To me, the most cherished recipes are ones that take me back to my childhood and keep alive the sweet memories of special events or family traditions, and, most importantly, of people associated with them.
One such recipe is for walnut and onion breads, or goz kokesi. It hails from the region of Ordubad, where both my maternal and paternal grandparents were from. Variations of goz kokesi are made in several neighboring regions as well.
I call this recipe an edible time traveler and globetrotter. Here’s why. It was passed down from my maternal great-grandmother to my grandmother, both born and raised in Ordubad, then to my mother, born and raised in the region of Balaken, then to me, a Bakuvian gal. I brought this recipe to the United States where it ended up in my cookbook, “Pomegranates & Saffron: A Culinary Journey to Azerbaijan!” Who would have thought? What an amazing journey, isn’t it?
Let me tell you about these special breads. Typically, they are made for spring holiday, Novruz, along with shorgoghal, shekebura, and other festive savory and sweet bakes. They are prepared in huge batches, to last through weeks-long celebrations.
The filling is made with coarsely chopped walnuts mixed with caramelized onions and spiked with pungent turmeric. This very interesting concoction of varied flavors and textures yields an irresistible stuffing.
The breads come in two shapes, round and half-moon, and you can either stick to making one shape or mix and match, as I like to do. Traditionally, the stuffed goz kokesi are baked slapped against the walls of a hot clay tandir (tandoori) oven, where they slowly puff up and take on a golden hue on top and the bottom, oozing tantalizing aromas. I bake the breads in a regular oven and they still turn out great. Ah those freshly baked breads! Who can resist them?
Also, yes, the breads are mostly made for the spring holiday, but I don’t see a reason why something so good and not so difficult to make cannot be baked anytime of the year.
I hope you get to try this recipe. Let me know when you do. It’ll make me super happy. And on behalf of my great-grandmother, grandmother, mom, and myself, I’ll thank you from the bottom of my heart.
By the way, I am offering a 10% discount on all AZ Cookbook exclusive items in my shop, including my cookbook, where you can find more of my cherished recipes. All you have to do to enjoy this special offer is subscribe to my blog to stay updated on my posts. Thank you for your support!
- 1 package (1⁄4 ounce / 21⁄4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water (105º–110ºF)
- 6 cups all-purpose our
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 7 ounces clarified butter or unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 4 tablespoons clarified butter or unsalted butter
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped (2 cups)
- 2 cups walnuts, ground into medium-coarse pieces (they should remain slightly crunchy)
- 1⁄4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- Pinch of ground black pepper, or more to taste
- 2 large egg yolks mixed with 1⁄4 teaspoon turmeric
- First, prepare the dough. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water and let stand 10 minutes, until frothy. Sift the our into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and mix well. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture, butter, yogurt, and eggs. Stir with your hand until the ingredients are incorporated.
- Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic and soft to touch, about 10 minutes. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm spot until it doubles in bulk, about 1½ hours. The dough will be puffy and should be soft when poked with a finger.
- While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. In a medium frying pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until light brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the walnuts, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Stir to mix well and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Divide the dough into 25 pieces, each the size of an egg. Shape each piece into a ball. Work with one ball at a time and cover the rest with a kitchen towel to prevent them from drying. Now, you can stuff and shape the breads using either of the following methods:
- For Round Breads: Holding a dough ball in the palm of one hand, flatten, then slightly stretch it with your other hand to obtain a circle. Place a heaping teaspoonful of the filling in the center of the circle, then bring the edges together and seal to cover the filling. You will have a stuffed ball. Using a rolling pin, gently roll out the stuffed ball to flatten it slightly into a 3½-inch disk. Do not press hard or flatten too much.
- For Half-Moon Breads: Holding a dough ball in the palm of one hand, flatten, then slightly stretch it with your other hand to obtain a circle 3½ to 4 inches in diameter. Spread a heaping teaspoonful of the filling on one half of the circle, then fold the other half over it to close the filling. You will obtain a half-moon. Press the edges to seal. Now, using your thumb and index finger, pinch the dough, beginning from one of the sealed ends, then twist inside. Continue in the same manner until you reach the other end of the seal to obtain a twisted edge.
- Place the breads on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Pressing the back of a fork onto the surface of the breads, make parallel lines for decoration. Prick the tops with the tines of the fork in 3 places to make steam holes. Brush the breads with the egg yolk–turmeric mixture. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes, switching the pans halfway through.