For April, Daring Baker Jason (of Daily Candor) challenged us to make at least one of two recipes he provided which represent his Armenian heritage: nazouk (or nazook) and nutmeg cake. Both were completely new to me and right away I had a strong suspicion I would make both of them.
The first recipe I attempted was the Armenian nutmeg cake. The recipe seemed quite simple. I had been looking at photos and comments from other Daring Bakers and there seemed to be a potential for under baking. A quick search on recipesource.com revealed a similar recipe for nutmeg cake, but with almost double the baking time. Something to keep in mind.
I decided to make the nutmeg cake for Easter Sunday as we were going to the home of some friends for brunch and when I asked what I could bring, the answer was dessert (as was expected). Ordinarily I wouldn’t wait until the day of an event to make what I’m taking, but every once in awhile I forget common sense. There aren’t many ingredients for the nutmeg cake, and since both weight and volume are provided on Daring Bakers’ recipes I knew it wouldn’t take long to prepare the ingredients. The whole thing can be mixed in the food processor, making it even quicker. Still, I should have made it on Saturday.
This is an interesting cake in terms of method as most of the dry ingredients are mixed with the butter versus creaming butter and sugar and then adding the dry ingredients. Half of the dry ingredient/butter mixture is pressed into the bottom of a springform pan to form sort of a crust. Milk and egg are then added to the remaining dry mixture to make a thin batter that’s poured over the crust.
The measuring, the mixing, the baking . . . all seemed to go well. I did end up baking the cake for 50 minutes as opposed to 30 to 40, but that wasn’t unexpected. The recipe indicated to let the cake cool in the pan. This isn’t something I ordinarily do, but this was an entirely different kind of cake so I went with it. I don’t think I should have let the cake cool in the pan.
When I took it out of the oven, I noticed there was a lot of caramelized brown sugar around the edges. Once that brown sugar cooled, it wouldn’t budge. Despite using a non-stick springform pan and parchment on the bottom, my cake refused to part with the pan. This is what I ended up with:
|A very tasty mess|
The cake tasted great. There were a variety of textures with the sandy bottom crust, the spongy cake and the caramelized sugar, but it didn’t seem like it was supposed to be that way. I’m wondering if my measurement of brown sugar was incorrect. It really seemed like there may have been too much brown sugar. So instead of taking the nutmeg cake pieces to Easter brunch, I ended up taking the craqueline I had made on Saturday. C’est la vie.
Although I do want to try the nutmeg cake again, I also wanted to try the nazouk so moved on to that before another go at the cake.
The nazouk is an interesting pastry. The pastry dough included flour, yeast, butter and sour cream. It came together beautifully in the stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Although I wanted to get started on it right away, the dough needed to rest in the refrigerator for at least three hours. In my case it ended up being overnight. Let me just say, I love this dough! It’s incredibly easy to work with: it rolls beautifully, it doesn’t require a lot of flour for rolling, it stretches without tearing – just wonderful stuff.
The recipe given for the filling was sweet – with flour, sugar, butter and vanilla. As the full recipe of dough is divided and rolled out into quarters, there is opportunity for four different fillings. I knew I would fill some with the filling recipe provided, but I also started thinking about savory fillings since Tug isn’t a fan of sweets.
|pastry dough spread with chevre and caramelized shallots|
For the savory fillings, my inspiration came from things in my refrigerator I needed to use. I had some shallots that had been hanging around awhile and some remnants of a log of chevre, so caramelized shallots and goat cheese was one savory filling. I meant to add some freshly ground pepper, but totally forgot until they were out of the oven. They were still good, but the pepper would have been just perfect. The other savory filling idea came from some leftovers. I had cooked Indian for dinner the night before and had some diced potatoes with cumin, ginger and mustard seeds left over. These were never realized as in a rare twist of fate, leftovers were actually eaten before I could use them. So I ended up with three sweet fillings instead.
|the finished savory pastries|
The sweet fillings were based on the filling recipe provided. I cut the recipe in half since I planned on making some of the nazouk savory. My deviation from the recipe was to use a vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract; and since there wouldn’t be the liquid from the vanilla extract, I compensated with an equal amount of Grand Marnier. In retrospect, I probably should have used half of a vanilla bean. I baked some of my sweet nazouk with the filling as is. They were definitely sweet! For the other half, I chopped up some slices of candied orange I had left over from the craqueline and a few dried cranberries which was added to some of the vanilla filling. The hope was the bitterness from the orange peel and tartness of the cranberries would counter some of the sweetness of the filling. Not so much. My only complaint (if you want to call it that) with these two is the overt sweetness.
The third sweet filling was the same base filling to which I added some ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and clove. Instead of using my crinkle cutter for this batch, I just sliced them with a thin, sharp knife. And because I didn’t want to waste an egg for just a few pastries, I brushed the tops of these with a little bit of yogurt. They still browned, but didn’t have the shiny tops that the others do. And I noticed that these were the only ones that tried to unroll while they were baking. I’m guessing it has something to do with slicing them evenly instead of with the crinkle cutter. There’s some baking science in there somewhere I’m sure, but that’s beyond my knowledge. These were by far my favorite of the sweet fillings. I used a little bit less of the filling mixture and the warm spices really helped to temper the sweetness.
|the finished quartet of pastries|
Despite my less than perfect cake, I really enjoyed this challenge. I still want to try the cake again to see if I can get it right and I know I will use the nazouk pastry dough again, maybe even for some different applications. Thank you, Jason!
Blog-checking lines: 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.
For the recipes, please visit The Daring Kitchen Recipe Index.
For the recipes, please visit The Daring Kitchen Recipe Index.