Clara Yenovkian’s Piróg

Clara Yenovkian’s Piróg, an Armenian family favorite

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FRESNO — Clarice Krikorian contributes this Russian-Armenian version of piróg that her beloved 91-year-old mother, Clara Yenovkian, has made for many years.  “Piróg (perok) comes from the Armenian diaspora in Iran and bears similarities to the piróg pastry popular in many Eastern European countries.  It’s a staple in most Russian households.  Many bakeries boast their ability in producing the finest piróg usually made with apricot jam, cherry or fruit preserves.  However, nothing compares to the one you bake right in your own home,” says Clarice.

“Piróg is often a buttery jam-filled snack cake, tart or slab pie that seems to have traveled all the way to Iran and Armenia where it reigns supreme to this day,” says Clarice.  “It is made from yeast dough, short crust, or puff pastry that is filled with either sweet or savory ingredients.  Popular fillings include meat, fish, mushrooms, cheese, cabbage, potatoes, fried onions, and fruits including plums, apples, apricots, peaches, or berries.”

“This is one of our family’s favorite desserts. My mother often made this during the summer apricot season, and would use her homemade apricot jam made from the fresh apricots that grew on our backyard apricot tree.  Other fruit preserves and jellies work with this recipe, too, depending on whatever you have on hand. This is a special dessert — the recipe was given to my mother by some of her Russian-Armenian friends.  On occasion, she would substitute plum jam in place of her apricot jam or preserves, and both versions are absolutely delicious and easy to make.

Clara Yenovkian

This is an ideal dessert for entertaining guests or bringing to a potluck luncheon or dinner.  We serve this dessert with hot coffee or tea, and it is exceptionally good alongside Armenian coffee.”

“Piróg is made in different shapes: often oblong with tapering ends (like my mother would make it), circular or rectangular.  The pastry can be open faced with no crust on top, or completely covered with a crust as well as a lattice shaped top crust.  Most commonly made from a yeast dough, the addition of yeast distinguishes piróg from pies and other similar pastries,” adds Clarice.

“I remember standing alongside my mother at our old Formica kitchen table as she would roll out the dough then cut it into strips to form the beautiful lattice design for the top of the pastry.  The yeast dough would fill up the house with such a delectable, comforting aroma.  My sister and I would wait, impatiently, for this delicious treat to be baked and ready to devour.  Needless to say, leftovers never lasted long in our house.”

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Ingredients:

1 yeast cake

1/4 cup warm water

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup milk

1/2 cube (4 tablespoons) butter

1/2 cube (4 tablespoons) margarine

3 eggs, beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

4 cups flour (approximately)

1/4 cube (2 tablespoons butter to spread between layers of dough)

1/4 cube (2 tablespoons margarine to spread between layers of dough)

1 (8 oz.) jar apricot jam or jelly, apricot/pineapple or plum jam or jelly

Preparation:

Soften yeast in 1/4 cup warm water along with 1 tablespoon sugar.  In saucepan, over medium heat, stir in milk and remaining sugar, stirring until dissolved.

In another saucepan, melt 1/2 cube each butter and margarine.  Pour into measuring cup to equal 1/2 cup after melting; set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, salt, milk mixture and yeast.  Gradually add baking powder, flour and melted butter/margarine and mix until all ingredients are incorporated.  Knead mixture with buttered hands. (Dough should be soft but not sticky).  Cover and let rise 1 hour.

Melt together the remaining butter and margarine and set aside.  Take ¾ of risen dough and roll out very thin; brush with melted butter/margarine. Fold in sides of dough toward center and brush again with melted butter/margarine.  Repeat this procedure twice again until dough is about a 5′ square.

Prepare a “10 1/2 x 15 1/2” baking pan with some of the melted butter/margarine.  Roll out dough to fit pan.

In a saucepan, warm jam or jelly of your choice.  Place dough in prepared pan and spread with warm jam or jelly.

Take the remaining 1/4 dough and roll out to make strips for top of piróg. On a large piece of parchment paper or waxed paper, assemble the strips into a basket-weave pattern to fit the pan.  Invert onto the jam/jelly layer and pinch together all edges to seal.  Cover and let rise for 1 hour. Brush top of the pastry with a beaten egg.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

If the top of pastry has browned after 20 minutes, cover with a sheet of parchment paper and continue to bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until top and bottom of pastry is golden brown.  Cut into squares and serve with hot coffee or tea.

Armenian Coffee (Soorj) From Clarice Krikorian

Armenian coffee (soorj) is an acquired taste that when properly made, takes time and all of your attention. The result is definitely worthwhile. It is a thick, delicious coffee that is certainly not for the faint-hearted. This coffee is also how many Armenians start their day.  Like Arabic coffees, the flavor is very strong, and it is a normally unfiltered coffee with a small serving size. In Armenia, they call it haygagan soorj. In Greece, you order an elliniko. And if you were in Lebanon you would say gahwey arabi (https://henryshouseofcoffee.com/soorj/).

Armenian coffee is the most popular hot beverage served after dinner in many households; it is made from pulverized coffee that is found in most Middle Eastern specialty markets. Traditionally, once you have finished your coffee, you are to turn your cup upside down on the saucer.  You must then rotate your cup clockwise three times which allows the coffee grounds to form your “fortune.” The cup is then given to the family “expert” at reading the coffee grounds.  If your coffee cup sticks to the saucer, the seal is not to be broken signifying good luck is sure to come your way.

“Many of us have heard, and will remember.”  The wise words of many seasoned Armenian “fortune tellers” who would almost always begin with the phrase, “Hehroo deghen nahmahg muh beedee kah.”  Translated: “From far away, a letter is going to come.”  Basically, this would mean that good news is coming your way.  My beloved mother-in-law, Rose (Aznive) Krikorian, was our family’s Armenian coffee cup expert.  Family members would line up with their cups (pen and paper in their hands), waiting for the news their cups held.  Needless to say, my mother-in-law Rose was amazing and, many times, very accurate.

Ingredients:

Water

Pulverized coffee (found in Middle Eastern markets)

Sugar (if desired)

 

Preparation:

Measure one demitasse cup of cold water for each cup of coffee desired, and pour into a “jazva” or “jazvee” (a long-handled, narrow necked brass or enamel pot), also known as a “sourjaman” or coffee pan.   A small saucepan will work just as well.

Heat water until lukewarm, just before it comes to a boil.  Add one slightly heaping teaspoon of pulverized coffee and one level teaspoon of sugar (if desired) for each cup of coffee being made.  Note: These amounts can be varied according to taste. Stir to dissolve and bring mixture to a boil over high heat then lower heat until foam is formed on top.  Place a spoonful of foam in each demitasse cup.  Pour in coffee, dividing among the cups and serve.

For information and recipes, go to:

http://www.cocointhekitchen.com/pirog-2/

https://earthtoveg.com/vegan-perok-cake/

https://www.today.com/food/how-make-reddit-s-old-recipe-armenian-perok-cake-today-t203064

https://www.reddit.com/r/Old_Recipes/comments/fxy8n8/ive_been_baking_our_old_family_recipes_during/https://www.aashpazi.com/apricot-

https://www.aashpazi.com/apricot-marmalade-cake

https://www.copymethat.com/r/9K7Ba4ooT/armenian-perok-cake/

https://thearmeniankitchen.com/armenian-coffee-soorj-of-delight-with/

Also see Clarice Krikorian’s “Basterma with Eggs” recipe at: https://mirrorspectator.com/2021/06/03/clarice-krikorians-basterma-with-eggs
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