Daring Bakers: Armenian Treats

27 Apr

The Daring Bakers’ April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake.

Armenian baking is not something I had ever contemplated before this challenge, which may ring true to many (have you ever contemplated Armenian baking?). However, Nate’s paternal forebears came from Armenia several generations ago, and he has a very Armenian last name, so it does surprise me just a little bit that, me being me, I never looked into it. That’s totally something I would do.

But now I don’t have to, because thanks to Jason, I’ve discovered two very scrumptious Armenian baked goods. Armenian nutmeg cake, a sort of coffee cake with a crumb crust, is traditionally flavoured with nutmeg (obviously!), but you can use whatever spice you want (cinnamon and cardamom are also traditional). I added cinnamon as well because I’m not a huge nutmeg fan, however nutmeg really does work well in this cake, and I would recommend grating it fresh rather than using the dried powdered stuff.

The method for this cake is not one I’ve ever encountered before: you mix together flour, butter, and sugar to form a crumb mixture, press half of it into a pan for the bottom crust, and combine the other half of the crumbs with egg, baking soda, and milk to make the batter. It bakes up moist and delicious and not-too-sweet. I LOVED the buttery, crumbly bottom crust. Perfect with a cup of coffee or tea.

The Armenian nazook recipe is courtesy of Jason’s Aunt Aida (I’m a bit sad that Nate doesn’t have a lovely Armenian aunt who will share her traditional recipes with me!). To make nazook, you roll a yeasted pastry dough around a crumb filling (crumbs seem to be a hallmark of Armenian baked goods?) and cut it into spirals. The traditional filling is scented with vanilla and smells just HEAVENLY baking in the oven.

I made two batches, one with vanilla and one with cinnamon (which I didn’t get pictures of), and the vanilla was my favorite, hands down (the cinnamon was still pretty tasty though!).

The dough is made with butter and sour cream and it was really nice to work with. Baked, it resembled sort of a cross between pie crust and brioche, and combined with the vanilla filling, the taste and smell reminded me of a Belgian liège waffle – sugary, buttery, yeasted, baked deliciousness that literally sets my mouth to watering at the mere thought.

Thank you Jason for sharing these recipes with us this month – I’m sure very few of us would ever have come across them on our own :). I will making both of them again, I’m sure! Check out the Daring Kitchen for everyone else’s nutmeg cakes and nazooks, and for the original challenge recipes.

Armenian Nutmeg Cake

Video tutorial with Jason here.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. In a large bowl, sift together:

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

Mix in:

1 1/2 – 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar (depending on how sweet you want it – I used 1 1/2 cups but would use a bit more next time)

Add:

3/4 cups cubed unsalted butter, at room temperature

Get in there with your hands (or you can use a fork, but I like to play with my food) and work the butter into the flour and sugar until you end up with a crumbly mixture that looks like damp sand. Pour half of the crumbs into a greased 10″ springform pan. With the back of your knuckles, gently press the crumbs into the bottom to form a crust – don’t press too firmly or the crust will be hard.

In another bowl, beat vigorously with a whisk until frothy:

1 egg

1 – 1 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg (or cinnamon or cardamom or any combination thereof)

In a measuring cup, mix together:

1 cup milk

1 tsp baking soda

Stir to dissolve then pour into the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Add the remaining crumbs and beat very thoroughly. The resulting batter should be mostly uniform (some small lumps are okay) and quite liquidy.

Pour the batter over the crumb crust in the pan. Top it with:

approx 1 cup walnut pieces

I found it best to sprinkle them on very gently, otherwise they get swallowed up by the batter.

Bake the cake at 350˚F for 30-45 minutes, until deeply golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with just a few crumbs sticking to it.

Allow to cool slightly in the pan then run a knife around the edge and release the sides. Can be served warm or cooled. Will keep, covered, for 3 – 4 days at room temperature.

Armenian Nazook

Video tutorial with Aunt Aida here. I added vanilla beans to the vanilla extract in the filling, which is totally optional but makes me feel fancy ;).

For the Pastry Dough

Into the bowl of a mixer, combine:

3 cups all purpose flour, sifted

2 1/4 tsp instant yeast (1 packet)

Add:

1 cup sour cream

1 cup cubed unsalted butter, at room temperature

With the dough hook attachment on low speed, work the mixture into a dough. It should start to come together and pull away from the sides of the bowl. I had to add a few splashes of milk to incorporate all the flour. Knead on low speed until the dough is silky and no longer sticky (you may need to add a little extra flour). Cover the dough with plastic and chill for 3 – 5 hours, or overnight (it won’t rise very much).

For the Vanilla Filling

In a bowl, combine:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted

1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar

dash salt

3/4 cups cubed unsalted butter, at room temperature

Mix it all together with your hands until it resembles damp sand.

Mix in:

2 tsp vanilla extract

(optional: mix the contents of 1 vanilla bean, scraped, into the vanilla extract)

Set the filling aside until you are ready to assemble the nazook.

For the Nazook

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Mix together an egg wash of:

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp water

Set aside.

Divide the chilled dough into quarters and roll each out into a 12″ rectangle on a lightly floured surface. The dough should be thin but not see-through. Sprinkle each rectangle with one quarter of the crumb filling, spreading it right to the short edges but leaving about 1 inch bare along one long edge. Firmly roll up the pastry from the long edge, keeping the filling evenly distributed as you roll. Gently pat down the roll to flatten it slightly, brush it with egg wash, and cut it into 10 – 12 pieces with a crinkle cutter or sharp knife.

Place the pieces about an inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. Bake at 350˚F for about 30 minutes, until slightly puffed and golden brown. Cool on a rack. Will keep in an airtight container for a few weeks.

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45 Responses to “Daring Bakers: Armenian Treats”

  1. Anula April 27, 2012 at 1:15 am #

    Great result! Both look great :) How brave and adventurous to make both! KUDOS!
    Pozdrawiam, Anula.

    • Korena in the Kitchen April 27, 2012 at 7:28 am #

      Thanks Anula! Making both was a good excuse for me to bake even more than usual ;)

  2. Choc Chip Uru April 27, 2012 at 2:01 am #

    I feel exotic just reading this ;)
    You have presented and made these treats beautifully!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

    • Korena in the Kitchen April 27, 2012 at 7:34 am #

      Hehe, thanks Uru :) It was fun to bake something I’d never heard of or tasted before.

  3. Irina April 27, 2012 at 4:23 am #

    You did great (as always) and I love the colour combination for the photos. I haven’t phographed mine yet and I was thinking about what would go well with the cakes (I won’t steal your idea, though :) ) and I believe you have a winner.
    P.S. I haven’t found the nutmeg cake too sweet either as I have noticed other people mentioning – glad you enjoyed it, too..

    • Korena in the Kitchen April 27, 2012 at 7:30 am #

      Thanks Irina! I actually went shopping for some colourful linens to jazz things up, and I ended up with a bunch of blue napkins… good thing they look nice with baked goods, lol!

  4. Bam's Kitchen April 27, 2012 at 7:15 am #

    Both look fantastic. However the Armenian nazook recipe looks light and fluffy and love your cool cutting utensil to make the zig zag edges.

    • Korena in the Kitchen April 27, 2012 at 7:33 am #

      Thanks Bam! Seeing as these two recipes used relatively ordinary/inexpensive ingredients, I splurged a little and bought the crinkle cutter especially for the nazooks. Now the task will be to find other uses for it…

  5. frugalfeeding April 27, 2012 at 8:00 am #

    Oooooh! A nutmeg cake! I shall have to try my own. This is a great post. The cake just sounds wonderful.

  6. ceecee April 27, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    Great job and lovely photos! I loved this challenge – both treats turned out so well!
    ceecee

  7. Sawsan@ Chef in disguise April 27, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    Great job as always Korena :)
    I was really looking forward to trying Nazook but ran out of time. With all the pictures and comments I am reading about it today I am really tempted to go make the dough right now and leave it in the fridge to bake it first thing tomorrow

  8. Zoka April 27, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    Wow, they look superb and mouth watering. Nazook is my new favorite pastry. I must try a nutmeg cake. :)
    P.S
    You ended up with a bunch of blue napkins and I ended up with a blue plate with white dots. :)

  9. zazacook April 27, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    Love your photos! Your Nazook look so yummy -I love nazook- and your Nutmeg Cake is fantastic. Lovely work on this challenge :)

  10. Cher April 27, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    They both look lovely – come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever thought about Armenian cooking either :-)
    Have a great weekend.

  11. jo@includingcake April 27, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    These look amazing…great photos and super impressed you made both!!

  12. Swathi April 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    Both cake and Nazook looks yumm. Love the cinnamon and nutmeg together. You did great.

  13. Crumbs of Love April 27, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

    First of all, I love your crinkle cutter. Mine is the circular wheel kind and did not work with this since the cookie was deeper than the cutting wheel. Can I also say that I love your nutmeg photo? It’s very lovely. Both your cake and cookies look delish- vanilla all the way!!

    • Korena in the Kitchen April 27, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

      Thank you Sandie! The crinkle cutter was bought especially for this challenge… now I have to find some more ways to use it!

  14. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide April 27, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    Beautiful!

  15. Jane @ The Wayward Oven April 27, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    First of all, I have to say I love your step-by-step pictures! The way the cake is made was also new to me, and now I want to make every cake that way! What’s not to like when you get cookie and cake in the same bite. Your nazook are so pretty and the layers have come out nicely.

  16. Shelley C April 27, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    Awesome job on both desserts! I have to say – I love that picture of the netmeg and cinnamon sticks… :) You really did a great job on both of the recipes,and, as always, a wonderful post for the challenge!!

  17. Jayanthi April 27, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    Absolutely delicious clicks. You have done a wonderful job. I didn’t know I’ll be meeting so many people through this challenge (this is my first Daring Bakers Challenge). I somehow liked the nazook more than the cake. Eventhough the cake was soft, the nazook won with its pastry texture. Good one.

    • Korena in the Kitchen April 27, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

      Thanks Jayanthi. Welcome to the Daring Bakers! I agree, the nazooks were irresistible.

  18. Dawn April 27, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    Your photos are absolutely divine! And both your cake and nazook turned out so beautifully. Your cake especially inspires me to want to try it again!

  19. Kim April 27, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    Both of your desserts look lovely! I like your crinkly edged Nazooks. Nice job on the challenge!

  20. prerrnamirchi April 27, 2012 at 10:40 pm #

    beautiful step-by-step photos!

  21. Linda April 28, 2012 at 6:37 am #

    Oh, my! Both of the desserts look absolutely stunning. I can see that I need to purchase one of those crinkle cutters before making nazook again. Yours are so pretty after being cut with one. Good job on both challenges!

  22. Mary April 29, 2012 at 7:12 am #

    They both look amazing! I have no Armenian connection, but this challenge reminded me of an Armenian orange cake I used to make with the same technique. I must dig it out and try it again.

  23. annashortcakes April 29, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    These are amazing! Good job! I can’t wait to try them.

  24. Sibella April 30, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    Both look so as you made them hundred times before! My compliments! :)

  25. guineapigfood May 2, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    Yum! Your nazook looks so tasty! …maybe I’ll have to go back and try making that one, too.

  26. Micaela Ress July 22, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    I don’t have a springform pan, could I still make the cake in a regular pan?

    • Korena in the Kitchen July 23, 2013 at 11:53 am #

      Hi Micaela, a regular cake pan would probably work fine. I would line the bottom with parchment paper so that you can turn the cake out of the pan without it sticking (and then invert it onto a plate for serving). I hope you try this cake – your comment reminds me that I need to make it again!

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