But thanks to this month's Daring Bakers' Challenge, I totally want to go there. Or at least find a bakery that specializes in Armenian foods.
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.
Now, the rules that Jason set forth for the challenge were that we each needed to make one of the two recipes provided. But they both looked amazingly delicious. How in the world is one to choose
Well, right away, I started with the one that looked like it would be quickest to make - the nutmeg cake. Jason described this as a coffee cake kind of confection, and with that, I knew I would be making it.
It started by combining flour, baking powder, brown sugar (lots of it!) and butter.
Then, with a fork, this was combined to form a crumb-type consistency.
Half of this mixture was pressed into a springform pan to form a crust.
The rest of the crumbly mixture was combined with an egg, a variety of spices (well, as the name of the cake implies, it actually just calls for nutmeg. I used a combination of cinnamon, vanilla chai and, of course, nutmeg.) and some milk that had been combined with baking soda.
This mixture was then poured on top of the crust...
...and baked for 30-40 minutes.
Can I just tell you how good this smelled?
And then it came out of the oven...
I was surprised that it sunk a bit in the middle, but that didn't deter us from digging in as soon as it was cool enough.
YUM. The flavor of this cake was so delicious, and the two different textures came together beautifully. The crust was so good, and the cake was amazing. And the combination was outstanding.
This is such a keeper recipe.
But I wasn't done yet.
You see, the other Daring Bakers were sharing their results. And they were raving about both desserts. So I knew I would be trying the second one, as well.
The second recipe was something called nazook. I had never heard of it before, but it looked delicious, and from the reviews on the forum, I knew it would be worth the shot.
There were two components to the nazook.
The first is a yeasted pastry dough.
Only, instead of water or milk as the liquid used to bring the flour and yeast together, this recipe calls for softened butter and sour cream.
Yeah, I knew this would be good.
I kneaded the dough together by hand. At first I was worried that it would never come together. But I persevered and was soon (after about ten minutes) amazed to have a soft, beautiful, smooth ball of buttery, doughy goodness.
I put the dough into the fridge and let it rest overnight.
The next afternoon, I prepared the second component - the filling.
The filling was a crumb-mixture of flour, sugar (I used a combination of white and brown sugar), butter and vanilla.
Yeah. There was a lot of butter in this dessert.
That is a good thing.
And then it was time to put everything together.
The dough is divided into quarters (to make it easier and more manageable to work with), and each quarter is rolled into a rectangle...
...and then sprinkled with a quarter of the topping crumb mix.
The dough is then rolled up, brushed with egg wash and cut into pieces.
The pieces were then laid onto a baking sheet, and were ready to go into the oven.
I actually gave each of the pieces a second coat of egg-wash right before popping them into the oven, and the results were awesome.
A beautiful, golden crust on the delicious flaky dough, and a delicious, lightly-vanilla-y filling all wrapped together into a perfectly sized snack.
These went so well with a cup of coffee or tea, and were slightly addictive, to boot.
So, as I said. I am now seriously interested in learning more about Armenia. If these recipes are any indication, I could be a very happy girl eating all of those buttery delicious treats.
Jason, thank you (and your Aunt Aida!) so much for sharing these amazing recipes with us. All I can say is YUM.
To see the delicious Armenian delicacies baked in the kitchen this month, check the out here.
Armenian Nutmeg Cake(from Daring Bakers' Challenge)
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 cup (1½ sticks) butter, preferably unsalted, cubed
1/2 cup walnut pieces, may need a little more (optional)
1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg (or a combination of spices, to your taste)
Preheat oven to 350°F
Mix the baking soda (not baking powder; that's for the next step) into the milk. Set it aside.
Sift together the flour and the baking powder into a large bowl. Mix in the brown sugar, then add in the cubed butter.
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.
Take half of this resulting crumbly mixture into your springform (9”/23cm) pan. Press a crust out of it using your fingers and knuckles. Set aside.
Crack an egg into a mixer or bowl.
Toss the nutmeg (or whatever spices you are using) in with the egg.
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.
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.
Pour the batter over the base in the springform pan.
Gently sprinkle the walnut pieces over the batter (if using).
Bake in a preheated 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.
Allow to cool in the pan, and then release. Enjoy!
Nazook(from Daring Bakers' Challenge)
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2½ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup sour cream
1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter (room temperature)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup (1½ sticks) softened butter (room temperature)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg for egg wash
Make the Pastry Dough
Place the sifted flour into a large bowl.
Add the dry yeast, and mix it in.
Add the sour cream, and the softened butter.
Use your hands, or a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, to work it into a dough.
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.
Cover the dough and refrigerate for 3-5 hours, or overnight if you like.
Make the filling
Mix the flour, sugar, and the softened butter in a medium bowl.
Add the vanilla extract.
Mix the filling until it looks like clumpy, damp sand. It should not take long. Set aside.
Make the nazook
Preheat the oven to 350°F
Cut the refrigerated dough into quarters.
Form one of the quarters into a ball. Dust your working surface with a little flour.
Roll out the dough into a large rectangle or oval. The dough should be thin, but nottransparent.
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.
Apply your egg yolk wash with a pastry brush.
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.
Pat down the loaf with your palm and fingers so that it flattens out a bit (just a bit).
Use your crinkle cutter (or knife) to cut the loaf into 10 equally-sized pieces. Put onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
Place in a preheated moderate oven for about 30 minutes, until the tops are a rich, golden brown.
Allow to cool and enjoy!