Friday, April 27, 2012

Armenian Sweets

Sweet Almond Nazook
and Armenian Walnut and Honey Nutmeg Cake

We've been eating some fancy sweets in my house this week (with pleasure)!

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.









Nutmeg can be a bit overwhelming and scares me into decreasing its amount often when it's called for. Today's recipe called for 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of the stuff! I went with 1.5. Normally I'd go maybe 1/2...drum roll...No Regrets! This cake is nutty, fragrant, mildly sweet and very impressive.

And the nazook, for as beautifully difficult as it looks, was really very simple and satisfying to make.

I enjoyed the texture of the nazook dough. It was very stiff and on the dry side so it didn't stick to my hands or the counter much as I kneaded. When it was finally really smooth, I stuck it in the fridge overnight. In the morning to my surprise the dough was really dense like a block of heavy clay. It took some work to round it out and roll it flat, but I found it to be a wonderful dough to work with.

And the results are so pretty! The almond flavor in these was delicious. The nazook did not last long in my house!

Both were best fresh from the oven, yet both kept surprisingly well. I preferred my leftovers reheated in a toaster oven for a minute-that brought them right back to life for days!


These recipes are based on my experience with some changes to the original recipes. You can find Jason's original recipes here.

Nazook makes about 40 pieces
Pastry dough
  • 3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted
  • 2½ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter (room temperature)
Filling
  • 1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup softened butter (room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
Wash
  • 1 egg mixed with 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
Directions:
Make the Pastry Dough
1. Place the sifted flour into a large bowl.
2. Add the dry yeast, and mix it in.
3. Add the sour cream, and the softened butter.
4. Use your hands to work it into a dough.
5. Once the dough starts to clump together but is still shaggy with some loose pieces, turn it out onto your counter. Continue to mix and knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough no longer sticks to the counter or your hands. If it remains very sticky, add some flour, a little at a time.
6. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 3-5 hours, or overnight if you like. Your dough will be very stiff and will harden up like dense clay overnight.
Make the filling
7. Mix the flour, ground almonds, sugar, and the softened butter in a medium bowl.
8. Add the vanilla and almond extracts.
9. Mix the filling until it looks like clumpy, damp sand. It should not take long. Set aside.
Make the nazook
10. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.
11. Cut the refrigerated dough into quarters.
12. Form one of the quarters into a ball. Dust your working surface with a little flour.
13. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle or oval. The dough should be thin, but not transparent.
14. Spread 1/4 of the filling mixture across the rolled-out dough in an even layer. Try to spread the filling as close as possible to the edges on the short sides, but keep some of pastry dough uncovered (1 inch/2.5 cm) along the long edges.
15. 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 log.
16. Pat down the log with your palm and fingers so that it flattens out a bit (just a bit).
17. Apply your egg/yogurt wash with a pastry brush.
18. Cut the log into 10 equally-sized pieces. Put onto an ungreased cookie sheet with about an inch or a half inch between each piece.
19. Place in your oven for about 30 minutes, until the tops are a rich, golden brown.
20. Allow to cool a bit and enjoy!

Armenian Walnut and Honey Nutmeg Cake

Ingredients
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup (1½ sticks) butter, preferably unsalted, cubed
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces (for top) plus 3/4 cup ground toasted walnuts for the batter
  • 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh ground nutmeg
Directions:
1. Turn your oven on to moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.
2. Place 1 1/4 cup walnut pieces on a baking sheet and place in oven for 5-7 minutes. Stir a time or two. Cool on a separate tray to help speed things up.

3.
In a medium bowl, mix the honey and eggs into the milk. Add baking soda and mix. Set it aside.
4.
Sift together the flour and the baking powder into a large bowl.
5.
Toss cubed butter into the dry ingredients.
6. Mash the butter into the dry ingredients with your hands. You want to achieve a more-or-less uniform, tan-colored crumbly mixture.

7. Add nutmeg to the crumbly mixture.
8. Pour 1/3 to 1/2 of this crumbly mixture into a 9" spring form pan. Press a crust out of it using your fingers and knuckles.

9. Set aside 1/2 cup of toasted walnut pieces. Once fairly cool, pulse the remaining walnuts in a food processor until uniformly fine.

10. Fold ground walnuts into your remaining crumbly mix.

11. Give your liquid ingredients a good stir. Pour into the dry mix and mix well.

12. Pour the batter over the base in the spring form pan. The batter will be very thin.

13. Gently sprinkle the remaining walnut pieces over the batter.

14. Bake in a preheated oven for about 40-50 minutes. You'll know it's done when the top is a deep golden brown, and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

15. Allow to cool in the pan, and then release.

Enjoy!

6 comments:

  1. Hannah these look wonderful. The addition of walnut and honey to the nutmeg cake sounds amazing, and your almond nazooks are so pretty! Most of mine fell over on their sides or exploded... Great job!

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  2. Fantastic job! Both your nutmeg cake and nazook look absolutely delicious!

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  3. Hannah, they look perfect! And the crumb, and the nutty flour and the almonds...great choices! Good job!

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  4. Your Nazook looks absolutely wonderful! And the Armenian walnut and honey nutmeg cake looks delish! Beautiful job!

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  5. Please, about what size (dimensions) to roll out the rectangle to for the nazook? ?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Tanya, I'm sorry I can't tell you exactly. I roll mine out so it is thin but not transparent and definitely thick enough that it isn't at risk of tearing. Perhaps 1/8 inch thick or a bit thinner?

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