deserve the possibility of thinking about what she had done, and hopefully start to behave differently with her grandma.
    I also hope to come and visit Armenia with my family, in the next years, it's one of the countries that i'd like to visit in the future.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hi Magdaem! I'm an Italian student and I was just thinking about it would be nice have a penfriend in order to improve english... so if you want we can write eachother on facebook. Let me know.

  • Comment number 10.

    Hey Ompputhecat
    I hope you will develop your cooking skills :) you can taste it in a restourant. Whish you good luck :)

  • Comment number 11.

    Hello Magdaem and Elmansour

    First of all I whish you success with your English dear Magdaem.
    My dear reader Elmansour thank you for beeing with me. There are some kinds of Christianity, you can check it in google. Armenians are apostolic, this mean that we get our Christianity from Apostels.

  • Comment number 12.

    Dear Omar

    Thank you for your kind comment. I want to say that Sona promissed me to think about her relations with grandma. I'm tring to do my best to hekp her.
    If you want my advise you have to visit Armenia. This is the beautiful country with very beautiful places. Hope you will visit Armenia and we will met. My greetings to your family


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