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Archive for April, 2012

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. Bakers were invited to make either or both items.

I’m not at all familiar with Armenian food, so this was an interesting challenge for me. I’m assuming from the items chosen that Armenians have a bit of a sweet tooth! I found that both were too sweet for me but, to put it in perspective, must admit that the batch of biscuits I made for my own tastes were deemed inedible by everyone who tried them. The children actually spat them out. So perhaps I’m just a freak. They were certainly very fond of the Nazook! Miss B also tried to tell me that she loved the nutmeg cake, despite not having tried it yet. The conversation went something like:

Miss B – I love that cake!
Me – Really? How do you know, I’ve never made it before.
Miss B – I had it when I was a baby and I’ve loved it ever since then.
Me – (silent, as I know there is no point trying to argue with a 4 year old)

Anyway, here is how the challenge played out in my house. Sadly, I forgot to turn the camera off after taking photos of my bread for the last post, so had to take photos with the husband’s iphone. So the photos are even more dodgy than usual, sorry.

Nazook

Yields 40 pieces

Ingredients

Pastry dough

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)

Filling

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)
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract

Wash

1-2 egg yolks (for the wash; alternatively, some yogurt, egg whites, or a whole egg)

Directions:

Make the Pastry Dough
1. Place the sifted flour into a large bowl.
2. Add the dry yeast, and mix it in.
3. Add the sour cream, and the softened butter.
4. Use your hands, or a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, to work it into a dough.
5. 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.
6. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 3-5 hours, or overnight if you like.

Make the filling
7. Mix the flour, sugar, and the softened butter in a medium bowl.
8. Add the vanilla extract.
9. Mix the filling until it looks like clumpy, damp sand. It should not take long. Set aside.

Make the nazook
10. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.
11. Cut the refrigerated dough into quarters.
12. Form one of the quarters into a ball. Dust your working surface with a little flour.
13. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle or oval. The dough should be thin, but not
transparent.
14. 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.

15. 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.
16. Pat down the loaf with your palm and fingers so that it flattens out a bit (just a bit).
17. Apply your egg yolk wash with a pastry brush.
18. Use your crinkle cutter (or knife in my case) to cut the loaf into 10 equally-sized pieces. Put onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

19. Place in a preheated moderate oven for about 30 minutes, until the tops are a rich, golden brown.

Armenian Nutmeg Cake

Jason offered two different ways to make this cake – the traditional way (basically by hand) or the quick way (in my case, by Thermomix). I chose the quick way.

Ingredients

1 cup (240 ml) milk (I used low fat because that is all we ever have)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking soda
2 cups (480 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (⅓ oz) baking powder
2 cups (480 ml) (400 gm/14 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed (I used raw because I had run out of brown)
3/4 cup (1½ sticks) (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) butter, preferably unsalted, cubed (I used some butter spread thing because I delegated the shopping and something got lost in translation…)
1/2 cup (120 ml) (55 gm/2 oz) walnut pieces, may need a little more
1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons (5 to 7 ½ ml) (5 to 8 gm) ground nutmeg (freshly grated – smells sensational!)
1 egg

Method

1. Preheat your oven to moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4 .
2. Mix the baking soda (not baking powder) into the milk. Set aside.
3. Put the flour, baking powder, and the brown sugar into your food processor. Pulse until uniformly mixed.
4. Toss in the cubed butter. Pulse until uniformly mixed into tan-colored crumbs.
5. Pour HALF of the crumbs into your springform (9”/23cm) pan. Press out a crust using your fingers and knuckles.
6. Crack the egg into the food processor with the rest of the crumbs still in it.
7. Grate 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg. Toss that into the food processor, too. Pulse until well-incorporated.
8. Pour in the milk and baking soda mixture. Continue to mix until a slightly lumpy tan batter is formed.
9. Pour the batter over the crust in the springform pan.
10. Gently sprinkle the walnut pieces over the batter.
11. Bake in a preheated moderate oven for 30-40 minutes. It’s ready when the top is golden brown, and when it passes the toothpick test (comes out clean).
12. Cool the cake in the pan.

I didn’t really pay attention to the direction about the right size of cake tin to use so it ended up being too big and therefore too flat. The upside of that was that it had a nice chewy edge to it, which was appreciated by the husband. And hopefully by my neighbours, since they scored half the cake!

Thanks Jason and Jason’s Aunt Aida (who starred in very helpful instructional videos) for a fun challenge.

In other news, it was our wedding anniversary yesterday and to celebrate we went out for completely mind-blowing cocktails at The Roosevelt in Potts Point. Seriously amazing. The low-level headache it has left me with today was worth it.

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I have a deep, profound and fattening love of bread. Even if I didn’t love to run I would probably be forced to just to offset my love of toast. But when I talk about bread, I mean the dense, grainy, crusty stuff – the bread with character and substance. One of the things that sold the Thermomix for me was the idea that you could chuck some wheat kernels in, grind them up and make bread basically from scratch. I was happy with that for a while. Then I found a recipe for sprouted wheat bread on Calamity Jane‘s blog, Apron Stringz. I really enjoy reading CJ’s blog – she lives a very different life to me but always makes me stop and think about the things that we prioritise, and to remind me of the things that I should always keep as my highest priority. And of course the bread looked delicious.

I followed her recipe, but soaked 2 cups of wheat kernels and 2 tablespoons of flax seeds only – no lentils. It took ages for them to sprout and I had to go to work in the meantime so I started soaking the grains on Tuesday morning and finished the bread on Wednesday night. The amount of sproutage (not a word, but it should be) was pretty minimal but I figured it would be sufficient.

Here are the soaked and rested grains:

I then used the Thermomix to grind the grains with the combined milk and yeast until it looked (to my untrained eye) that gluten was developing. I doubt that is the correct term, but I whizzed it until it became cohesive.

I then added the honey, salt, oil and flour and whizzed that, then used the knead function for 2 minutes. I then let it rise for an hour.

It was a seriously soft, sticky dough. I was a bit worried actually. Luckily I managed to scoop it up and put it into a tin to rise a second time.

This is the finished product:

I really tried to let it cool down before I tried a piece but I couldn’t. Exactly the bread I was after! I will add this one to the make again list.

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