In her family’s kitchen in the Granada Hills, Kristine Jingozian, one of the founders of Rose & Rye Bakery, pulls out of the oven a tray of fresh Nazook – the flaky, rolled, traditional Armenian pastry with a fragrant butter-sugar filling with vanilla and burnished gold on top. In preparation for the Armenian Christmas weekend, which takes place on Saturday, when families share sweets with relatives to celebrate the holiday, brown paper boxes by the half dozen or full dozen were neatly filled with Nazook.
As the mixture cools, Jingozian begins rolling delicate, gelatinous rose “delicacies” into sticks and arranging them, along with walnuts, on rounds of dough, which she shapes into crescents called lokumlu—a popular drink to drink on Armenian Christmas Eve Cups of tea
It is one of the cookies that Jingozian recovered from her grandmother’s old recipe book and reflects influences from the years she spent in Soviet Armenia, combined with her Syrian and Lebanese heritage.
“I watched her make lokumlu throughout my childhood. “When we decided to put it on the menu, she came and stayed with us, following our every move and making sure we cooked it right,” Jingozian remembers.
Los Angeles is home to one of the largest Armenian communities outside of Armenia, and dozens of bakeries across LA reflect the pastry tradition culturally linked to Russia, Iran, Lebanon, France and beyond. Being Armenian means being in many places.
Rose & Rye is the story of one family’s journey of escape and immigration, told through pastries and cakes that as many as the Jingozians adopted during displacement and political change, and that were perfected by trying hundreds of recipes.
Karine Jingozian founded the home bakery in May 2017 with her daughters Rose and Kristine. From their kitchen they also prepare Persian halva, Russian layer cakes, borek, pirog shortcrust tarts and ashtamali, a mix of two iconic desserts (orange blossom semolina cake with a layer of thickened cream and pistachios) with flavors and ingredients they source in California root, including local olive oil, mandarin quats, blood oranges, black sesame, strawberries and matcha.
“I’m obsessed with matcha, I drink it every day, so I decided to add it to the traditional Nazook,” says Kristine. “For me it was a way to integrate other cultures into our own culture, because Rose & Rye is a diaspora project.
“Diasporic food means that it is not just Armenian food: it means that everywhere Armenians went there was cooking, and it is Armenian food.”
The tangy smell of baking yeast dough pervades the sparkling clean kitchen with four ovens strategically placed in different corners so the family of bakers can bake their signature cakes and cookies at the same time.
The neat, German-made wooden mill on the counter turns grains into flour, which Rose & Rye uses in baked goods. When they started their business, the Jingozians set out to work with the Tehachapi Heritage Grain Project, which grows and preserves ancient organic grains. The project aligned with Rose & Rye’s goal of supporting the local economy and keeping generational traditions alive through food.
Food has always played an important role in the Jingozian family. Karine grew up with the vivid stories of her great-grandfather, a chef in Iran. He was known for his shakshuka, which Karine recreated for her family. After returning to Armenia, her family moved to Siberia and later, in 1988, to the USA
For her 40th birthday, Karine decided to apply to culinary school and turn her passion for cooking into a career. In 2016, she decided to quit her job as a pastry chef in West Hollywood and bake classic French cakes with Rose. Soon, Kristine, who worked at République, joined her mother and sister with the idea of modernizing traditional recipes and making them accessible to others outside of their community. So the centuries-old Nazook was given a makeover with hazelnut, chocolate and matcha fillings.
Rose & Rye was supposed to be a temporary project, but as the customer base grew and dozens of Nazooks and whole cakes were ordered, the Jingozians expanded the menu.
It was then that the Jingozians’ Russian honey cake, Medovik, was born. “The only good honey cakes I’ve tried were the homemade ones. “The store-bought ones were either dry or too sweet or tasted like nothing,” Kristine says. So, as a starting point, she decided to create a cake based on a recipe from her grandmother’s recipe book, but redeveloping it with a flour called Rouge de Bordeaux, a hard red French wheat from the Tehachapi Heritage Grain Project with a specific nutty flavor, which enhances the honey taste.
After six months of trial and error, researching 600 different recipes, and an endless stream of YouTube videos, they landed on the ultimate layered honey cake with layers of honey-sour cream whipped cream and a little golden bee on top.
The next project was to revive another childhood favorite popular in Armenia and other countries under Soviet rule: the bird’s milk cake with white cream sandwiched between layers of muscovado sugar and topped with a chocolate glaze.
“The way I describe this cake to non-Armenians or someone who isn’t from Eastern Europe,” Kristine says, “is that it has the taste of untoasted s’mores.”
Weekly Pre-orders for pickup at Rose & Rye are booked via the website. Cake by the slice is available at pop-ups in Los Angeles announced on Instagram.