These cookies just made my life. I looooove cookies like this! The “not-so-sweet-and-overly-indulgent” kind. They are European in nature so I’m not surprised. The Europeans don’t seem to enjoy desserts that are too rich or sugary. I’m with them on that one. I’d much rather sit down and eat a handful of these cookies instead of a fudgy chocolate chunk cookie. Now, don’t get me wrong- I would never turn my nose up at a fudgy chocolate chunk cookie should one be offered to me…never. I just have a preference.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably never even heard of/had an Armenian Nazook Cookie. Let me first say that you’ve been missing out! These cookies take a yeasted sour cream dough (that is completely sugar-less) and wrap it around what is basically a streusel to get a cylinder with a swirl. The whole process is very similar to how you make cinnamon rolls. The cookies are then cut from the cylinder, given an egg-yolk wash, and baked up to a delicious, buttery, flaky, crunchy pastry. And I adore them.
The only source of sugar within these cookies comes from the streusel filling. It’s amazing really how the streusel provides enough sweetness that you really don’t miss it in the dough, but you just don’t. Of course, I think this cookie would also be awesome with some ground nuts in the streusel. Next time I make them I think I will definitely do that. Maybe do a ground almond-almond extract combo? I love almond extract… But even just plain as they are here- these are fantastic. And I must give credit where credit is due- I would have never have been introduced to these cookies if it wasn’t for Jason from Live Longer who challenged us in Daring Baker’s a few months ago to make one of two Armenian specialties. I chose to make the Armenian Nutmeg Cake at the time because I knew that I would want to save these cookies for Christmas. If you head on over to his page, he actually has incredible instructions and a great video of his Aunt making the cookies from start to finish. These are very simple to make.
For those of you that share the same cookie taste as me, then you have got to check out these other two recipes that these Nazook cookies reminded me of- Kipfel and Italian Walnut Pillow Cookies. The Kipfel reminded me of the Nazook because they use a rich sour cream dough too, albeit without any leavening agent. They are filled with a crunchy, sweet nut filling and shaped as crescents. The Pillow Cookies used the same shaping method as the Nazook, but used a sweet, soft dough that is basically a cookie dough. They too are filled with a crunchy, sweet nut filling. You can see why I want to put ground nuts in the Nazook now haha. Two of my other favorite cookies rely on nuts for their incredible texture. But as I said before, you would be fine without it.
And although I can’t say which is my favorite because they are all amazing, I am VERY happy to announce that Nazook cookies have made it to my top three favorite Holiday cookies. (I admit that I don’t know if they are Holiday cookies by tradition, but I just find them incredibly appropriate for the season…)
- For the Dough:
- 3 cups (375 g) all purpose flour, sifted
- 1 packet (2½ tsp, or 7 g) active dry yeast
- 8 oz (227 g) sour cream
- 2 sticks (227 g) softened butter (room temperature)
- For the Filling:
- 1½ cups (188 g) all purpose flour, sifted
- 1½ cup (338 g) sugar
- 1½ stick (170 g) softened butter (room temperature)
- 2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla extract
- 1-2 egg yolks (for the wash; alternatively, some yogurt, egg whites, or a whole egg)
- Make the Pastry Dough: Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the dry yeast, and mix it in. Add the sour cream and 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.
- Make the Filling: Mix together the flour, sugar, and butter. Add the vanilla extract.
- Mix the filling until it looks like clumpy, damp sand.
- Make the Nazook: Cut the refrigerated dough into quarters.
- Form one of the quarters into a ball. Dust your working surface with a little flour.
- Roll out the dough into a large rectangle or oval. The dough should be thin, but not transparent.
- Spread ¼ of the filling mixture across the rolled-out dough in an even layer.
- 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 a knife to cut the loaf into 10 equally-sized pieces. Put onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
- Place in an oven preheated to 350°F (175°C) for about 30 minutes, until the tops are a rich, golden brown. Cool on wire rack.
adapted from Live Longer