Friday, April 27, 2012

The Daring Bakers Visit Armenia

We were challenged to make one or two desserts this month, and I made both, as they sounded so good. I was not familiar with Armenian baking, so I was eager to see what was in store. The first dessert was a simple cake with a crumb base, flavoured with nutmeg and sprinkled with walnuts. I went with cardamom and pistachios instead.
As you can see, the pistachios migrated a long way from the top of the cake. The batter was very liquid and I watched all the nuts get sucked into a vortex in the centre of the cake and disappear. Remember that I haven't got TV reception. The flavour and texture of the cake were good, but it reinforced why I do not like crumb cakes. The base was too rich and sweet and greasy and I ended up cutting it off. I made a second version of this cake, halving the sugar, doubling the egg and mixing all the crumbs with the egg and milk and much preferred the result. The batter was thick, the nuts stayed where they were supposed to, and it baked in the suggested time, unlike the crumb cake, which took much longer for many Daring Bakers. No photo of that one, sorry.
The second dessert was totally unfamiliar: nazook. A rich, but unsweetened butter and sour cream yeasted pastry wrapped around a rich and buttery filling. I made mine small, so they were crisp but tender. I used mahleb (or mahlab), a spice made from dried cherry pits to flavour the pastry and I used the given recipe for a vanilla filling. The mahleb gave a faint cherry-almond taste. These were delicious with coffee or tea, but again I would reduce the sugar next time. The pastry was amazing though, and so nice to work with. I didn't want to stop kneading it, even though I hate touching sour cream. That stuff is nasty, even if it does do wonders in baking.

Thanks to Jason of Daily Candor for a great challenge! You can find the full challenge post here, with step-by-step photos and a great video of Jason and his aunt Aida making nazook.

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.

18 comments:

Anula said...

Both look sooo good! KUDOS on making both - that's real daring blood in you :)
Pozdrawiam, Anula.

Irina said...

They look great and, yes, they taste great! You gave me 2 new ideas - whenever I hear either cardamon or almond, I make mental notes :)) Oh, with pistachios as well!
I also loved working with the dough and went way past the required 10 minutes.

Jeanne said...

I reduced the sugar in the cake as well, and it came out perfect for my taste. I'm planning on trying the nazook soon, it's good to know that the sugar can be reduced there as well. Both of these treats look fantastic!

Valerie said...

I'm sorry that I missed this month's challenge (one of too many). Both of your desserts look great! I always worry about bread-cakes being too dry, but they look super moist!

Well done! (Kneading the dough is my favourite part too.) :D

Valérie said...

I totally skipped this challenge, didn't even know what it was... Now I regret it, because it looks so good, expecially the nazook, which I've never heard of either. Great job this month!

Within the Kitchen said...

Great job on this month's challenge! I loved it too!
Ceecee

Korena said...

The cardamom cake sounds fantastic, and it's cool that you were able to modify it to come out the way you wanted. I'm so intrigued by the mahleb spice, it sounds delicious with the vanilla nazooks!

crumbsoflove said...

I don't Mary, I think your crumbs cake looks perfect! I have a sweet tooth so I loved the bottom... The nazook were fantastic. I am going to get some mahleb and give this another go. I don't believe I have ever had it, but it sounds really delicious. Best, Sandie

Gingered Whisk said...

Haha, your pistachios got sucked into a vortex and disappeared! Love it! :) Both the cake and the nazook look great! :)

Cheap Ethnic Eatz said...

Oh love these to ethnic treats. Never made these either.

shelley c. said...

AWESOME job - both of your desserts look fantastic. I bet that second version of the nutmeg (cardamom) cake was DELICIOUS - I may just try it that way next time!! Great work!!

Lisa said...

Ooooh..that Mahlab sounds terrific, I need to get some of it. What a great idea to flavor the Nazook with it. Sorry byou didn't like your first version of the cake, but gkad you managed to get a good result with your changes. I'll be back to DB in May - miss it! Beautiful job, and thanks for your kind thoughts!

Sawsan (chef in disguise) said...

both look amazing!
I tried the cake and can't wait to try the nazook
great job on the challenge

Suz said...

Your cake looks beautiful, wandering pistachios and all. I think I'll try your tweaks next time, with extra egg and half the sugar, though I might keep some of the biscuit base - that was my favourite bit! Your nazook looks great - I love the sound of the mahleb!

Sarah said...

No tv, eh? That was very funny! I'm glad you enjoyed the challenge and I agree the pastry dough was fun to knead. Maybe I'll find the mahleb for my next round of Nazook.

yummychunklet said...

I've never heard of nazook, but it sounds delicious by your description. Great post!

Lisa said...

Wahh..no new post! I hope to see one soon! I'll be back in Daring Bakers for Challah challenge :)

Chris said...

Hi Mary, just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris
http://chelencarter-retiredandlovingit.blogspot.ca/