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.
This month’s challenge featured lots of butter and rich, full flavors. I’d never heard of nutmeg cake, or nazook, when I first saw the challenge, but I’m glad I did! I made the nutmeg cake first, following the directions exactly, though I kind of used double-acting baking powder in place of single acting baking powder which I knew from the start was a bad move. The recipe seemed to suggest that one could use either. Though that didn’t make sense I figured, “why buy more baking powder?” and continued on. Needless to say, I ended up with a very well risen cake, in fact too well-risen–it overflowed. It sunk a little, but it didn’t matter as the concoction is less cake and more nutmeg flavored caramel.
The taste was particularly good because I didn’t work the butter into the dry ingredients as well as I could have. Thus, the little pockets of butter combined with the massive amount of brown sugar and I ended up with tons of pockets of delicious caramel. I only had pre-ground nutmeg, not fresh, but the author stated that fresh is divine, and if possible it should be used. I did read though that some people found the fresh nutmeg to not give it a huge nutmeg flavor, so perhaps you’ll need more if you use it.
The nazook were equally as scrumptious, but I didn’t make them gluten-free as they rely on a thin yeasted dough and I was more worried about working with gluten-free ingredients in that instance. I used honey and orange zest to flavor them because I had planned to make honey orange madeleines a few days ago and the ingredients were on hand. Of course, oranges aren’t in season, so I’d encourage you to play around and come up with you own ideas, or just stick with the traditional vanilla filling. I found that they were best just out of the oven, but even a day after their flavor and texture was nice. They are incredibly flakey from all the butter and would be terrific with tea. Enjoy!
Gluten-free Armenian Nutmeg Cake
Adapted a bit from the original nutmeg cake
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour or if gluten-free:
- 2/3 cup cornstarch
-2/3 cup tapioca starch/flour
-1/3 cup garbanzo bean flour
-1/3 cup sorghum flour
-1 teaspoon xantham gum
2 teaspoons single-acting baking powder
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar (I used light brown)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, softened and cut into tablespoons
1/2 cup chopped walnut pieces
1-1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg, preferably fresh
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix together milk and baking soda and set aside. Sift together flour(s) and baking soda, then mix in brown sugar and work in butter with your hands or a pastry blender/fork until sandy and there aren’t any large pieces of butter (a little less uniform and you might end up with the caramel pockets I described above). Then take half of this mixture and pat it into a crust on the bottom of an ungreased 9-inch springform pan. It actually might be good to grease the sides, but not the bottom, if you’re really concerned with the sides looking nice, that is. Beat the egg and nutmeg in the bowl of a stand mixer, starting low and increasing speed to medium. Beat for about a minute with a stand mixer, or 2-3 minutes with a hand mixer. Add in milk and remaining dry ingredients and stir. Pour onto of the crust and sprinkle nuts over the top. Bake for 30-40 minutes (it seemed the general consensus was longer=better, but this may not apply to you).
Adapted slightly from the original
1 1/2 cups all-prupose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup sour cream or greek yogurt (I used 2 %)
1/2 cup (1 stick) cubed softened butter
3/4 cup +2 tablespoons al-purpose flour, sifted (or not, it worked fine without sifting)
3/4 cup minus 2 tablespoons sugar, or 5/8 cup
6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) cubed softened butter
2 Tablespoons honey
Zest of one navel orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk or egg whites, a whole egg, or yogurt ( I tried yogurt and it worked surprisingly well)~for the wash
Whisk together flour and yeast. Add in sour cream/greek yogurt and softened butter. Work in butter with hands and then knead for 10 minutes so that the dough isn’t sticky. Add some flour if so. Alternatively, you can knead the dough with a dough hook of a stand mixer so that the dough doesn’t stick to the bowl. Cover the dough or wrap it in plastic wrap, then place it in the fridge for 3-5 hours.
Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Then add softened butter, honey, orange zest, and vanilla and work in with your hands until crumbly.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cut the dough in half and form one half into a ball. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until very thin but not see-through. Scatter half of the filling over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border on the long edges of the dough. Starting on one long edge, begin rolling up the dough, making sure the filling stays in place. Crimp the roll together as you go, so it doesn’t have air spaces. At the end you may want to put a little water on the bare 1-inch on the opposite long end to cement the roll together. Once rolled up, press down a little bit to flatten slightly. Brush the roll with the wash of egg or yogurt. Cut the roll into 10 pieces and repeat with remaining dough. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and cook for 30 minutes.