Have you ever heard of a famous little pastry called shekerbura? A delicious half-crispy half-soft dough, with almond, a subtle cardamom aroma. A trip to Azerbaijan!
Azerbaijan, whose name comes from azar, which means “fire”, and baijan, which means “guardian”, is a small country in the South Caucasus.
Of the 11 known climatic zones in the world, the climate of Azerbaijan has 9 and this contributes to the fertility of the land, which in turn produces the wealth of the cuisine of this country.
Azerbaijani cuisine is full of recipes and ingredients: the country’s climatic variety provides Azeris with everything they need to cook delicious dishes. The mountainous and subtropical climates have resulted in wide availability and great access to sheep, poultry, freshwater fish and sea (Caspian Sea).
Azerbaijani cuisine is influenced by Islamic law and therefore does not include pork or alcohol in its traditional dishes.
One of the most traditional dishes of Azerbaijan is plov. It is a classic dish of saffron-flavored rice, usually cooked with meat, onions, prunes, dried fruits, eggs and fresh herbs. But Azerbaijan has more than 40 different plov recipes!
Now let’s talk about pastry!
Azerbaijani pastries are particularly good and healthy because they use very little cream and sugar but rather a lot of dried fruits, nuts and local honey. The two most emblematic pastries of Azerbaijan are pakhlava and my shekerbura of the day. Note that pakhlava is also known in Greece and Turkey as baklava.
Shekerbura (in Azerbaijani, Шекербура), is the ultimate pastry that is prepared for Nowruz, the holiday that celebrates the arrival of spring and falls on March 21st. The term Nowruz means “new day” and originally comes from the combination of two ancient Persian words: nava (new) and rəzaŋh (day).
The renewal of nature and the arrival of warm days coincide with the beginning of the agricultural work, and all this announced by the samani, a shoot of wheat grass, decorating the whole country as a sign of rebirth.
If this grass is the green symbol of Nowruz, the pakhlava and the shekerbura are the sweet symbols of this spring festival. No table during Nowruz is complete without these two pastries and a bouquet of samani.
The old name of the shekerbura, a crescent-shaped pastry is sheker burek, a Turkish word meaning “sweet dough”. In Azerbaijan, this usually involves teamwork with relatives, friends and neighbors who come together to prepare them together for Nowruz.
Several culinary historians claim that shekerbura was born in Iran. Previously, it was prepared and served to celebrate the spring equinox. Light crescent-shaped cookies associated with the celestial nocturnal body, the moon.
- 2 cups flour
- ½ cup unsalted butter (cold), cut into small pieces
- 1 egg , slightly beaten
- ¼ cup water (cold)
- 1¼ cup almond meal
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, butter, egg and water. Knead until obtaining a homogeneous dough.
On the work surface, shape the dough to obtain a long rope. Divide it into 15 pieces of equal size (about 1 oz/30g per piece). Form balls and flatten them slightly.
- Place all the balls, well spaced, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for two hours.
Preheat oven at 350F/180C.
- Prepare the filling by mixing the almond meal, sugar, and cardamom. Mix well.
Roll each piece of dough into a circle about 4 inches (10cm) in diameter (not too thin).
- In the center of each disc, add a tablespoon of filling. Close the circle in half. Pinch the edges to seal them.
- Then pinch the edge more tightly, fold inward, and continue along the edge.
- Using small flat pliers, make geometric patterns on the top.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.