Hye Thyme Cafe: Grammy's Nazook, a Math Problem, and an I Should Have Listened to My Gut Moment

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Grammy's Nazook, a Math Problem, and an I Should Have Listened to My Gut Moment

It seems like a lot of my grandmother's recipes are completely different from everyone else's.  If it was a matter of regional differences, you would think others from her region would make things the same, but even that doesn't appear to be the case.  I decided I wanted to make Nazook, (Nazouk, Nazuk), so I first looked at some recipes online. Pretty much all of the versions I looked at include either yogurt or sour cream for one thing.  For another thing, my Grandmother's version includes Crisco, which I don't think was in any of the others.  It also starts with five pounds of flour!  Her Choreg recipe is the same way.  I'm starting to wonder if, in addition to her Paklava, she would bake these things in mass quantities to sell at the Armenian Church Bazaar?!?

The other thing that caught my attention when scanning recipes is that people seem to use the names Nazook and Gata interchangeably, when they're not actually the same thing.  It's all very confusing, especially when factoring in how many different cultures use the same basic recipes but they get translated back and forth and the meaning shifts slightly.  It's like the foodie version of playing telephone.

You can always tell a well-used recipe by how dirty the page is.  Love that she wrote in broken English.  This one is pretty straight forward, but I get a lot of chuckles out of some others.  Here she shows the recipe for the "feeling" to go with the pastry.  :)

** OOPS **  It wasn't until I just inserted and opened the recipe photo above that I noticed I was also supposed to have brushed the dough with melted butter.  There's an awful lot of butter in this recipe already - both the dough and the filling.  I don't think that extra was really necessary.

I decided to run with Grammy's recipe.  I'll have to try one of the others for comparison down the road.  I was not, however, planning to bake such a ginormous batch, so I cut it in half.  That wouldn't normally be a problem, and all of the ingredients were easy to halve but that one pesky five pound bag of flour!  I happen to have a kitchen scale, but most people probably don't, so I wanted to be able to tell you how much to use by volume.  I tried looking it up online, but the answers varied from 8-10 cups, and most people's logic was just figuring by volume, not weight. Imagine scooping up a cup of feathers and a cup of lead and tell me they weigh the same!  Soooooo, I busted out the scale and measured it out, lightly spooning the flour into the measuring cup, rather than scooping, which would compress it more, so I might have gotten more in my one-cup measure than you might have, etc.  The total I came up with was 8 1/3 cups, so that's the ballpark you'll be shooting for.

That was my math problem.  So what was the me ignoring my gut instinct moment?  That came when placing the pastries onto the baking sheets.  I knew they were too close together but at the same time, one of the recipes I looked at online didn't separate them at all!  They had rolled it into a log and sliced it right on the tray, baking it just like that. Shoulda gone with my gut!  Had to do a little creative separating when they cooled, but that's okay - didn't affect the taste any!

As for following Grammy's recipe, the only things I changed were to include the apricot pastry filling, add vanilla to the dough, and swap out the vanilla in the filling with almond extract, to go with the apricot.  I was going to dice some dried apricots and use those, but when I was at the grocery store, I was looking for a can of almond filling and happened to see the apricot, so I decided to try that (still no almond filling - been looking for that to use in my overnight french toast).  I'll have to assume the filling had something to do with the way mine spread, because of the additional sugar, etc., but again ... they still taste great, so I'm good with that.

I was just at my sister's house, and she scarfed down two of them right after dinner, so I'm glad they got the stamp of approval.  :)

8 1/3 c flour
1 c (2 sticks) butter, room temp
1 c Crisco shortening
1 egg
1 t salt
1 1/2 t sugar
1 t vanilla
1 packet yeast (or about 1T loose)
3 c warm water, divided

1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 c butter (3 sticks), room temp
1 1/2 c sugar
1 t almond extract

1 egg
splash of water or milk

Grammy's directions only said to bloom the yeast in 1/2 c of the warm water, then mix everything together, so what I did was pour the yeast into the bowl of my stand mixer, cover it with 1/2 c of warm water, and because it has been so cold out, I threw a dish towel over the mixer and left it alone for about five minutes to bloom.  The towel stopped the water from cooling off too quickly.

Next, I sprinkled the sugar over the yeast to start feeding it, then alternated adding a cup of the flour and everything else -- one cup flour, one stick butter, one cup flour, the Crisco ... until everything was incorporated and the dough pulled away from the sides of the bowl.

First time using lining bowl for mixer - kinda weird.

Then divide the dough into six portions and set on a baking sheet - cover with a dish towel and set in the oven for about an hour to rise.

While the dough is rising, go ahead and prep the filling.  Again, just mix it all together and set aside.  If I wasn't using the apricot filling, I would probably have pulsed it in the food processor and ended up with a slightly crumbly/sandy filling, but because I was adding something "gooey," I just threw it all in the mixer.

Working with one portion of dough at a time on a lightly floured surface (won't be necessary to re-flour after the first one or two - the butter will grease up your work surface so it won't stick), roll out the dough into a thin rectangle, with a long side facing you.  Spread the dough with roughly 1/6 (just eyeball it) of the filling, then roll into a tube starting from the long side facing you.  

Making sure the roll is seam-side down, gently roll your rolling pin along the length of it to slightly flatten the roll into more of an oval shape.  To create a bit of design on the tops, use the back of a fork to run lines along the length of the roll, then slice into segments about 1" wide.  If you have a fluted cutter - the kind you use for slicing cucumbers, etc. - that makes a pretty edge for your pastries.

Transfer the pastries to a parchment-lined baking sheet (making sure you leave room for them to expand -- unlike me), and brush the tops with the egg wash.  Let rise for another hour or so, then bake at 350 for 30-40" until golden.  The time will vary with your particular oven, your trays, and whether you are baking one tray at a time or more.  If baking more than one tray, at about 15" in, rotate the trays from top to bottom and back to front.

I'm already thinking about baking these again - maybe with a chocolate/orange filling ... or lots of cinnamon ... or some sort of caramel?  Hmmm, we'll see.


  1. Oh my goodness, my mouth is watering big time. I love that you did the fork thing to make them even more pretty. I am a big fan of apricots also so your version just seemed perfect for me. Mmmmm

    1. Thanks Patti. I will definitely be making them again with diced apricots. Can't wait to play around with different flavors too. :)

  2. I had these YEARS ago! I can't wait to make these... never knew what they were called!

    1. With all the butter in these things, you might want to fast for a few days before eating them lol.


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