Armenian national matnakash bread. Part view of three loaves of bread on kitchen table
Food - Drink
What Makes Armenian Fingerprint Flatbread Unique
What Is Matnakash?
Armenia has a special relationship with bread, so much so that the words for bread and meal are the same in Armenian. Although not as well-known as Armenian lavash bread, matnakash, or fingerprint flatbread, is special for its rustic flavor, fluffy texture, and long, ovular shape with distinctive dimples running lengthwise across it.
While matnakash is an Armenian creation, it grew in popularity because of Soviet propaganda. In the 19th century, Armenia was divided into two countries, with the USSR taking control of the eastern country; the Soviets liked the bread for its dimpled lines, which reminded them of the rows of plowed fields.
The Soviets may have enjoyed the bread’s dimples as a symbol of the agrarian prowess of the USSR, but the lines actually have a purpose. The rivets are formed by pushing your fingertips through the dough until you feel the work surface underneath, which helps the bread hold on to its glaze and helps it aerate.
How to Make It
Matnakash is made with a sourdough starter, which gives the bread its tangy flavor and characteristic fluffiness. Mix your starter with flour, water, and salt, and let it proof in the fridge overnight; once proofed, give your bread its dimples, proof again, and glaze with an egg wash before baking until golden brown.
Bread such as Iranian barbari, Afghan naan, and Turkish pide are all similar to Armenian matnakash, likely because these nations were once part of the Persian Empire which covered most of the Middle East at its peak. The bread is popular throughout the region and in Armenia, matnakash is second only to lavash bread.