Anya von Bremzen describes these as "coffee rolls," and they certainly make a substantial mid-morning snack. Her eclectic book on Russian Cooking, Please To The Table, is fascinating not only because of its unusual recipes but also because in 1990, Russia meant the USSR in its full pomp, and its territories included (among other now independent states) Latvia, Estonia and Kazakhstan, in addition to Armenia.
I have converted her original recipe to make sourdough-raised rolls (my starter is made up of 50% water and 50% flour; you may need to alter the quantities of flour and water in the ingredients if your starter has significantly different proportions). Otherwise, this pretty much follows Anya's description.The resulting buns are sweet, soft, sticky and rich with the sesame flavour of the tahini. They smell fantastic!
110g sourdough starter
100g melted unsalted butter
1 egg, beaten
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbs sugar
1 jar tahini paste (300g)
16 tbs soft brown sugar
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp milk to glaze.
1 In a large mixing bowl, combine the first eight ingredients, stirring to form a rough dough. Cover and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
2 Tip out the dough onto a work surface and knead for ten minutes. It will be very sticky at first but persevere! It doesn't need extra flour. Leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes (I used this time to wash out the mixing bowl and to grease it with any remaining melted butter). Then knead again for a further ten minutes. By the end, it should have formed a soft, silky dough which comes away quite cleanly from the work surface and your fingers.
3 Place the dough back in the mixing bowl and turn over to coat with the melted butter. Cover and leave in a warm place to rise for 2 - 3 hours.
4 Sprinkle a rolling pin and the work surface liberally with flour. Turn out the dough and rotate it so that its surfaces are well floured. Divide the dough into 8 pieces, more or less of equal size.
5 Roll out the first of these smaller pieces until it is quite thin, but not fragile. Anya's method suggests rolling the dough into a circular shape about 8" in diameter, but I found creating a rectangular shape made the next steps easier.
6 Spread 3 tsps of tahini evenly across the flattened dough; then scatter two tablespoons of soft brown sugar evenly on top. If in doubt, add a bit more tahini or sugar.
7 Roll up the dough into a thin cigar shape; then roll it into a pin-wheel, tucking the outside end underneath. Place the bun onto a buttered sheet of baking paper on top of a baking tray.
8 Repeat for the remaining seven pieces of dough.
9 Cover and leave the buns to rise for 30 minutes.
10 Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees,
11 Just before placing the rolls in the oven, brush generously with the egg/milk glaze. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.