Kolkata has very interesting mix of people with different lineages, but I never thought that the city has some Armenian connections too, until the day I met Irene one of my cousin’s friend at Loretto. She has deep blue eyes but speaks impeccable Bengali, far better than me. As I was very much intrigued about her heritage, one day she took us to an old church “Holy Church of Nazareth” in Armenian street, believed to be the oldest one in the city, some 300 yrs old. That clearly implies that Armenians arrived in the city much before than the British and soon we got deeply absorbed in her stories.
She was very proud of her half Armenian heritage and later she took us to the Armenian college at Free school street too. Chomping on some delish pastries at Flurys we deeply engrossed in her stories, that she might have heard from her grandparents, stories about her Armenian aunts’ annual visits to the city, stories about her homeland which she had never visited, and soon the topic of food cropped up, which was quiet obvious but to our utmost surprise she couldn’t say much about any Armenian pastry shops in the city, given that Kolkata boast off many old heritage pastry shops. Few weeks later just after the Easter she invited us to her home in Park Circus where her mom served us some flaky pastry with coffee which has a quaint bitter taste. Pastry was so good and buttery that we gorged down them in no time and asked shamelessly for another serving.
Decade later when I saw the same kind (not sure though) of pastry in Daring bakers challenge I got so excited and decided to bake some at home for the sake of trying something new. As I was kneading the dough, all the memories come flooding back, I don’t know where she is now, must have settled in Australia like many of her Armenian friends and families, but that day she opened to me a new world and introduced me to Kolkata’s forlorn past, some unknown chapters of the city.
I wanted to make both sweet and savoury version, but to make it savoury, I couldn’t come up with something other than spinach. Walnut and pear were my spontaneous choice for the sweet pastry and for savoury I went with some cheese and herbs after taking a cue from Deeba of PAB. Though this was the first time I kneaded the dough for any pastry, so obviously it enthralled me to the core and most amusing part was that it had sour cream in the dough. I am not sure whether the pastry has turned out good or bad, must get it judged by some Armenian aunts but nevertheless we loved it. Its flaky, buttery and with walnut and pear makes it all the more delicious.
This month’s challenge was hosted by Jason who blogs at Daily Candor and challenged us with this Nazook / nazouk a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and the recipe has been sourced from her aunt Aida, who shared the recipe through this video.
Recipe: Nazook / Armenian pastry sweet and savoury
Summary: Nazook is a flaky yeasted dough sweet Armenian pastry
- Pastry dough
- All-purpose (plain) flour, sifted : 3 cups (720 ml) (420 gm/15 oz)
- Active dry yeast : 2½ teaspoons (12½ ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) (1 packet)
- Sour cream: 1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm/8 oz)
- Softened butter (room temperature) : 1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225 gm/8 oz)
- All-purpose (plain) flour, sifted : 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) (210 gm) (7½ oz)
- Sugar : 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) (340 gm/12 oz)
- Softened butter (room temperature) : 3/4 cup (1½ sticks) (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz)
- Vanilla extract : 2 teaspoons (10 ml)
- Honey : 1/2 cup if you are replacing sugar
- Pear (minced / optional) : 1
- Walnut (optional / chopped) : 1/2 cup
- 1-2 egg yolks (for the wash; alternatively, some yogurt, egg whites, or a whole egg)
Make the Pastry Dough
- Place the sifted flour into a large bowl.
- Add the dry yeast, and mix it in.
- Add the sour cream, and the softened butter.
- Use your hands, or a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, to work it into a dough.
- 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.
- Cover the dough and refrigerate for 3-5 hours, or overnight if you like.
Make the filling
- Mix the flour, sugar, and the softened butter in a medium bowl.
- Add the vanilla extract.
- Mix the filling until it looks like clumpy, damp sand. It should not take long. Set aside.
- For Pear and walnut filling : replace the sugar with honey and add to the above minced pear and walnut.
- For savoury filling : to the above added handful of sharp cheddar and sprinkled generously with paprika and oregano. Obviously we skipped the sugar part.
Make the nazook
- Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.
- Cut the refrigerated dough into quarters.
- 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 transparent.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pat down the loaf with your palm and fingers so that it flattens out a bit (just a bit).
- Apply your egg yolk wash with a pastry brush.
- Use your crinkle cutter (or knife) to cut the loaf into 10 equally-sized pieces. Put onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
- Place in a preheated moderate oven for about 30 minutes, until the tops are a rich, golden brown.
- Allow to cool and enjoy.
This is the original recipe and it will yield approximately 40 pastry. I have cut the recipe in half and it yield 25 pastry.
Filling variations abound for nazook, so you can fill them with what you like. The traditional vanilla-scented filling is the most common, but you can also add about ½ cup of ground walnuts, almonds, pecans, or even mahleb (if you can find it; it’s a powder made from the pits of dark cherries, and has a cherry/almond aroma) as mentioned by Jason.
Preparation time: 1 hour(s)
Cooking time: 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12
Culinary tradition: Armenian
We loved the pastry to the core and next time I would definitely make it in batches of 40 -50.
Thanks Jason for the challenge.
Have a Happy Weekend