How many traditional breads of the world can you name?
You’re about to add 1 more to your list!
Are you ready for it?
Armenian sourdough lavash.
What Is Sourdough Lavash?
It’s an ancient Armenian flatbread — popular throughout the Caucasus and Middle East. We can trace it back as far as the 6th century!
How did it come to be?
Well, in traditional cultures, factors like climate, natural resources, and mobility influenced the shape and functionality of their ovens. This, in turn, determined the appearance of their breads.
An Armenian oven is called tonir (similar to tandoor). It looks like a large clay cylinder that sits in the ground.
Women roll their dough, stretch it paper thin, then slap it onto the sides of tonir. In this way, lavash bakes very quickly against the high temperature, staying light in overall color with dark, charred blisters.
Sourdough lavash is such an essential part of Armenian history that UNESCO deemed it an “intangible cultural heritage of humanity.”
What To Do With Sourdough Lavash
Sourdough lavash is very versatile!
Traditionally, it made a wrap for salty cheeses, greens, and herbs.
It also makes a great crunchy snack if dried. Once dry, it has a long shelf life and can be rehydrated again easily.
Or, use it as a plate! Pile on some rice, meat, or veggies, and use another piece of lavash as a spoon. Of course, modern conveniences make this unnecessary but it’s a neat historic fact all the same.
Sourdough Lavash: My Version
As with any popular food, there are countless variations of sourdough lavash. And everyone claims that theirs is the best! 😉
Some recipes use flour, hot water, starter, and salt. Others suggest matsoni, a fermented dairy drink, instead of water. Most agree that fermentation should be short: 3 to 4 hours in a warm, if not hot, environment.
I decided to go with fermented milk. Instead of matsoni yogurt — which is hard to come by — I substituted homemade whole milk kefir.
Although I tried einkorn flour first, the lavash came out too brittle. So, on to my next favorite — spelt — which also happens to be the abundant grain in the Caucasus for generations, worked wonderfully.
I also used a cast iron skillet instead of a stone in the oven. The main goal is to have an evenly heated surface — as opposed to a thin frying pan.
Why Whole Grain Spelt Flour?
While the oldest cultivated variety of wheat is einkorn, spelt is still one of the oldest! Unlike einkorn, it grew throughout a much larger area: from Europe to the Middle East to Russia’s northeast.
It performs similarly to modern wheat in baking. And yet, it is far superior nutritionally.
If your family isn’t crazy about whole grain breads, this sourdough lavash might make them rethink their priorities! This flatbread is mild in flavor, thin, flexible, and perfect for kids!
- Whisk together kefir and sourdough starter.
- Add sifted spelt flour and salt.
- Next, knead by hand (or in stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment) until the dough becomes nice and pliable and absorbs all the dry bits.
- Then leave in the warmest place of your house for 3 to 4 hours. The goal is not to sour or raise the dough, but to condition, soften, and strengthen it.
- Sprinkle the dough with flour. I use all-purpose spelt flour at this point because whole grain is a bit rough for rolling.
- Give it a couple of hand kneads.
- Then transfer to a well floured work surface.
- Preheat a large cast iron skillet.
- Divide the dough in 12 pieces. Cover the pieces you are not using, to prevent drying.
- Roll each piece out to ⅛" thick circles.
- Slightly stretch it by hand when you transfer it to the skillet. This helps to prevent air pockets.
- Then cook each lavash on medium to medium high heat for a minute or less.
- Flip over.
- Adjust heat as needed. It will take some practice to find out the best setting for you. You want lavash breads to have dark spots. If the spots don't appear, the skillet is not hot enough. That would make breads too brittle.
- Finally, once cooked, cool lavash between 2 towels to prevent moisture from escaping.
*White all-purpose spelt flour also works well in this recipe.
*If using water instead of kefir, add a tablespoon of olive oil to the dough. It will make it easier to handle.
Are you familiar with lavash? Have you ever made it before? What is your favorite flatbread?
This post may contain affiliate links. We only recommend products and services we wholeheartedly endorse. Thank you for supporting Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS with your purchases. Our family thanks you!