Shahka Lokhmahs Traditional Armenian cookies from the Armenian Museum website
With an electric mixer, mix the butter and egg yolk until they are very creamy. Add the vanilla and mix until well blended. Add the sifted powdered sugar and mix again. At this point, add the finely ground pecans or toasted walnuts and stir until completely incorporated into the batter.
Gradually add the flour to this mixture. The dough will be firm. If the dough becomes too tough for your mixer, use your hands. Try not to handle the dough too much. (Note: the dough works best if you use it when freshly made rather than refrigerating or freezing it for later use. It can also be made that way, if needed.)
Put flour on the palms of your hands as you roll out small portions of dough into a log about 12 to 15 inches long and about 3/4 inch in diameter. Cut the cookies with a butter knife every 3 inches at an angle. Use leftover dough for the next log you roll out. Handle the dough as little as possible. Repeat process until all cookies are cut and placed on an UNGREASED cookie sheet. Arrange the cookies against each other as they will keep the same size when baked.
Bake at 325º for at least 15 minutes. Check the bottom of the cookie for doneness. The cookies will be done when they are lightly browned. Add more time if needed. Sprinkle cookies with powdered sugar when completely cooled. These cookies travel and freeze well once baked. They are best served with Armenian coffee or tea.
“My father is from Beirut, Lebanon. Mom’s family is from Ankara, Turkey. My grandparents survived the Armenian Genocide in 1915 when they met in an orphanage run by German missionaries. Food has always been a way to bring back memories; I remember being part of a two-person army, jockeying the skewered lamb from the kitchen to my dad outside, where the handmade charcoal grill and his expertise made these morsels of lamb a very succulent dish. He even shaped the skewers; being a watchmaker and jeweler came in handy thanks to his skills in making kitchen gadgets. We would do this for a full day and then freeze what we didn’t need, so we had some toasted goodness for months to come,” says Ruth.
“I spent many hours learning how to make traditional Armenian dishes. That’s all we’ve ever eaten. Unfortunately, there were times when I dreamed of macaroni and cheese and hot dogs instead of what I had access to. Looking back, I fondly remember the great food we all enjoyed. I think cooking was sacred ground. With poverty and hunger in my story, nothing was ever wasted.
The phrase “starving Armenians” was for real for my grandparents.
When they finally arrived in this country, they even brought remnants of button thread from a shirt; I found some, years later, in my grandmother’s sewing box…”
“It wouldn’t be an Armenian meal or meeting without coffee and some kind of sweet like this cookie. When I visited Armenia in 2019, there was literally a coffee machine or a store front where you could have a coffee without taking a few steps. There are tricks of the trade, but know that it’s easy to do. Sometimes people would turn the cups upside down after finishing their hot, sweet drink and tell each other fortunes. Often associated with dried and fresh fruits, baklava and nuts of some kind – even cordials – it speaks of friendship, belonging and brotherhood. Savor these traditional Armenian cookies that melt in your mouth. They represent for me a real taste of home”, she adds.
For this recipe, go to: https://www.armenianmuseum.org/armenian-recipes
See Ruth’s latest stories at: https://armenianweekly.com/author/ruth-hartunian-alumbaugh/
See also “My Armenian Table” by Ruth of Connecticut Food & Farm Magazine, Spring 2020, Volume 20 by Connecticut Food and Farm at: https://issuu.com/connecticutfoodandfarm/docs/connecticut_food_and_farm_maga
Ruth visited the monastery of Gandzasar. “Gandzasar is a 13th-century Armenian Apostolic Cathedral headed by the Church of St. John the Baptist and is the most important shrine in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Gandzasar Monastery, along with hundreds of other ancient monasteries, testifies to the millennial presence of Armenians in Karabakh and proves that the sacred land of Artsakh has belonged to the Armenian people since time immemorial. (https://www.gandzasar.com/holy-see-of-gandzasar.htm). The construction of Gandzasar began in 1216 under the patronage of the Armenian prince Khachensky. Mentioned for the first time in the 10th century, from the 14th centuryand century in the 19th century, Gandzasar was the residence of the bishops and, to this day, the monastery is still the religious and cultural center of the country.*
“My heart skipped a beat when I arrived at Gandzasar Monastery. My beloved mother has been gone from this world for over a decade. But I thought I saw her when I saw the little lady making jingalov hats. This herb filled bread is to die for. As I love to cook and bake, I’m always drawn to places where food is made. This woman invited me to approach and look at her work. She reminded me of my grandfather from Beirut who owned a bakery. He baked bread in our kitchen all his days here in the States. He never used fancy tools either. Just a cutting board and a sharp knife and the best tool ever – his hands. I found another Hartunian of spirit. His bread was cheap (barely US$1) and generous in size. And the added bonus was the man with colorful flags riding his horse to entertain the crowd. – Ruth Hartunian-Alumbaugh, 2020. See also: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1020760-jingalov-hats
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About the Author: Ruth Hartunian-Alumbaugh is passionate about all things edible and has written food blogs (Ravings and Cravings), taught cooking classes to locals and internationals, traveled to Armenia (in addition to many other faraway places), is a music therapist, veteran homeschool mom, lover of Jesus Christ, and deeply devoted to her family. She is the sole owner of Music and More International and lives in Connecticut, hosting conversations at [email protected] She has a supply of cookies at home at all times.
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