Friday, April 27, 2012

THE DARING BAKERS' APRIL 2012 CHALLENGE: Armenian Nazook & Nutmeg Cake

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 the Daring Bakers had the option of making one of two recipes or both. These wonderful recipes are traditonally Armenian and new to many Daring Bakers. That's what we are all about - stepping out of our comfort zone.

I started off with Nutmeg Cake, a wonderfully simple cake that can be made by hand or in the food processor. This cake consists of a crumbly biscuit base topped with a nutmeg-gy cake. For my family and I the Nutmeg cake base was too sweet. Next time I would be inclined to cut the sugar by half. Sweetness aside, this cake is simple, quick and tasty!

Armenian Nutmeg Cake

Makes one 9”/23cm cake which yields 12 servings
  • 1 cup (240 ml) milk
  • 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
  • 3/4 cup (1½ sticks) (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) butter, preferably unsalted, cubed
  • 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 (try to grate it fresh yourself; the aroma is enchanting)
  • 1 egg
Directions - the Traditional Way (The Fast, Easy Way further down)
1. Preheat your oven to moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.
2. Mix the baking soda (not baking powder; that's for the next step) into the milk. Set it aside.
3. Sift together the flour and the baking powder into a large bowl. One sift is fine
4. Add the brown sugar. Go ahead and mix the flour and brown sugar together. Or not.
5. Toss in the cubed butter.

6. Mash the butter with a fork into the dry ingredients (you can also use your fingers if you want). You'll want to achieve a more-or-less uniform, tan-colored crumbly mixture.

7. 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.

8. Crack an egg into a mixer or bowl.
9. Toss the nutmeg in with the egg.
10. 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. Once it's mixed well and frothy (about 1 minute using a standing mixer, or about 2-3 minutes of vigorous beating with a whisk), pour in the milk and baking soda mixture. Continue to mix until uniform.
11. Pour in the rest of the crumbly mixture. Mix that well, with either a paddle attachment, or a spatula. Or continue to use the whisk; it won't make much of a difference, since the resulting batter is very liquidy.

12. Pour the batter over the base in the springform pan.

13. Gently sprinkle the walnut pieces over the batter.

14. Bake in a preheated moderate oven for about 50-60 minutes. You'll know it's done when the top is a golden brown, and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
15. Allow to cool in the pan, and then release. Enjoy!

An Even Easier Way...if you have a Food Processor
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.

Next I decided to try the Nazook as it was unusual and used basic ingredients. 

Nazook are amazing!

I love that fact that the ingredients are basic but it is the proportions and method that create something new with a unique flavour.

My family and I loved the delicious flavour and flaky texture of Nazook. This recipe will become a regular in our household. They would be great to bring to a party and shared. I found that even a day or two later Nazook tasted fresh and delicious. If you haven't ever made them, do try just once - you won't be sorry.


Yields 40 pieces
Video instructions by my aunt Aida
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)
  • 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 ( I also scraped the seeds out of a vanilla pod and added to the filling for extra vanilla flavour)
  • 1-2 egg yolks (for the wash; alternatively, some yogurt, egg whites, or a whole egg)

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

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) 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.

20. Allow to cool and enjoy!

Thank you Jason for introducing us to these fabulous Armenian desserts! 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"A Baker's Odyssey" Personal Challenge # 12 Anzac Cookies

On the 25th April, every year, Australia and New Zealand observe ANZAC day. This day of national  day of remembrance honours all military personnel who have served and died for our countries. Originally this day commemorated the men who died at Gallipoli in WW1. This year marks the 97th landing at Gallipoli.

Anzac biscuits are a national icon, a recipe we all have, a biscuit we all love. It has been claimed that Anzac biscuits  or cookies were sent by wives to the soldiers. Supposedly these cookies kept well and lasted the long transportation.These cookies don't contain eggs which were scarce during the war and also would have diminished their  shelf life.

So it is appropriate that today I chose the bake Anzac Cookies from A Baker's Odyssey by Greg Patent. This recipe is slightly different in proportions from the usual Anzac recipe in that it has a quarter of a cup less flour. I found that this meant the cookies spread more during baking and resulted in a thinner cookie than the usual recipe I use. Also I would normally use dessicated coconut - easier than chopping shredded coconut -though I did for challenge purposes! Golden syrup is traditionaland I believe lends the biscuit the correct flavour but Greg suggests honey or light corn syrup. Personally I feel corn syrup has very little flavour but I think honey or even maple syrup would be fine.
We Australians like our Anzac biscuits crunchy but the 12 minute cooking time results in a chewy cookie. I chose to bake for 3 or 4 minutes longer for a crunchy cookie.
 That's your choice, of course!

This seemed a little odd - an Australian baking a traditional Australian recipe from an American cookbook!

Anzac Cookies

Makes 36 cookies

1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cups unsweetened shredded coconut, chopped
3/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar
8 tablespoons (115g) butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup
3 tablespoons boiling water
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarb (baking) soda

Heat oven to 300F (150C). Line baking sheets with non stick paper.
In a medium bowl mix together oat, coconut, flour and sugar.
Melt butter in a small saucepan and stir in the syrup. 
In a small cup mix the boiling water with the soda until the soda is dissolved. Add this mixture to the butter and stir well. Pour over dry ingredients and stir thoroughly with a wooden spoon.


Spoon slightly rounded teaspoonfuls of battler 3 inches apart onto lined baking sheets. Don't make the cookies too large - remember they spread during baking. Bake for 12 minutes or 4 minutes longer if you like crunchy cookies.
Rotate baking sheets after 8 minutes of cooking to ensure even browning.
During baking the cookies will rise and fall when you remove them from the oven. 

I like to cool the cookies on the baking sheet. If you only have limited baking sheets remove the baking paper with the cookies attached, cool the baking sheet by running under water, then reline and bake more cookies. 

Enjoy your cookies and remember the brave men and women who served in the military so that our country can be free.
"Lest we forget"

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

An Award!

I was surprised and thrilled to recently receive the Liebster blog award from my friend Anuja at "simple baking".

Anjua didn't specify rules for this award or it's meaning so I did a bit of research and this is what I came up with.

Liebster is German for dearest, beloved or favorite. From what I understand, this award is given to blogs with less than 200 (or 300 depending on who is writing the rules)  followers but deserve more attention.

And there are rules that come with this award:
  • 1. Thank the blogger who gave you the award and link back to them.
  • 2. Reveal your top five picks (or three, again depends)  and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • 3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
  • 4. Hope that the people you’ve sent the award to forward it to their five favorite bloggers and keep it going!
I decided it would be fun to participate all in the spirit of getting to know more blogs with a similar interest- food! There is no obligation to participate. If I have passed it on to you  and it's not your thing, that's fine.

Here are my picks:

Nish Whips up a dish - gorgeous cake this month!
 Le Ricette di Jenny Passione e Fantasia in Cucina - great Italian food - use your translate button.
Bake Away with Me - self confessed avid baker
As Strong as Soup - Phil has a French accent on cooking
At Anna's kitchen Table - homely and delicious.

Thank you Anuja for bestowing this award on me!

Monday, April 16, 2012

"A Baker's Odyssey" Personal Challenge #11 Welsh Griddle Cakes

Today I continue my challenge  to cook through "A Baker's Odyssey" Greg Patent. From the last entry of Kulich and Pashka which was long and moderately difficult, I go to an easy and delicious afternoon treat. These are a lemony, tea cake with a crumbly, buttery texture filled with golden raisins or currants - I used sultanas. Apparently this recipe dates back to the eighteenth century or earlier. Almost like a scone though with much less liquid to hold the mixture together. I love the idea of not having to turn on the oven instead these a simply cooked  on a nonstick griddle or pan.

Welsh Griddle Cakes

Make 20 to 24

4 cups cake flour ( I made my own)   
2  teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
250g (2 sticks)  butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 cup golden raisins, sultana or currents
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 large egg
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon milk

The butter needs to be rubbed into the dry ingredients and this can be done by hand, stand mixer or food processor. I use the food processor for this task.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. If your food processor has a large bowl you can place all of these dry ingredients into the bowl. If not, use 2/3 of this mixture. With the metal blade in the food processor add the butter and pulse 5 or  6 times then process continuously for 10 seconds. I found mine needed more processing. The mixture should look like fine meal. Be careful not to over process. Transfer this mixture into a large bowl then mix in the spices, dried fruit and lemon rind. 
Beat the egg then add the lemon juice and milk.
Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and use a fork to toss and stir until the mixture forms medium to large clumps. Now use your hands to bring the mixture together. Work quickly so the butter doesn't soften. The key to this recipe is that minimum liquid is used . If you really need a few drops of additional milk can be used so that the mixture will hold. 

Dust your work surface with flour and roll out the mixture to 1/3 inch (just under 1cm) thick. Don't make it any thick or else it won't cook through.
Use a  2 1/2 inch cutter (about 6.5cm) to stamp out circles.
Place rounds onto baking sheet lined with plastic wrap.
Gather the scraps together and keep stamping out circles. The last one or two might need to be formed by hand.

If you have a non stick electric griddle heat to 250F to 275F. I use a non stick pan over a low gas flame, adjusting the heat periodically.
Add the cakes to the pan leaving about 2 inches between each. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until nicely browned.

 Using a egg flip or pancake turner carefully turn each cake and cook for a further 5 to 6 minutes. The cakes will feel firm and the sides will have lost their softness. A wooden skewer inserted should come out clean.  Transfer to cake rack to cool.
Continue cooking cakes in the same way.

Greg recommends sprinkling with sugar while hot but we enjoyed them just as they were.
Serve the cakes warm or at room temperature with a cup of steaming tea.

These cakes are moreish! The taste and texture makes them irresistible and I did eat more than I should have! 

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Baker's Odyssey Personal Challenge #9 Kulich and #10 Paskha

Easter Sunday!
A time of great joy to Christians around the world which is often celebrated with special dishes of significance. So, in keeping with my personal challenge of baking through A Baker's Odyssey, this Easter I took on the challenge of baking a traditional Russian Easter Cake, Kulich. The usual accompaniment to this cake is Paskha - a rich cheesecake like spread.

Here begins the baking of the more complicated recipes from my chosen cookbook. Author Greg Patent, tells of his childhood Easter Sunday spent with his father visiting friends and eating. His great pleasure was to sample each and every Kulich and Paskha.  These Russian specialities are both rich in eggs and butter symbolising fertility and rebirth. So important to the Russian women who lovingly baked and decorated the Kulich that they would wrap them carefully and carry them to the church where the cakes would be blessed by the priest.

Kulich is a tall sweet Easter cake flavoured with rum and studded with raisins, cherries and almonds. A very festive looking cake topped with white icing that dribbles down the sides. The accompanying Paskha is decorated with cherries and almonds  often pressed into specially carved wooded moulds. When released from the mould on one side is a cross and on the other the initials XB meaning Christos voskres! (Christ is risen!).

My challenge began right from the outset when  Greg writes, "You will need a clean 2-pound coffee can to make the Kulich". Yikes, this is Australia. I'm not sure what a 2 pound coffee can looks like. I figure it must be about a kilo of coffee but is that instant coffee or ground coffee? The instant coffee comes in 500 gram cans but ground coffee doesn't come in cans at all. A quick scan of the supermarket shelves and I spot a malted chocolate drink powder, Milo, in a 1 kilo can and on sale. Mmmm, 1 kilo of Milo? I hope we have cold winter and we all want hot Milo's! I used a can opener to remove the lip around the top of the can then buttered and lined it with baking paper making sure the baking paper was at least 2 inches (5cm) above the rim.
Baking pan prepared!

 Let's prepare the Kulich!


makes 12 to 16 serves

1/3 cup dark raisins
1/3 cup golden raisins (sultanas)
1/3 cup dark rum

Soak raisins in rum overnight. The next day drain for one hour over a small bowl reserving 2 tablespoons of rum. Transfer the raisins to paper towels. 

1/2 cup whole milk
2  2/3 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) rapid rise (instant) yeast
1 large egg, at room temperature

Scald the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat - small bubbles will appear around the edges and steam will rise from the surface. Remove from heat and cool to between 120F and 130F.

Put 2/3 cup flour into a bowl ( I used my stand mixer bowl) add the sugar and yeast. Stir with a wooden spoon and add the hot milk. Beat until smooth. Add the egg and beat well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl then sprinkle over the remaining flour. Cover with plastic wrap.

Let the sponge rise at room temperature for 3 or 4 hours, until the yeast mixture has bubbled up and almost engulfed the flour.

1 large egg, at room temperature
7 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (155grams) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces, at room temperature
1/2 cup glaceed cherries, rinsed, patted dry and halved
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds

To make the dough:
I used my stand mixer.  So into the stand mixer bowl which contains the sponge add egg, sugar,  reserved  rum, vanilla and salt. Beat with a flat beater on low speed for about 1 minute to combine. Raise the speed to medium and beat 1 1/2 minutes. On low speed incorporate the butter one piece at a time beating until each piece is completely incorporated before adding the next. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes.
Greg says the dough should fee soft as a baby's bottom, smooth and supple not sticky at all and quite right he is. This dough feels amazing! 
Wash and dry the bowl and butter it. Shape the dough into a ball, place it in the bowl and turn it to coat all sides with butter. Cover with plastic wrap and rise at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours or until tripled in volume.

In a small bowl combine the cherries, raisins and flour add in the almonds. Lightly  flour a work surface and scrape out the dough on to the work surface. Gently flatten with your hands and sprinkle with the fruit and nut mixture. Roll it up and  gently work the fruits and nuts into the dough. Form into a ball. Place it seam side down into the can. This is where I had trouble. Maybe the can was too narrow all I could do was drop the dough in and hope for the best.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours.
About 30 minutes before baking prepare your oven. Adjust the racks so that your can will fit and heat the oven to 400F/200C.
To bake the Kulich, remove the plastic wrap, place the can on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350F/180C and bake for a further 50 to 60 minutes until a wooden skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Cool in the can for 20 minutes. I found it was better to lay the can on its side because this cake is very delicate when hot and can collapse onto itself.
After 20 minutes remove it gently from the can and continue to cool on its side rotating from time to time. 

2/3 cup confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Whisk all ingredients together adding more water or sugar to adjust the consistency. It should be bearly runny. I think mine was a little too runny and thin.


I halved the quantities given in A Baker's Odyssey because I wasn't sure we would eat that much Paskha. I'm glad I did because it is rich and even a half quantity was more than enough for us! I will give the quantities as supplied by Greg. I also used all ricotta instead of cottage cheese/ricotta combination because that was easy to find but I will give the quantity for the combination suggested by Greg in A Bakers Odyssey.

12 ounces (about 2 1/3 cups) dry-curd cottage cheese
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
2/3 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
3/4 plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 ounces regular cream cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 pound (250g) unsatled butter
Glaceed cherries and almonds for garnish
Silver cashoos for garnish

Line a strainer with a piece of rinsed and wrung out cheesecloth. Drain the cottage cheese and ricotta overnight with a heavy weiught placed on top.


The next day scald the cream as in the Kulich recipe.
Put the egg yolks into a food processor with the sugar and process for 2 minutes scraping the sides of the bowl 2 or 3 times. With the machine running slowly pour in the cream. Return the mixture to the pan and cook ofer low heat until the mixture thickes slightly. Do not allow to boil. It should register 180F/80C on a thermometer. Cool over a pan set into a bowl of iced water until it reaches room temperature.

In a large processor bowl place the drained cheeses, egg yolk mixture, cream cheese and vanilla. Process until smooth. With the machine running add the butter one piece at a time. Process for one minute more until very smooth. If your processor is too small you may have to do this in to lots.
Refrigerate for 2 or 3 hours to set a little.

You will now need a mould. Greg suggests a plastic flower pot to the capacity of 5 cups. As I had halved this quantity I found a plastic take away container which I punched a few holes into the bottom was the perfect size. Line your mould with a rinsed and wrung out cheesecloth.
Take the slightly set Paskha mixture and pour into the mould. Set the mould on a wire rack over a pie plate. Fold the cheesecloth over the cheese mixture and put a weight on top. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
Unmould the paskha and decorate as desired.   

To slice the Kulich, cut off the rounded top then slice thin circles. Cut each circle into half circles.
Enjoy with Paskha.

The verdict?

A winner!

We thought it resembled a Christmas Panettone but with the Paskha the combination was much richer.  Delicious!