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.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Finnish Pulla: Braided and Chocolate Swirled

Oh, hello. Are you still there? I can hardly blame you if you've up and left. In fact, I left myself for a bit, but I brought you back the most delicious sweet bread with cardamom. This bread has long been one of my favourites, but I can't make it too often, as I find myself wanting to eat it for every meal, dessert and snack. It's a good thing I gave half of it away.
Here's the baked bread. I used the 6-strand braid, just because. I usually just do a simple 3-strand braid, but wanted the plumper loaf. The technique is easy. I watched this video, then found myself repeating the steps aloud as I braided. 
Here's the loaf before the egg wash, pearl sugar and baking. You can see the cardamom in it. I grind it in a mortar and pestle and never have the patience to make it really fine. Also, the cardamom I buy at a local Indian food shop is really powerful and I will reduce it a tad next time. If you're using pre-ground, definitely use the full amount.

I used half the dough for the braid, but had a bit of marzipan left over, so I filled this loaf with a made-up mixture of marzipan, butter and melted bittersweet chocolate. It was a bit too gloopy and rolling it was a mess, but the end result was pretty tasty. I used chocolate because I actually made this in February for Lisa's Bread Baking with Chocolate post, which I think was due by the first of March. Oops.
I used this pulla recipe from Julia at Melanger. The filling was equal parts of butter, marzipan and chocolate (about 100 grams each), but next time I will chop the chocolate instead of melting it. To make the swirl, I rolled the dough in a rectangle, spread it with the filling, then rolled it and cut it lengthwise before twisting it up. Joining the ends was tricky, as it there was chocolate everywhere by this point. It looked like this before baking:
Notice that I cropped off the really messy bit. Anyhow, see you next week with the Daring Bakers reveal. I wish I had made more of this to eat while watching Nadal-Djokovic tomorrow. Sigh.