Monday, January 23, 2017

Armenian Nazook

Back in 2012, when I was still baking along with the Daring Bakers challenges, I made an Armenian Nutmeg cake. The other option for that month was the nazook, an Armenian filled pastry. When my book club read Skylark Farm by Antonia Arslan, about the Armenian genocide, I intended to bake nazook for that gathering. But then I was somehow out of flour, and it snowed, and, yeah, that didn't happen.

But nazook remained in my head! And so eventually, I made it. The recipe comes from that month's host's aunt Aida, who you can see baking nazook on YouTube. I actually came across that recipe when searching for anything Armenian, before I made the connection back to the Daring Bakers original post!

I made the recipe as described, except I made a few filling variations. I used the butter-sugar-flour-vanilla filling in all of them, but 1/4 I made with that plus diced dried apricots, and half the dough I mixed finely chopped hazelnuts with the filling.

My dough was pretty dry... I think I should have followed my instincts and pulled it when it seemed to come together and not machine knead it the entire ten minutes. When will I learn? But these are still pretty decent despite an overworked dough, because the ratio of filling to dough is high. This is not a difficult recipe at all, and I can imagine many more filling variations!


Yields 40 pieces
Video instructions by Jason's aunt Aida
Illustrated directions at the Daring Bakers website

Pastry dough
  • 3 cups (720 ml) (420 gm/15 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted
  • 2½ teaspoons (12½ ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) (1 packet) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm/8 oz) sour cream
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225 gm/8 oz) softened butter (room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) (210 gm) (7½ oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) (340 gm/12 oz) sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1½ sticks) (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) softened butter (room temperature)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1-2 egg yolks (for the wash; alternatively, some yogurt, egg whites, or a whole egg)
Make the Pastry Dough
1. Place the sifted flour into a large bowl.
2. Add the dry yeast, and mix it in.
3. Add the sour cream, and the softened butter.
4. Use your hands, or a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, to work it into a dough.
5. If using a standing mixer, switch to a dough hook. If making manually, continue to knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl or your hands. If it remains very sticky, add some flour, a little at a time.
6. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 3-5 hours, or overnight if you like.

Make the filling
7. Mix the flour, sugar, and the softened butter in a medium bowl.
8. Add the vanilla extract.
9. Mix the filling until it looks like clumpy, damp sand. It should not take long. Set aside.

Make the nazook
10. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.
11. Cut the refrigerated dough into quarters.
12. Form one of the quarters into a ball. Dust your working surface with a little flour.
13. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle or oval. The dough should be thin, but not
14. Spread 1/4 of the filling mixture across the rolled-out dough in an even layer. Try to spread the filling as close as possible to the edges on the short sides, but keep some of pastry dough uncovered (1 inch/2.5 cm) along the long edges.
15. From one of the long sides, start slowly rolling the dough across. Be careful to make sure the filling stays evenly distributed. Roll all the way across until you have a long, thin loaf.
16. Pat down the loaf with your palm and fingers so that it flattens out a bit (just a bit).
17. Apply your egg yolk wash with a pastry brush.
18. Use your crinkle cutter (or knife) to cut the loaf into 10 equally-sized pieces. Put onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
19. Place in a preheated moderate oven for about 30 minutes, until the tops are a rich, golden brown.
20. Allow to cool and enjoy!

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