This month’s Bakers Challenge was hosted by Jason at Dailycandor.com. He introduced us to two very interesting and delicious Armenian desserts : Nazook (or nazuk, nazouk) and scented nutmeg cake. Both are winners.
Nazook is a rolled sweet pastry cookie which I thought was very similar to rugelach but the dough is made with yeast and sour cream. The dough is quite simple in fact, just flour, yeast, sour cream and butter. The fact that there is no sugar is really nice and offsets the sweet filling. The traditional way is a vanilla filling but I also made a fig version and a cinnamon walnut version. I think this is one recipe that is hands down best the traditional way. While all three were incredibaly delicious (and not too sweet), the vanilla the stellar. If you have vanilla beans, this is the time to break them out. I used both vanilla bean seeds and pure vanilla extract for a double vanilla flavor. Pure heaven.
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)
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)
seeds from 1 vanilla bean, scraped
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
1-2 egg yolks
Make the Pastry Dough
Place the sifted flour into a large bowl. Add the dry yeast, and mix well. Add the sour cream and 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 butter in a medium bowl. Add the seeds from a scraped vanilla bean (if using) and 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 moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.
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 not transparent.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. 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.Pat down the loaf with your palm and fingers so that it flattens out a bit (just a bit).
Apply your egg yolk wash with a pastry brush.
Use a crinkle cutter (I used a serrated bread 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. Cool and then try not to eat all of them!
1 cup (240 ml) milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups (480 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour (I used pastry flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups (480 ml) (400 gm/14 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed (I used demerara sugar)
3/4 cup (1½ sticks) (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup (120 ml) (55 gm/2 oz) walnut pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg
Preheat your oven to 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.
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.Add the brown sugar and mix together.Cut the butter with a fork into the dry ingredients (you can use your food processor like I did). 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. It will be easy.Crack an egg into a mixer or bowl and add the nutmeg .
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 (or process for 60 seconds). Once it’s mixed well and frothy, pour in the milk and baking soda mixture. Continue to mix until uniform. Pour in the rest of the crumbly mixture. Mix well until thoroughly combined and fluid.Pour the batter over the base in the springform pan and sprinkle the walnut pieces over the batter.
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.
Allow to cool in the pan,release and enjoy!
freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: Nazook will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of weeks, and the Armenian nutmeg cake will keep (covered) at room temperature for 2-3 days. Both taste even better still warm from the oven.
Allow to cool completely before attempting to freeze. Nazook will freeze best if put in a freezer bag with all the air squeezed out. Armenian Nutmeg Cake will also freeze fairly well if completely sealed. Both can be frozen for up to 3 months.