20 April 2014 | 03:05
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Shekerbura - Sweet nut pies

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Shekerbura
Shekerbura (şəkərbura) are a popular Azerbaijani sweet pastry, filled with ground almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts.
Shekerbura, shor gogal and bakhlava are all eaten in Baku at the Novruz spring holiday. According to one tradition, the slightly crescent shaped shekerbura represent the moon while the round, yellow gogal is the sun. As with gogal and bakhlava, the process of making shekerbura is time consuming and, traditionally, the women of the family get together before Novruz to make shekerbura. Although shekerbura are traditionally a delicacy for holidays and special occasions, nowadays they are enjoyed all year round as well.

Preparation time: 60-90 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Serves: 6-8

Ingredients
  • For the pastry
  • 500 g/1 lb 4 oz wheat flour
  • 125 g/5 oz soft butter
  • 160 ml/5.6 fl oz milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 16 g/0.56 oz fresh yeast
  • For the filling
  • 400 g/1 lb peeled almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts (a combination of nuts can be used, but walnuts on their own will be slightly bitter)
  • 400 g/1 lb granulated sugar
  • 1 tspn (or more) powdered cardamom (to taste)
  • salt
Preparation
  • Take the butter out of the fridge to allow it time to reach room temperature.
  • Remove the skin from the almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts by heating them in a frying pan, then placing inside a clean teacloth and rubbing, but not too hard. This method of removing the skin enhances the flavour of the nuts, like roasting. Another way to remove the skin is to soak the nuts in boiling water for a few minutes and then peel the skin off. If using the latter method, leave time for the nuts to dry. Grind the nuts in a nut or coffee grinder. Mix the ground nuts with the sugar. Add the powdered cardamom.
  • Warm the milk to 30-35 degrees Celsius/86-95 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Sieve the flour onto a large board or into a large bowl and make a hole in the centre. Pour the warm milk, yeast, egg yolks, soft butter and salt into the hole and gradually fold in the flour from the outside.
  • Knead well until the dough is smooth and soft.
  • Cover with a clean teacloth and leave in the fridge or a cool place to rise slowly for about 30 minutes (the dough for shekerbura should not rise too much or the traditional design will blur).
  • Take the risen dough and break off a piece some 50 g/2 oz in weight. Roll into a ball and then roll out the ball on a flat surface into a round 10 cm/4 inches in diameter.
  • Place 1 large tablespoon of filling into the middle of the pastry and pull the edges together. Pinch the pastry edge all the way along with your thumb and forefinger to create a twisted design.
  • Place the shekerbura on a greased baking tray. İf you have a pair of traditional Azerbaijani tongs or tweezers, known as maqqaş, use these to create a traditional pattern on the shekerbura, as illustrated in the photograph. Take care not to break the surface of the pastry, however. Azerbaijani cooks traditionally take great pride in the patterns on their shekerbura.
  • Bake the shekerbura in a medium oven at 180 degrees Celsius/350 degrees Fahrenheit/Gas Mark 4 for 20-25 minutes. When the base of the shekerbura just starts to brown, take them out of the oven. Don't let the tops of the shekerbura brown.