Citizens, it has been my experience that some of the most complex recipes in the world (from a decorative or technique standpoint) are from the proud country of Azerbaijan!
For those unfamiliar with the country, it is in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west and Iran to the south.
The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic proclaimed its independence in 1918 and became the first democratic state in the Muslim-oriented world. The country was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1920 as the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.
The modern Republic of Azerbaijan proclaimed its independence on 30 August 1991, prior to the official dissolution of the USSR in December 1991.
The Constitution of Azerbaijan does not declare an official religion and all major political forces in the country are secularist. However, the majority of the population are of Muslim background. More than 89% of the population is Shia. Most Azerbaijanis, however, do not actively practice any religion, with 53% stating religion has little to no importance in their lives, according to Pew Research Center and Gallup polls. Alcohol and non-Islamic places are also permitted.
Azerbaijan has a high level of human development which ranks on par with most Eastern European countries. It has a high rate of economic development and literacy, as well as a low rate of unemployment.
The original etymology of this name is thought to have its roots in the once-dominant Zoroastrianism, in which fire was considered holy. Due to its many oil and natural gas reserves, Azerbaijan frequently has flames shooting out of the ground, so it’s no surprise it is known as the land of fire!
Shekerbura (Azerbaijani: şəkərbura), is an Azerbaijani dessert. It is a sweet pastry, filled with ground almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts, and sugar. The dough is made of wheat flour, butter, milk, egg yolks, cream and yeast. The filling also often includes cardamom.
The ancient name for this crescent-shaped pastry is sheker burek, a Turkic word meaning ‘sweet patty’. In Azerbaijan, it usually involves teamwork of relatives, friends and neighbors who congregate at someone’s home to make this Nowruz delight.
What is Nowruz – I’m glad you asked!
Nowruz (Persian: نوروز ; literally “new day”) is the name of the Iranian New Year’s Day, also known as the Persian New Year, which is celebrated worldwide by various ethno-linguistic groups.
Despite its Iranian and Zoroastrian origins, Nowruz has been celebrated by diverse communities. It has been celebrated for over 3,000 years in Western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin, and the Balkans. It is a secular holiday for most celebrants that is enjoyed by people of several different faiths, but remains a holy day for Zoroastrians.
Nowruz is the day of the vernal equinox, and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere.
Shekerbura typically have an intricate pattern on the dough, which is produced using traditional tweezers called maggash. These are impossible to find outside of Azerbaijan, but I have ingeniously substituted a far more easily obtained item – fondant crimpers!
Don’t worry about making an official Shekerbura pattern – make one up and make these your own family tradition!
I have cribbed an excellent recipe from azcookbook.com, with two minor tweaks – I use a blend of hazelnut and walnut and I add a touch of Frangelico, the hazelnut liqueur, to my filling.
This is a great recipe that will wow your friends and family, , it’s the Azeri way!
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
- For the Dough:
- 1 kg / 2 ¼ pounds first grade wheat flour (white only) + 1 tablespoon (for step 3)
- 400 g / 14 oz unsalted butter, cut into large chunks
- 5 egg yolks
- 250 g / 9 oz sour cream
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla powder (optional)
- ½ teaspoon dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ cup / 125 ml lukewarm milk
- For the Filling:
- 500 g / 1 pound skinned hazelnuts (See recipe for how to skin if readily skinned nuts are not available)
- 200 g / ½ pound walnuts
- 700 g / 1 ½ pounds granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons, or to taste, ground cardamom mixed with 2 teaspoons of Frangelico (TFD tweak – remove Frangelico for classic recipe version)
- mixing bowls, baking sheets, and a maggash (decorative tweezers or fondant crimper)
- Prepare the dough. Put the flour and the butter in a large mixing bowl. Using your hands, rub them together until you obtain fine crumbs. Make sure there are no large crumbs left.
- In a small bowl, using a spoon, mix the eggs yolks, sour cream, salt and vanilla powder.
- In another small bowl, put the yeast, 1 tablespoon flour, 1 tablespoon sugar. Fill it with ¼ cup of lukewarm milk. Let stand for about 2 minutes.
- Add the egg-sour cream mixture, the yeast mixture, to the flour-butter mixture.
- Using your hands, mix the ingredients until fully incorporated and a rough and inconsistent dough is obtained. Transfer the dough to your work surface. Put the remaining ¼ cup of lukewarm milk in a separate bowl. Constantly wetting your hands with milk, knead the dough for a few minutes to make it smooth.
- Shape the dough into a ball. Put it back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave aside to rest for about 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare the filling. If you are using already skinned nuts, grind them finely in a food processor. In a mixing bowl, combing the ground nuts with sugar. Add the ground cardamom/optional Frangelico and vanilla powder. Mix until fully incorporated.
- To skin hazelnuts and walnuts at home: Place raw hazelnuts in a large frying pan, and roast over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the skins crack and begin to flake off, about 10 minutes. Take care not to burn the nuts.
- Working with small batches of nuts at a time, place them them on a kitchen cloth and rub with it to remove the skins. Most of the skins will come off although some will still cling to the nut (especially on walnuts). Do not worry, a little skin will not be that visible in the filling.
- To skin almonds at home: Put the almonds in a pot and pour boiling water over them to barely cover their tops. Let the almonds sit in the water for about 2 minutes (do not keep them there for too long, or they will lose their crispiness and will be too soft). Drain off the water, pat dry the nuts and slip the skins off by squeezing the almonds between your thumb and fingers.
- Divide the dough into 36 balls, each weighing 50 g.
- Work with one ball at a time, and cover the rest. Roll each ball into a 4 inch (10 cm) circle.
- Place the circle in the palm of your hand, slightly folded, and put 2 tablespoons of the filling in the center.
- Starting at one end, begin sealing the left and right edges towards the center to obtain a half-moon shape. Sealed shekerbura must be somewhat chubby from the filling and never flat.
- Using your thumb and index finger, start pinching and twisting the dough along the seal to decorate the edges.
- Arrange the pastry on a baking sheet, lined with parchment (baking) paper. Continue working with the rest of the dough balls, arranging them on the baking sheet as you are finished decorating their edges.
- Now decorate the tops. Holding a pastry in one hand, and a maggash (tweezers) in the other, pinch the dough with the maggash at an angle and slightly lift it upward. Continue until you obtain a row of pattern. Create similar rows, each at an angle to the next one, until the entire surface is decorated.
- If maggash or fondant crimper is not available, you can just leave the top of shekerbura plain, without any patterns.
- Bake on the middle rack of the oven preheated to 175C (350F) for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges just begin to change their color and the bottom is light brown. Take care not to overbake the pastries – their tops should be light color when baked. If you did not decorate your pastries with the tweezers, coat them with powdered sugar once they cool off.
Citizens, please note that I can no longer afford to absorb the nearly $1000 per month it costs to keep the site running smoothly, including marketing expenses, etc.
You can make a difference!
Please consider making a one-time donation to help keep the site live and the posts coming – click here to PayPal Me a tip!
You can also show your support by listening to our podcasts, liking them, and sharing as you see fit – try them out here.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?