Nazook & Nutmeg Cake (Daring Bakers Challenge April 2012)

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Nutmeg cake with various toppings

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.

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Cocoa filled nazook

I’m not at all familiar with Armenian cuisine, I’d never heard of Nazook or Nutmeg cake but I’m glad that this months challenge opened me up to this! Nazook – a cross between a stollen or yeasted meringue cake – bready roll with a sweet filling. I have to admit I didn’t put half as much butter as required in the recipe – even a third made it tricky to knead. This month I received a rather expensive and special ring, I’ve been really careful not to get it dirty or to knock it around too much. I’ve never really been a ring wearer before so the sensation of having something on my finger feels rather alien, but I’ve got a lifetime to get used to this!  Kneading greasy dough was out of the question.

earth worms!

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cocoa rhubarb filled nazook

My nazook fillings were – 1. cocoa, 2. ground almond 2. cocoa with rhubarb for a strudel like dessert. Nazook no.3 came out looking like an earth worm, ridged and oozing. Despite the appearance, it was rather tasty. I used crème fraiche inplace of the soured cream + butter, the dough was super light and springy.

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Poppyseed nutmeg cake

Nutmeg cake was really yummy! I had halved the sugar but they still turned out super sweet. I made 4 different mini varieties and used rice flour + cornmeal instead of wheat flour. My favourite was honey roasted almonds with cocoa, although the poppyseed was nice too!

Preparation time: Nazook: Dough and filling preparation: 30 minutes. Dough chilling: 3-5 hours (or longer). Pastry prep: 30 minutes. Baking: 30 minutes.
Armenian Nutmeg Cake: Preparation: 30 minutes (20 minutes if using food processor). Baking: 30-40 minutes.

Equipment required:
Nazook:

1 large bowl

1 medium bowl

2 cookie sheets (if doing full recipe; 1 if doing half)

pastry brush

rolling pin, or empty win bottle

crinkle cutter, or a sharp knife

measuring spoons/cups

Armenian Nutmeg Cake:

1 large bowl

1 large cup

measuring spoons/cups

springform pan (9”/23cm)

standing mixer with whisk and paddle attachments (optional)

food processor (optional)

Nazook

Yields 40 pieces
 Ingredients
Pastry dough

3 cups (720 ml) (420 gm/15 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted

2½ teaspoons (12½ ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) (1 packet) active dry yeast

1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm/8 oz) sour cream

1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225 gm/8 oz) softened butter (room temperature)

Filling

1 1/2 cups (360 ml) (210 gm) (7½ oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted

1 1/2 cups (360 ml) (340 gm/12 oz) sugar

3/4 cup (1½ sticks) (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) softened butter (room temperature)

2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract

Wash

1-2 egg yolks (for the wash; alternatively, some yogurt, egg whites, or a whole egg)

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, or a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, to work it into a dough.
5. If using a standing mixer, switch to a dough hook. If making manually, continue to knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl 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.

Make the filling
7. Mix the flour, sugar, and the softened butter in a medium bowl.
8. Add the vanilla extract.
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 loaf.
16. Pat down the loaf with your palm and fingers so that it flattens out a bit (just a bit).
17. Apply your egg yolk wash with a pastry brush.
18. Use your crinkle cutter (or knife) to cut the loaf into 10 equally-sized pieces. Put onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
19. Place in a preheated moderate oven for about 30 minutes, until the tops are a rich, golden brown.
20. Allow to cool and enjoy!

Armenian Nutmeg Cake

Makes one 9”/23cm cake which yields 12 servings
 Ingredients

1 cup (240 ml) milk (I use whole, but nonfat or lowfat should be fine; non-dairy might work just fine, as well)

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking soda

2 cups (480 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour (I suspect pastry flour or another low-gluten flour might even work better to achieve a light, fluffy crumb)

2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (⅓ oz) baking powder (I used single-acting, because it’s aluminum-free, and it turned out fantastic)

2 cups (480 ml) (400 gm/14 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed

3/4 cup (1½ sticks) (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) butter, preferably unsalted, cubed

1/2 cup (120 ml) (55 gm/2 oz) walnut pieces, may need a little more

1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons (5 to 7 ½ ml) (5 to 8 gm) ground nutmeg (try to grate it fresh yourself; the aroma is enchanting)

1 egg

Directions:

Directions – the Traditional Way (The Fast, Easy Way further down)
1. Preheat your oven to moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.
2. Mix the baking soda (not baking powder; that’s for the next step) into the milk. Set it aside.
3. Sift together the flour and the baking powder into a large bowl. One sift is fine
4. Add the brown sugar. Go ahead and mix the flour and brown sugar together. Or not.
5. Toss in the cubed butter.
6. Mash the butter with a fork into the dry ingredients (you can also use your fingers if you want). You’ll want to achieve a more-or-less uniform, tan-colored crumbly mixture.
7. Take HALF of this resulting crumbly mixture into your springform (9”/23cm) pan. Press a crust out of it using your fingers and knuckles. It will be easy.
8. Crack an egg into a mixer or bowl.
9. Toss the nutmeg in with the egg.
10. Start mixing slowly with a whisk attachment and then increase to medium speed, or mix with a hand whisk if you’re doing it manually. Once it’s mixed well and frothy (about 1 minute using a standing mixer, or about 2-3 minutes of vigorous beating with a whisk), pour in the milk and baking soda mixture. Continue to mix until uniform.
11. Pour in the rest of the crumbly mixture. Mix that well, with either a paddle attachment, or a spatula. Or continue to use the whisk; it won’t make much of a difference, since the resulting batter is very liquidy.
12. Pour the batter over the base in the springform pan.
13. Gently sprinkle the walnut pieces over the batter.
14. Bake in a preheated moderate oven for about 30-40 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the top is a golden brown, and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
15. Allow to cool in the pan, and then release. Enjoy!

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3 responses to “Nazook & Nutmeg Cake (Daring Bakers Challenge April 2012)

  1. I love your variations on the cake – very inspiring! And the cocoa-rhubarb nazook sounds so intriguing. And in my experience, the longer I wear my ring, the more I get used to working with it on. 🙂

  2. I have to agree that the nutmeg cake was my favourite and the roasted almond with cocoa especially so. Cocoa with rhubarb was tasty – you have shown your usual flair for inventing unusual pairings. I hope your ring doesn’t get lost inside a cake sometime! I just googled Nazook and found that its traditionally eaten around Easter and during Ascension , so it looks like you made it at the right time.

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