Even with 70-odd
By Charles Perry
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
April 18, 2007
The other day, a co-worker brought in some mysterious cookies from an
They were tan domes with a tight spiral pattern on top, making them look a bit like snail shells lying on their sides. The pastry had a distinctive taste, more wholesome than cookie dough, followed by a little blast of richness from that spiral, which turned out to be a filling of sesame tahini. It tasted like peanut butter without peanut butter's funky edge.
In other words, these were cookies we could eat a lot of, and we proceeded to do so. But not before I saved one or two to explore their mystery.
When you cut one in half, the interior turned out to be curving lines of pastry alternating with darker caverns of sesame filling, vaguely like the pattern of layers in a halved onion.
Whatever it was, the pastry was definitely not cookie dough. I had to know what was going on here.
This plunged me into the vortex of the 70-odd
Only a couple of pastry shops made these tahini cookies. But how did this innocent cookie end up in these glittering palaces of seduction anyway?
It turned out that this “cookie” is considered to be a bread ? not a pastry ? because it's made with yeast-risen dough. It happens to be a clever variation on Middle Eastern tahini bread (in Arabic, khubz tahini; in
To us, it was no contest: The dome shape is better. It's a more convenient size and easier to eat, and the balance of flavors is better.
But we wanted to know: How do you make these irresistible treats?
The only recipe I could find was in an obscure cookbook published 25 years ago in
So I asked some
Uh-oh. I should have foreseen this ? it's a Middle Eastern tradition, as I already knew: When I traveled around
Finally, my driver took me aside and darkly told me, “Not even to their own sons, not till they're on their death beds, will they tell their secrets.”
Well, I understood. It's a bakery-eat-bakery world out there, and a pastry chef doesn't want to give up his edge. Still, that bread-cookie remained outside our grasp.
Finally, Hovsep Sarkozian of Maral's took pity on us and spelled it out. The secret seemed to be (as we should have known): This is a cross between a bread and a cookie, so it needs sugar and oil in the dough. Once it rises, you shape it and bake it right away without the sort of rests and additional rises that bread dough usually gets.
To tell the truth, even the versions that hadn't been exactly what we wanted ? the ones with loose spirals or dough that was too puffy or the ones that didn't brown up enough ? were quite good.
So finally the quest was over.
Not that I'm going to stop going to
Man does not live by tahini bread alone.
SWEET THINGS In the mood for unusual sweets? Here are our top 10 among the myriad local
Top 10 Armenian bakeries in Southern California
April 18, 2007
As home to one of the largest
And the most eclectic sweet tooth too. Beside their own ancient pastries such as a bread-y coffee cake called gata, they're into baklavas, Persian fritters and Russian doughnuts. On top of that,
Though there are pastry shops in the older
We checked out nearly 50
Baklava Factory, 1415 E. Colorado Ave., Suite K, Glendale, (818) 548-7070, also 17145 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 728-1600 and 12909 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, (818) 764-1011, www.baklavafactory.com. Well-made baklava, cookies and fritters, though not baked on the premises but in a central bakery in Sylmar.
Lord & Villa Bakery,
Oasis Pastry (also known as Mary's Oasis or M. Shatila),
Panos Pastry Bakery, 5150 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 661-0335; also 418 S. Central Ave., Glendale, (818) 502-0549; www.panospastry.com. A grand pastry palace with marble floors and mirrors, a large selection of
Van Bakery, 5409 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 466-2450; also
Vrej Pastry, 1074 N. Allen Ave., Pasadena, (626) 797-2331; also 11148 Balboa Blvd., Granada Hills, (818) 366-2526; and 1791 East Route 66, Glendora, (626) 914-1940. Good for cheese pastry, barazek and dainty
? Charles Perry
In the mood for unusual sweets? Here are our top 10 among the myriad local