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Shekerbura – Step by Step

If Samani is a green symbol of Novruz, two desserts, Pakhlava (baklava) and Shekerbura, are the spring holiday’s sweet symbols. No Novruz table is complete without these delicious nut filled delights.

I have posted the recipe for Easy Baklava before and time has come to pair it up with Shekerbura to complete a Novruz table.

Shekerbura is a sweet pastry filled with ground nuts and sugar. In Azerbaijan, making shekerbura usually involves a team-work. Relatives and neighbors get together at somebody’s house and all contribute to the making of this and other Novruz treats. Baked shekerbura is put on the table on a khoncha, a special holiday tray, filled with Novruz desserts, nuts, dried fruits and colored eggs.

Making shekerbura is not as difficult as it may seem or sound. I have never baked shekerbura in Baku, but have done here in the US, all by myself, without any team to help me out:) So, if I could do it, you can do too.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Shekerbura consists of 3 major elements: the dough, the filling and the pattern,  and I’ll discuss each element in details.

THE DOUGH

The dough for shekebura can be prepared in several ways: with yeast that makes the dough rise, without yeast, with whole eggs or with egg yolks only, with milk or with water added and so on.  In Azerbaijan, every family has its own special recipe. The recipe below is my favorite, courtesy of my cousin in Baku whose shekerbura is simply the best in the family. It yields the softest shekerbura that almost melts in your mouth. Plus, the recipe doesn’t require waiting for the dough to rise (a small amount of yeast is added for softness), or refrigerating it overnight.

THE FILLING

Shekerbura filling is made by mixing ground nuts (hazelnuts, or almonds, or walnuts) with granulated sugar and powdered cardamom.  Hazelnuts and almonds are preferred over walnuts for their light color and subtle taste. I personally prefer walnuts for their rich taste. Nuts must be skinned before they are mixed with sugar and cardamom. In the US, you can buy skinned nuts sold in packages. In Azerbaijan, women skin raw nuts themselves using the techniques described in the recipe below.

THE PATTERN

What makes shekerbura really special is the patter that is made on them with a special type of decoration tweezers, called maggash (see picture below).  Mine came all the way from Baku. The most traditional decoration called jinaghi  - a V-shaped pine tree or herringone pattern (I learned this from Gullu who runs a great web site on Azerbaijani food). However, simple patterns, such as trees, flowers, and even names and initials can be made with these tweezers too. If you don’t have a maggash, leave the top of your pastries plain – once they are baked, coat them with powdered sugar.

This is how a maggash looks.

SHEKERBURA

Makes 36 shekerbura pastries

For the Dough:

1 kg / 2.2 pounds  first grade wheat flour (white only)  + 1 tablespoon (for step 3)
400 g / 14 oz
unsalted butter, cut into large chunks
5 egg yolks
250 g / 9 oz sour cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon dry  yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup / 125 ml lukewarm milk

For the Filling:
700 g  / 1.5 pounds skinned hazelnuts, or almonds or walnuts (See recipe for how to skin if readily skinned nuts are not available)
700 g
/ 1.5 pounds granulated sugar
2 teaspoon, or to taste, ground cardamom

You’ll also need: mixing bowls, baking sheets, and a maggash (tweezers)

1. Prepare the dough.  Put the flour and the butter in a large mixing bowl. Using your hands, rub them together until you obtain fine crumbs. Make sure there are no large crumbs left.

2. In a small bowl, using  a spoon, mix the eggs yolks, sour cream, salt and vanilla powder.

3. In another small bowl, put the yeast, 1 tablespoon flour, 1 tablespoon sugar. Fill it with 1/4 cup of  lukewarm milk. Let stand for about 2 minutes.

4. Add the egg-sour cream mixture  (#2), the yeast mixture (#3), to the flour-butter mixture (#1).

5. Using your hands, mix the ingredients until fully incorporated and a rough and inconsistent dough is obtained.  Transfer the dough to your work surface. Put the remaining 1/4 cup of lukewarm milk in a separate bowl. Constantly wetting your hands with milk, knead the dough for a few minutes to make it smooth.

6. Shape the dough into a ball. Put it back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave aside to rest for about 30 minutes.

7. In the meantime, prepare the filling. If you are using already skinned nuts, grind them finely in a food processor. In a mixing bowl, combing the ground nuts with sugar. Add the ground cardamom and vanilla powder. Mix until fully incorporated.

To skin hazelnuts and walnuts at home: Place raw hazelnuts in a large frying pan, and roast over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the skins crack and begin to flake off, about 10 minutes. Take care not to burn the nuts. Working with small batches of nuts at a time, place them them on a kitchen cloth and rub with it to remove the skins. Most of the skins will come off although some will still cling to the nut (especially on walnuts).  Do not worry, a little skin will not be that visible in the filling.

To skin almonds at home: Put the almonds in a pot and pour boiling water over them to barely cover their tops. Let the almonds sit in the water for about 2 minutes (do not keep them there for too long, or they will lose their crispiness and will be too soft). Drain off the water, pat dry the nuts and slip the skins off by squeezing the almonds between your thumb and fingers.

8. Divide the dough into 36 balls, each weighing 50 g.

9. Work with one ball at a time, and cover the rest.  Roll each ball into a 4 inch (10 cm) circle.

10. Place the circle in the palm of your hand, slightly folded, and put 2 tablespoons of the filling in the center.

11.  Starting at one end, begin sealing the left and right edges towards the center to obtain a half-moon shape.  Sealed shekerbura must be somewhat chubby from the filling and never flat.

12. Using your thumb and index finger, start pinching and twisting the dough along the seal to decorate the edges.

13. Arrange the pastry on a baking sheet, lined with parchment (baking) paper. Continue working with the rest of the dough balls, arranging them on the baking sheet as you are finished decorating their edges.

14. Now decorate the tops. Holding a pastry in one hand,  and a maggash (tweezers) in the other, pinch the dough with the maggash at an angle and slightly lift it upward (see the picture below). Continue until you obtain a row of pattern. Create similar rows, each at an angle to the next one, until the entire surface is decorated.

You finished pattern should look like in the photo below.

If maggash is not available, leave the top of shekerbura plain, without any patterns.

This is how shekerbura pastries look before they go in the oven.

15. Bake on the middle rack of the oven preheated to 175C (350F) for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges just begin to change their color and the bottom is light brown.  Take care not to overbake the pastries – their tops should be light color when baked. If you did not decorate your pastries with the tweezers, coat them with powdered sugar once they cool off.

This is how baked shekerbura looks.  NUSH OLSUN! ENJOY!

PS: If you speak Russian, or Azeri, or Danish, visit my friend Gullu Janangir’s web site for more Novruz recipes.

90 Comments
  1. I didn’t know there is a name for the decoration, chanaghi:-) very good to now, thanks for sharing.

  2. Asmar, I didn’t know either:) I liked about chanaghi from my good acquaintance Gullu. I am going to add it to the post to credit her.

  3. Beautiful and extraordinary! Oh, the decorating possibilities with maggash!

  4. This post is one of the many reasons I love your blog! I love the representation of your food and the fact that you take the time to teach us. Thank you! Thank you so very much!

  5. These look so beautiful, Farida.
    Its great discovering such traditions.
    We have many different similar pastries in India, too. They’re filled with a variety of sweet fillings, but they’re always deep fried. :)

  6. Hi,

    I am Neeti from India,
    I liked your recipe a lot…In India we prepare the same receipe for one of our festival but the filling is of Jaggery and coconut.

  7. Dearest Farida, I am so impressed each time with your posts as they are well prepared, deep and thorough!!! Well done!! Shekerbura is such a “serious” dessert and part of culture that I think it can’t be otherwise of course!! Aferin sene!!! Pictures and description are great!! We haven’t started preparing them yet…plans are to start this Sunday inshallah :) women gathering :)) opurem seni!!

  8. Hi Farida,

    Loving your blog!! I like the part where you take an effort to snap pics for your step by step procedures.. I tried but always didnt come out good. LOL!!
    Btw, we have the same sweet pastry called “Kuih Makmur” in Singapore. Alot of people will have this sweet pastry during Hari Raya Aidilfitri because its simply irresistible. hehe.. Same filling and using the same type of decoration tweezers. One day, I will make it and post it in my blog for you to see… :) Take care! :)

  9. This is so cool! I love the decoracion on the dough! It looks like a fabric! Plus they must be delicious too!

  10. Wow we too make these goodies for festivals and mostly for weddings…..Far the coner of the world we indulge upon the same tempting beauties….Pics are awesome….Hope you had gr8 time making thenm and feasting them….

  11. wonderfull!!!!!!!

  12. Farida. I see that we have many similar desserts…these are wonderful & remind me of Cretan Skaltsounia. Thanks for sharing another Azerbajani recipe.

  13. Farida, very impressive indeed!! I really enjoy learning new foods-deserts etc and this does look so beautiful.

  14. Muchas gracias por este magnífico postre, Fari!

    I’m sure it would be fine without the traditional pattern, but I would never omit that step; it adds so much to the presentation.

  15. Farida,

    These are just gorgeous! You make it look so easy! I’d love to try them, but I can see how a group approach is the way to go… I’ll see if I can muster up a nice chunk of time to work on these with my 8-year old daughter (adopted from Baku). Thanks for sharing this on the listserv. Judy

  16. These look amazing Farida – wow! Great job and great detail work! I can just taste them right now! Happy Novruz to you and your family!

  17. Hi Farida
    Can’t belive Norooz is coming up again, this year has passed so quickly. Love your cookies, We bake these for Norooz too and call them “Mianpor” which means there is something in it;-)
    Thanks for the great recipe and looking forward to more Norooz recipes:-)

    X M

  18. Farida – how beautiful and delicious!

  19. Abla, this are beautiful! In fact, this reminds me of a Chinese pastry very common for Chinese New Year! The filling is chopped peanuts and sugar and the filling is wrapped up just like yours although no pattern is pinched on the suface. Difference being this gets fried instead of baked!

    You’re soooooooooo good!

  20. pretty!!! i want baklava please :) x

  21. Wow! These look too pretty to eat! You have really out-done yourself, my dear Farida.

    xoxox Amy

  22. Oh, how interesting! I’ve never seen such a treat.

    They look and sound wonderful!

    I was able to find a tool such as yours by searching for “cake decorating crimper” on google or other search engine. When I saw your tool, it immediately reminded me of the cake deco. tools that are common when working with fondant. They come in many different designs.

  23. Those look really good! Great patterns on them!

  24. These are nearly too beautiful to bite into!

  25. Tasty dessert Farida. Have a great time on Navroz.

  26. Hi Farida!!! Oh wow, they look very delicious! you know we make similar sweets and we call them ‘maamoul’, we use the same tweezers for decoration too or wooden molds. Yours look great!

  27. FRIENDS, THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR COMMENTS.

    It was so great to find out that similar desserts are made in some other parts of the world, and that even similar decorating tools are used too. How interesting! I learn so many things about different cultures from you and I love it!

    Thank you!!!

    Happy Spring!

  28. oh, wow, farida. these look painstakingly delicious. the care that goes into making them – they are almost like art. i’d love to see one cut open after it’s cooked.

  29. Farida, I would not stop praising your work really! I am soo happy that you have this information about the shekerbura posted here, i can not even explain it! I wanted to make a surprise for my mom when she comes to visit me during the novruz to show her that now i can make shekerbura as well :) and the first website i look for was yours and i was not disappointed. Thank you!!!! Love, Lale

  30. This looks so scrumptious. We love Baklava and although I have never made them at home myself before, I will try to make them with your previous recipe that you posted. This shekerbura looks too good. The pattern looks great. What fine detail! I wish there was one more photo of how the filling looked once you baked them.

  31. WE ARE NEVER FULL and MY COMFORT FOOD: Thank you! Glad you like shekerbura. I should have taken a photo of an open one. Next time:) The baked filling looks just like unbaked one, except it becomes a little denser in texture and tastes more delicious.

    LALE: Thank you for your kind words. I hope your shekebura wows your mom:)) Happy baking!

  32. Wow, these look beautiful! I don`t know that I`d have the patience to decorate them so nicely myself, though. :)

  33. What an adorable dessert! I would never have the patience (or skill) to make such an artistic pastry :-)

  34. Those look so good! My grandmother used to make something similar but hers were never that pretty.

  35. Beautiful! Each one a labor of love, I’m sure!

  36. Dear Farida, I am inviting my and my husband’s firends to Novruz party this year and will definetely cook these lovely and tasty pastries. Your recipes are very well organized and pictures are quite helpful. Baklana and shekerbura with hot Azeri tea in armudlu stakani will be a great treat for my guests in cold Bethel Alaska! I hope to see kutab recipe one day on your beatiful website. Great job! Thank you very much!

  37. gorgeous. super gorgeous. love the little tool. we make a similar thing in india called ‘karanji’.

  38. These are so beautiful! I liked reading your post with all the info. Back in India we make similar things during this season of Holi.. called Gujji/karanji/Pitha .. different in different regions.. filled wih coocnut or nut or thickened milk. but none looks so pretty as these. love those patterns

  39. Dear Farida,

    your shekarbura looks superb, brava! Your images are clear and beautiful.

    Enjoy the celebration of Novruz.

    Best regards.

    Lala ( from the Netherlands).

  40. Hi Farida,

    I’m the Caucasus Editor for Global Voices Online and have included a link to and excerpt from this post on a roundup about Novruz.

    http://globalvoicesonline.org/2009/03/21/azerbaijan-novruz/

    Anyway, I’ve also included the photo you’ve used at the top of the page complete with a link back to your post. Looked for a contact email to request permission first, but couldn’t find one.

    Hope it’s use is okay, but if not, please drop me an email.

    Cheers,
    Onnik

  41. I love your blog and particularly this post. I have been looking for these “maggash” to make a Lebanese pastry called “mamool” for Easter and I was wondering if you knew where I could find them.
    We use the same tweezers in the Lebanon, but I can’t seem to find them in middle-eastern stores.
    Thank you for your input
    Joumana

  42. wow they look so cute. very similar to Indian style Gujiyas

  43. THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOUR FOR YOUR COMMENTS. If you asked me a specific question, my answer is in your mailbox, check it out:)

  44. I admire your attention to details in the story and the how to’s.
    Keep up the great work. The pastry looks scrumptious.

  45. These are absolutely incredible, Farida! I love the idea of groups of women clustered around, all working towards producing wonderful pastries. Such a wonderful tradition.

    Your instructions are so detailed that I’m tempted to have a go. I’m not sure my fish-bone tweezers will quite do the job, though!

  46. Dear Miss
    Thank you very much for posting such a mesmerizing recipe. I couldn’t get my eyes of this web till now. i have tried your zebra cake and it was awesome. Now I make it every week. My husband loves it truly.
    About this recipe I would like to know what do I do after peeling the nuts. I mean why or how do they look so like “powder” here in the pictures. You didn’t mention that as far as i remember. I have read this recipe over and over again to quest my inquisitiveness. But i have simply failed . pls help me out of this. Also i would like to add is that I am new in cooking . It has just been 6 months altogether that I have stepped into the kitchen. So please help.
    Thanks again!!
    Stay well. All the best.
    Allah Hafiz

  47. TUTY, ANGELA: Thank you for your comments. Glad you like these pastries.

    TASMINA: Welcome to my blog. It makes me happy to know that my recipes get tried. I am especially happy when they turn out well.

    About the nuts. I mentioned in the recipe, in step #7, – once you have skinned the nuts, put them in a food processor and grind finely. Then mix with sugar. Please do not hesitate to ask me any other questions you may have. I will gladly help.

  48. Hello Farida

    Your Shekerbura are fantastic, looks like the Lebanese Maamoul, I love the tweezer you are using, mine is very small in compare to yours, where did you get it??? do you think I can find a place in Toronto to order…
    I just made a batch or Lebanese Kaak – Palm Sunday Cookies,
    next week is the Maamoul.
    did you see the posting of the fruited rice, excellent….
    take care,

  49. These look beautiful!! We use the tweezers too bt for pinapple tarts. I love the fabric that u use as the background. The colours and fotography are stunning!! Love it.

  50. Novruz Bayraminiz Mubarek Olsun

    Cox gozeldir :)

  51. ARLETTE: Thank you. I did a search for Lebanese Mamooul on the internet and came up with different versions of it. I hope to make it one day. Re tweezers, I brought mine from Azerbaijan. I haven’t seen them in stores here. Maybe some Middle Eastern stores?

    ZURIN: Thank you for your very nice comment.

    VUSAL: Sizin de bayraminiz mubarek olsun:)

  52. Hello again Dear,
    Can I use Semolina Flour for the recipe??
    or the texture will be different
    thanks again

  53. Oh! silly me…..:P thank you very much for your kind reply. I will try it and tell you how it went. Thanks alot again.
    Allah Hafiz

  54. ???? ??? ??? ?? ? ??? ??

  55. Feride, Hi!!!! Salamlar from Baki!!!!

  56. Farida,

    I’m making this recipe for a large group. I’m trying to give an example of a very traditional Azerbaijani Dessert. But I have never tried Shekerbura before and when I attempted to make it, the center was still gritty and grainy from the sugar…is this how the dessert is supposed to be served or am I missing a step in the process?? Also, the dough seemed somewhat under cooked… any suggestions would be great!!! I’m looking forward to showing off this recipe, thanks for your help!!

    Austin

  57. Hello Farida,
    Congratulations for your lovely, thorough site. I would like to ask you, regarding these beautiful desserts, for how long, do you estimate, they can be kept fresh and how do we store them? Open, airtight, room temperature, or refrigerate?
    Thank you in advance
    Warm greetings from Greece

  58. yummalicious…. i love nowruz… and shikarbura is my favorite :)
    thanks for sharing it… my mommy’s don’t turn out this pretty lol im going to make her make it look pretty like this…

  59. Wow.. such a wonderful decoration, thanks for sharing, never know it has a name! :)

  60. Hi Dear, how are you doing? Have been trying to post my comment for long..but the page always gets stuck in the middle while uploading…today seems to be a lucky day.
    Got to know a lot about Navroz. Thank you.

    We make something that “looks” like this in India. In the northern circle its called “gujiya” but no egg in the dough …just flour and ghee. Its not baked..deep fried. The filling is generally-semolina, mawa (a dairy product), raisins, pistacchios, almonds, sunflower seeds sugar etc

    You have inspired me to bake my Gujiyas…will be trying the egg dough. Lets see ;p

  61. These look completely amazing. Something I will try to do … it seems prefect for Ramadan! So pretty!

  62. this is excellent peice of art work and mind blowing creativity. very good decoration.we r also making such dessert call (GHUGHRA) but filling are different. any way thank you very much fro such wonderfull reicpe. ALLAH HAFIZ

  63. Beautiful! Those must take a time to make. A wonderful treat!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  64. Hello, dear Farida!

    First of all, I would like to thank you for your lovely website and recipes of delicious meals you post in here. Second of all, I have a question regarding this particular recipe. I tried to make shekerbura following your recipe closely . The final product turned out really yummy, but the process was rather frustrating and time-consuming. The matter is the dough was quite oily, or buttery to be exact and it was extremely difficult to put the sides of the shekerbura together. We ended up adding more flour and keeping the dough in the fridge. I wonder why this could happen? Do you think it has to do with the fact that the day was rather warm (27 C)? Maybe you have other suggestions?

    Thanks for your reply in advance,
    Galatea.

  65. Thank you very much i want cake recipe .

  66. Dear Farida,

    Thank you for keeping this nice website up and running. It is one of my wife’s most favourite websites.

    I would like to use the photo of shekerbura (http://www.azcookbook.com/storage/2009/03/shekerbura1.jpg) for a poster of Azerbaijan Night event we are planning at the University of Maryland.

    Could you please kindly give your permission and your name, so we could give you a proper credit? Many thanks in advance.

  67. i wanna make it but im not sure can i make it alone myself without any help? dough wont dry out?? or should i call neighbor? actually its gonna be 1st time for me :)

  68. where i can get those tweezers? any idea?

  69. Along those lines… would you happen to have a recipe for shor gogal?

  70. Hello.
    What spices do I need for shor gogal?
    Thank you
    Irena

  71. Hello Farida,

    Once again, your wonderful website has come through for me :) I am making my first Novruz dinner for my husband and his friends from Azerbaijan. I found this recipe and step by step instructions great – it was as if I had someone in the kitchen with me. We have a Lebanese cookie called Maamoul that is similar and although I have never made the Lebanese version you have inspired me to try.
    Also if you happen to have a recipe for shorgogal I would love to try that sometime.

    For those looking for the tweezers, I found mine in an Italian supermarket.

    Thank you so very much for your blog and your wonderful recipes. I don’t know what I would do without you! :)

    Fabienne

  72. Farid,

    You an amazing cook/baker. I am so happy I found your blog. Do you know where I can get those tweezers in US? Do you know any online store that sells ?

    Utmost regards,
    Jalee

  73. JALEE: Welcome to my blog:) You can find similar tweezers in Middle Eastern/Persian stores. Not all of them carry it but some do.

  74. Hi
    Do you have a good recipe for shor gogal? I still remember that great taste from Baku, but did not have it for very long time.
    Thanks

  75. LANA: I do have a recipe for shorgoghal. It will appear in my cookbook, that’s why can’t post on the blog. Sorry. Stay tuned for the book:)

  76. Farida xanum, thanks a lot for sharing . Shekerbura made by your recipe is the best I have ever made. S prazdnikom!!!

  77. Thank you farida xanim.i made shekerbura by your recipe.it was first time in my life.they were wonderful.

  78. Farida…thank you so much for this recipe. Tomorrow, I am taking your recipe and instructions to my son, Natiq’s school where we are going to make Sheker Bura and have a Novruz celebration with his classmates. Your pictures are going to be very helpful! We also plan on playing a ‘hat’ game that we invented to simulate putting out hats on Tuesday nights before Novruz and do some Azerbaijani dancing :-)

    Happy Novruz!

  79. Hi!! my grandfather is from Baku and i have always loved the dishes. but unfortunately because my mother grew up in iran and my grandfather was not too good a cook, we did not enjoy all the delicious wonderful azeri food! i am so happy to have found ur recipes!!! (you have no idea!!!! ) and i am going to practice and then surprise my grandpa with dushbere and shekarbura and dovgha.. but i also remember them eating something called Shorma? its lamb cooked till falling apart and then raw chopped onions, tomatoes and parsley is put on top with mayonnaise and ketchup? is that right? i have tried it many many years ago but i cant remember how it was. is there ANY way you could show me? i would be forever indebted to u!!

    Thank u!

  80. ELLY – Welcome to my blog! So glad to hear my recipes serve a good purpose. There will be more Azerbaijani recipes in my upcoming book – you will surprise your grandpa more:) As to shorma, by description doesn’t sound like a a typical Azerbaijani dish. We don’t have a dish by the name of shorma. We have Shorba which means soup though. I wonder if you meat bozbash, or piti boshash. Lamb with chickpeas and onions and traditionally some sheep tail fat. Please let me know more details so we decode the dish:)

  81. Where can I Purchase Farida cook book
    Looking forward to hearing from you

    Sincerely,

    William A. De Paris, COO
    Paris Caterers
    1455 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
    8th Floor
    Washington, DC 20004
    O: 202 635 3500
    C: 202 905 7158
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