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, Citizens – just get some help from them in the kitchen when you make it, it’s the Azeri way!
Battle on – The Generalissimo