One of the perks of living in California is that one gets to experience different cultures and cuisines. Sometime back I found these wonderful sweetbreads called Gata in a middle eastern bakery . A bit of research led to Armenian Gata . It is a sweet bread , almost like a pastry . There are many regional variations of these. One popular version is a bread filled with butter , sugar and flour . This is the one featured here .
An internet search will bring up many version of gata recipe – many tied to family histories and traditions. All the recipes agree on one thing that there is bread/pastry and the filling . Some are richer than others and some downright decadent. The one that became a hit with us is a lightly sweetened bread with the walnut filling . I like the filling to be a thin layer , but feel free to double the filling if you like. The standard filling , koritz, is a simple mix of butter , flour and sugar . This unassuming filling gives the most delectable taste and texture .
The recipe starts as a standard sweet dough recipe . Warm 1/4 C milk to 110°F or just warm to touch . Mix one Tbsp honey with the milk and sprinkle the yeast on top . Let it sit aside for 5 to 10 minutes for the yeast to become bubbly . Use regular milk – not the skimmed varieties .
Take the flour in a large mixing bowl . Add salt and sugar and stir to mix evenly . Make a well in the center of flour mix and pour the activated yeast followed by half the remaining milk and the egg . Knead gently for a minute till the liquid is absorbed by the flour . Add the melted butter and enough of the remaining milk to make slightly sticky dough . Cover and set aside for 10 minutes .
Knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes until it becomes soft and very pliable . If needed add a few more drops of milk or a few tablespoons of flour . As always a little wet dough is preferable to a dry one . Form the dough into a ball . Oil the bottom of a bowl and place the dough ball in it . Turn the dough to coat all sides with oil . Cover the bowl (kitchen towel , plastic wrap any airtight lid ) . Set aside in a warm place for it to double – about 1 hr.
While the dough is proofing prepare the filling . In a bowl mix the sugar and flour with a pinch of salt . Here I have added finely chopped walnuts as well , Mix well . Melt the butter for filling and add it slowly to the dry ingredients along with vanilla essence and mix well . If you take the filling in the palm of your hands and press close it it should just come together . Do not add water . If necessary add a bit more melted butter . Set aside .
Here is the filling without walnuts . The melted butter should just bring together the flour and sugar mixture .
In another bowl whisk an egg with 1 tsp of milk and set aside for egg wash .
Once the dough has doubled in volume , punch it down and invert into a well floured kneading surface . At this point you can choose to make a large single gata or mini gatas . Here I have made 3 medium sized ones .
Divide the dough into 4 pieces . Take one piece and flatten into about 6″ disc . Place a third of the prepared filling at the center of the disc . bring up the sides of the dough around the filling and pinch it close . Using a rolling pin gently roll it back into a disc about 7 to 8 inch in diameter . Transfer to a baking sheet . Repeat with 2 more pieces .
Take the 4th piece of dough and roll it out to a fairly thin disc – 12 to 14 inches in diameter . Cut into thin strips and place over the gata discs in a decorative pattern. This is an optional step . It helps to have a nice crust as well as hide any imperfections .
Trim and tuck in the ends of the dough strips under the discs . The handle of a dinner spoon / fork comes handy here. Brush the tops with egg wash and use a fork to poke holes on the top of the breads as well . This is an important step as otherwise the filling might break the top and ooze out .Transfer to the oven pre heated to 375 F and bake for around 30 minutes , until the tops are dark golden .