Easter is approaching, so Kelly (A Messy Kitchen) cleverly chose an Assyrian confection, Nazook (or should it be spelled Nazuk? Or is it Nazouk? Or perhaps it’s Nakhshoon…). In Armenian, it is called Նազուկ. But whatever it’s named, it’s delicious!
Nazook is popular in Armenia and Azerbaijan. In Armenia, it is made year-round, but apparently especially for Easter, as well as the festival of Ascension that takes place 40 days after Easter. In Eastern Armenia, the pastry is called Gata. (My Armenian friend, originally from Yerevan, which is smack in the middle of Armenia, knows it by both names. She directed me to look at her favourite recipe “Aznive’s Nazook”.)
Nazook is also made in Iran – and possibly any place that was at one time part of the Persian Empire.
Nazook is a Persian pastry that my Iranian grandmother has been making for me for as long as I can remember. No one makes nazook like her, and it is the perfect accompaniment for a hot tea or coffee. The flavor is buttery, sugary, and downright incredible.
– Nicole, Creatively Hungry | Nazook (Persian Pastry)
Sweet nazuk is perfect with tea, delicious and easily suits for decorating. […] This is an excellent [flaky] pastry that can be eaten practically anytime of the day.
– News.AZ | Azerbaijan Cuisine: Sweet Nazuk (news.az/recipes/27059)
This pastry is an Armenian national treasure.
– Naomi Duguid, Armenian Puff Pastry Cake (Gata), Taste of Persia, p.286
Tasty dough with mixture of sour cream and yeast, butter, flour, eggs, little bit oil and vinegar then filled with flour, butter, sugar and vanilla mixture heavenly delicious. […] I must say it’s little bit time consuming but the result is amazing. Enjoy
– Aznive, Aznive’s Homemade Foods and Desserts, Armenian traditional delicious Nazook (Stuffed sweet bread)
I turned to the master pastry baker in my family, my Aunt Aida, who’s been baking nazook for decades. Her nazook is absolutely perfect, much better than the best stuff you can buy in Glendale grocery stores. […] A little on this pastry’s background: Aida tells me that other Armenians eat nazook, too, but they might call it gata (gata is what Persian-Armenians reserve for a specific type of round cake). Armenians prepare it usually around the time of Easter, and it is eaten for 40 days through Ascension. I’m not sure it has any religious significance except for that this time usually involves friends visiting each other, and nazook is a nice pastry to serve along with coffee
– Jason Menayan, Delishably | Nazook Recipe: Step-by-Step Instructions and Video
The dough for this is yeasted, but it didn’t seem to want to rise at all. It was closer to strudel dough….
Here’s how things went:
BBB Nazook diary:
2 February 2018, 01:10 These sounds like fun, Kelly! They look beautiful too.
12 March 2018, 18:31 I have an urge to use our wild starter, considering that this recipe is so ancient.
13 March 2018, 10:48 I’ve decided that it would be craziness to try this with wild yeast. While it might well work, I just don’t dare – with all that butter and sugar (and major crankiness from 100% of the inhabitants if the rise fails).
After all, here’s what the inimitable Susan says:
One of the questions I get asked most often is how to take a bread recipe and substitute sourdough starter for baker’s yeast. The short answer, in my humble opinion, is: you can’t.
– Susan, Wild Yeast, Going Wild
Yup. Susan is wise. I’ll use commercial yeast.
I’m also looking at the gram equivalent for the salt.
½ tsp (6 g) salt
– BBB Nazook recipe
I wonder if that is for kosher salt? Because from what I understand from USDA Nutrient Database, “1 tsp = 6gm table salt” but kosher salt is different and depends on the brand.
[A] tablespoon of Morton’s kosher salt is the equivalent of 1.85 tablespoons of Diamond Crystal — just half a teaspoon shy of 2 tablespoons. […] [A] tablespoon of table salt can be replaced by 2 1/4 tablespoons of Diamond Crystal kosher salt or 1 1/4 tablespoons of Morton’s.
– Edward Schneider, Warning: Measure Your Salt | Diners’ Journal, The New York Times
6 grams of salt makes more sense to me than half a teaspoon. But, then we like salt in sweet things. So I’m going to go with a Baker’s Percentage of 2%, and use 7 grams. (For more ranting about this, please see Salt is salt, right?)
11:55 I’ve mixed the dough. Even though I decided to follow the recipe and use commercial yeast, I strayed with other ingredients.
Of course, I did….
We didn’t have any sour cream on hand, but we did have cream cheese and yoghurt. So I used a half and half mix. I also decided to add a bit of flax seed. And some wheat germ.
When I began to measure the butter, I ran into a snag. I’m afraid I hadn’t actually read the recipe through and assumed that there would be water. That I would boil. And melt the butter that way.
When, oh when, will I learn to read the recipe??
Combine flour, salt and butter and blend with your fingers until crumbly. Add egg, oil, lemon juice, and sour cream and mix until incorporated. Knead the dough on a floured surface for 5 minutes, or until no longer sticky. Add more flour if necessary.
– BBB March 2018 recipe
Ooops!! I had already dumped the yoghurt/cream cheese/yeast mixture into the flour before I even weighed the butter. Which was rock-hard out of the fridge.
So I grated it with the box grater. It turns out that it is dead easy to grate cold butter. And it is also dead easy to mix it into the flour when it has been grated.
I mixed everything with my hands – I did NOT add any more flour – and kneaded the dough in the bowl for about 10 minutes. The dough is now in a covered bowl in the oven with only the light turned on. I hope I added enough yeast! (You must know already that I slightly reduced the amount of yeast…. )
13:15 I just peeked at the dough. Nope, nothing happening yet. But it’s still early, isn’t it? While I had it out, I turned the dough a few times. It’s beautifully silky.
13:38 Ooops!! Did I mention that I had neglected to read the BBB recipe through? Just to check that I wasn’t crazy, I looked at Naomi Duguid’s recipe as well.
Form into a ball, and to follow tradition, mark with a +, symbolizing a cross. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 5 hours, or overnight.
– BBB March 2018 recipe
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead […] You should have a soft, tender dough. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 1 to 3 hours, whatever is most convenient.
-Naomi Duguid, “Armenian Puff Pastry Cake (Gata)”, Taste of Persia, p287
And here I was, thinking that I would be baking Nazook this afternoon. I guess not!
I’ll just go down now and put the dough in the fridge, shall I?
…good thing I’m making this a couple of days before 16th!
14 March 2018, 10:21 Snow this morning. Again. It’s not much – nothing like the sort of thing that has been smothering the east coast or Europe. But it’s still snow. In the middle of March.
Okay. No more. That’s enough now. (Ha! I hear Mum’s voice echoing those words. And she’s NOT talking about the snow.)
The dough this morning hadn’t budged. It looked exactly the same as it did yesterday when I put it in the fridge. After briefly looking at various places, I decided to proceed anyway.
I really like the round shaping for Gata, so I decided to shape half the dough like that. Uncharacteristically for me, I used an egg wash (I made half a recipe of dough, so I had half an egg left over.) I had too much fun shaping and decorating!
The trays are in the oven now. I hope they puff!
10:58 Wow! They’re gorgeous… time to make coffee!
11:57 I just realized that today is Π Day! Which instantly makes me think of Grandpa:
A apple pie. B bit it; C cut it; D dealt it; E et it; F fought for it; G got it; H had it; I […]
So, how fitting it is that we have the round version of this pastry for this morning!
Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th (3/14) around the world. Pi (Greek letter “p”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.
-piday.org Π Pi Day
We were really curious to learn if there was any difference in flavour between the two shapes. While both were delicious, we independently chose the smaller version as our favourite. It is a little breadier. But still not very bread-like. I keep wondering what the yeast is there for.
I think I could easily have used our wild yeast to make these. Because it doesn’t seem to matter if the dough rises or not.
But, is this bread? Or is it pastry?
Ah! Who cares? It’s delicious!
Nazook is irresistible – especially when served with coffee, tea, or even a cup of hot chocolate.
Be warned: once you start eating nazook, it’s hard to stop! If you happen to have any left, you’ll be happy to know that nazook freezes well
-Robyn Kalajian, The Armenian Kitchen: ‘My Uncle Rafeael’ – The Movie; ‘Nazook’ – The Dessert
Many thanks for a terrific choice, Kelly!
Here is the BBB recipe for Nazook that we were given. And here is what I did to make this wonderful pastry:
based on a recipe in “Mom’s Authentic Assyrian Recipes” by Hilda Sterner; decorative shaping for Gata based on the Heghineh Cooking Show Nakhshoon Gata Recipe
- 59g cream cheese plus 54g plain yoghurt (the BBB recipe calls for 113g (0.5c) sour cream)
- splash water (if necessary)
- 3g active dry yeast
- flour (the BBB recipe calls for 195g (3.25c))
» 150g unbleached all-purpose flour
» 30g 100% whole wheat flour
» 10g wheat germ
» 5g flax seed, finely ground
- 113g unsalted butter, cold (next time I’ll use salted butter)
- 0.5 egg, room temperature (reserve the other half for the glaze)
- 6g (0.5Tbsp) oil
- 2.5g (0.5tsp) lemon juice
- 3.5g salt (the BBB recipe calls for just 3g)
Filling (Khoriz) (I was a little bit casual with the measuring for the filling….)
- 56g walnuts, finely ground (I used closer to 70g….)
- 1 c (120g) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 0.5 c sugar
- 2g (1 tsp) ground cardamom (The BBB recipe calls for half this amount. It just didn’t seem like enough.)
- 0.5 c (113g) salted butter, melted
- 0.5 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 0.5 egg
- small spoonful plain yoghurt
- tiny splash water
- Dough: On the day before you will be baking Nazook, realize that you have neglected to get sour cream. Decide to use yoghurt instead. When you go to the fridge to get the yoghurt, notice that there is some cream cheese there that really should be eaten. Mash those together to mimic sour cream. Stir in the yeast as best you can. Add a splash of water because it looks too thick. Set aside briefly.
- Dump flours, wheat germ, and ground flax seed into a large mixing bowl. Pour the yeast mixture overtop. Realize that the butter is hard as a rock. Use the box grater to grate it into the mixing bowl.
- Add half the egg (put the other half into the fridge to use in the glaze), oil, lemon juice, and salt. Mix well with a wooden spoon or Danish whisk. Switch to using your hands. The dough may seem to be a little stiff. Pretend it’s pasta dough.
- Kneading: Knead the dough in the bowl for about 10 minutes until it is quite smooth. Form into a ball, and as the BBB recipe says, “to follow tradition, mark with a +, symbolizing a cross“. Cover the bowl with a plate and put it into the oven with only the light turned on.
- After an hour or so, turn the dough and remark to yourself that it hasn’t really risen at all but it is beautifully smooth. Go and read the BBB recipe to refresh yourself about the filling ingredients. Realize that the dough is supposed to be in the fridge and that you won’t be shaping the nazook until tomorrow. Take the dough out of the oven and put it into the fridge overnight. Make sure that the bowl will stay covered.
- Filling: The next morning, take the dough out of the fridge. Feel slightly alarmed that it remains entirely unchanged, as if there was no yeast added at all. Decide to ignore this feeling and go ahead to mix the filling. Use a hand grinder to turn the walnuts into a beautiful fluffy mixture. Put flour, sugar, walnuts, cardamom, vanilla and all but 1 Tablespoon of the butter into a medium sized bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir until smooth. Set aside.
- Glaze: Whisk egg, yoghurt and water together in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven: Put a rack on the top shelf of the oven and turn it to 375F.
- Shaping: Put the dough onto a lightly flour board. Divide it evenly in two.
- Nazook: Roll the dough into a thin rectangle about a centimeter thick. Use a pizza wheel to even out the rectangle. Set the discards aside for a moment. Brush with the rectangle with 1/2 Tbsp melted butter. Spread half the filling overtop, leaving a border of about 2 cm all around. Fold the edges of the dough inwards, then roll the rectangle into a long cylinder. Press it down gently with the palms of your hands to flatten it slightly. Place it seam-side down on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Liberally brush the top with the egg mixture.
Roll the extra dough out into a long thin thin thin rectangle. Use a pizza or ravioli cutter to make strips. Lay them in X patterns over the cylinder. Brush with egg mixture again. Use a biscuit or pastry cutter to cut the cylinder into 6 to 8 pieces. Spread these well apart, glaze side up, on the parchment paper.
- Gata: Cut the second piece of dough evenly in two. Cut away a very small amount from each piece and set aside. Roll each of the larger pieces into a flat disc 15 to 20 cm in diameter and about 1cm thick. Brush with butter and spoon the filling evenly into the center of each disc. Bring all the edges together to make a bundle in the center (so it looks like a little bag). Gently press down to flatten it into a disc. Turn each disc over and place them on a parchment covered cookie sheet. Liberally brush the tops with the egg mixture. Pierce through the top layer several times with a fork.
Roll the extra dough out into a long thin thin thin rectangle. Use a pizza or ravioli cutter to make strips. Lay them in a crisscross pattern over each disc. Brush with egg mixture again.
- Baking: Put the trays onto the top shelf of the oven (to prevent burning the bottoms) and immediately turn the oven down to 350F. Bake for about 30 minutes, turning the trays half way through baking, to account for uneven oven heat. Bake them until they are beautifully golden brown.
Serve warm with good strong coffee.
:: Yeast: I still think these could be made with wild yeast. Next time….
:: Sour cream: Next time, we’ll use just yoghurt and no cream cheese at all. The dough seemed to be on the stiff side.
Even though this was made with yeasted dough, it really didn’t rise
– and I don’t think this hole is due to “Lazy Baker Syndrome”.
Nazook was much more successful!
(Still no rise, but at least it’s compact.)
Bread Baking Babes
To celebrate 10 years of baking together and to look forward to even more bread baking, we devised this new chalkboard logo.
Kelly is the host of March 2018’s Bread Baking Babes’ project. She wrote:
[This] stretches the definitions of bread, but I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. It is an Armenian sweetbread and it still has yeast. Closer to a yeasted pastry, […] this is traditionally prepared for Easter so I thought the timing would be perfect for our March recipe release.
My kitchen smells unbelievably good right now.
– Kelly, in message to BBBabes
So does our kitchen!
And it’s true; Nazook is not exactly bread. But it sure is good! When I emailed my Armenian friend to ask her about tips for making it, she wrote back, “Oohhh now I want to eat nazuk. I even smell it.”
We know you’ll want to make Nazook too! To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make the bread in the next couple of weeks and post about it (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 29 March 2018. If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to email the Kitchen of the Month to say that your post is up.
For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:
Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ March 2018 Nazook:
- Aparna, My Diverse Kitchen
- Cathy, Bread Experience: Nazook Flaky Walnut Pastry Rolls
- Ilva, Ilva Baretta Photography
- Jamie, Life’s a Feast
- Judy, Judy’s Gross Eats: Tea Time with Nazook
- Karen, Bake My Day: Bread Baking Babes are all sweet: Armenian Nazook
- Karen K, Karen’s Kitchen Stories: Nazook | A Walnut Filled Armenian Pastry
- Katie (BBBBB), Thyme for Cooking: Bread Baking Babes exhibit deviant behavior: Nazooka
- Kelly, A Messy Kitchen: Nazook, Nazukeh, Gata, just call it Delicious! BBB Bakes… (kitchen of the month)
- Pat (aka Elle), Feeding My Enthusiasms
- Tanna, My Kitchen in Half Cups: Nazook, Gata ~ BBB
It’s with deep regret to grasp that Lien will no longer be baking with us regularly. But we wanted to make sure that we kept her beautiful logos on the wall to remind us of her wit and generosity. Here’s hoping she’ll come back into our kitchen from time to time. Often.
Because, once a BBBabe, always a BBBabe!