I must admit, my recent interest in tea pastries and confections arose from my desire to use my newly acquired glass teapot. The teapot is so adorable but since this is not the subject of this post , I must stop gushing about it at the moment. In Persian culture, tea is ubiquitous in every household during every moment of the day. “Chai”,as it is called, is usually served with something sweet such as dried dates , “gaz” a pistachio nougat, “zulbia” sweet fritters , “noghl” an almond coated with syrup and a lot more. You can even have it with sugar cubes; what you do is put a sugar cube in your mouth and let the heat of the tea dissolve it as you drink, quite addictive if you ask me. There are also saffron infused sugar crystals, which as you can imagine, add that special flavor to the tea that only saffron can impart. A treat that I consider having with my tea is “nazuk” which is a flaky pastry filled with a sweet mixture. This is an excellent pastry that can be eaten practically anytime of the day, however my favorite time to have it is with afternoon tea. Also known as Armenian Christmas pastry , it takes a while to prepare since the dough needs to sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. But the time and effort taken to make this wonderful golden pastry can be more than justified with every bite of baked goodness.
1 package active yeast
1 cup sour cream (room temperature)
1 tbs. vegetable oil
1 tbs. vinegar
3 cups sifted all purpose flour plus flour for kneading
1 cup unsalted butter (chilled)
pinch of salt
1 cup butter melted
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs yolks , beaten
1 tsp. yoghurt
Leave the sour cream out for an hour or more until it gets to room temperature. Afterwards, add the yeast and set aside for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, pulse the flour, salt and butter together until it is crumbly. Add the egg, vegetable oil, vinegar and sour cream and pulse until it gets “doughy” (the food processor comes to a point when it would not pulse any more). Take the dough out of the food processor and knead over a dusting of flour for 5 to 10 minutes, until it is no longer sticky. Form into a ball and cut an “X” on the dough, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours
To make the filling, mix together 1 cup of the melted butter and 2 cups of flour. Add 1-½ cups of sugar and 1 tsp vanilla; stir constantly for 1 minute, so the mixture does not stick your hands and becomes smooth and even. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 °F.
Remove dough from refrigerator; divide into 8 equal balls. Place each ball lightly on a floured surface and proceed to roll it out to 10 x 6 inch rectangle with a rolling pin. Paint each rectangle with melted butter and spread about ¼ cup of the filling around the rectangle. Cover it with parchment and go over it lightly with a rolling pin. Fold the edges in ½ inch and roll up the dough into a cylinder. With the palm of your hand gently flatten the cylinder lengthwise. Cut the roll on a diagonal with a sharp knife into 2 inch slices. Arrange the pieces on a lightly floured baking sheet (you might have to use two baking sheets) about 2 inches apart. Brush the surface with the glaze making sure you cover as much exterior as possible.
Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until a golden brown color is attained.
Remove baking sheet from the oven and let cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container.
This recipe is loosely adapted from “New Food of Life” by Najmieh Batmanglij. I adjusted some ingredients and procedures to what made more sense to me. The resulting dough is very easy to work with, just make sure to roll it out as thin as possible and cut excess dough to make the shape a rectangle; this will make the dough easier to roll into a cylinder. Flatten the cylinder to a little bit less than ½ an inch. As the pastry bakes it will start to puff up and you do not want it to be too thick. Be liberal with the glaze since this is what gives the “nazuk” its golden color. This pastry is best eaten within 3 days; albeit as delectable as it tastes it would be surprising to see any left after that amount of time.