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. I opted for the Nazook, finding it similar to rugelach which I’ve never made, but have always wanted to. I changed up the filling a bit to add some of my beloved chocolate flavor, and to that even added some chopped walnuts to about half the batch.
I’m feeling a bit all over the place today, so please excuse the lackluster post. I’m about 5 days late posting these – too much else going on (like lots of cooking and eating – and recipe testing – that has been going un-blogged) – so just bear with me, please! I promise to hop out of my funk soon!
The nazook came out very yummy – the pastry is flaky and buttery, which I loved, and the chocolate flavor is deeply chocolately and not too sweet. The cookies that had the chopped walnuts had a nice added crunch, though I do think the walnut flavor got a bit lost with all of the chocolate and butter going on.
The recipe was a bit fussier than I’d expected, but still rather simple to execute, and the resulting cookies are very pretty looking. This may be a novice baker comment, but I still can’t figure out why exactly there’s yeast in these little beauties. You never activate the yeast, it sits in the fridge overnight, and it never proofs when you take it out of the fridge! They don’t taste yeasty either, they taste like sweet butter and flaky pastry, which is of course okay by me, but I just like to figure out the science behind how this all works. Maybe when I finally make it to pastry school someday, I’ll figure it out.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from these, but I was happy with the result. They are pretty, the perfect little accompaniments to a big ‘ol mug of coffee or tea, and a wonderful (pre!) or post dinner snack to satisfy your sweet tooth. I’m still a big brownie or chewy chocolate chip cookie girl through and through, but these were a nice change!
Ingredients, Pastry Dough
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2½ teaspoons (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 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup (1½ sticks) room temperature butter
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract
1-2 egg yolks (for the wash; alternatively, some yogurt, egg whites, or a whole egg)
Instructions: Pastry Dough
1) Place the sifted flour into a large bowl. Add the dry yeast, and mix it in.
2) Add the sour cream and the softened butter, and using your hands or a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, work it into a cohesive dough.
3) If using a standing mixer, switch to a dough hook, and let knead until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl. If making manually, knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough no longer sticks to your hands. If it remains very sticky, add some flour, a little at a time.
4) Cover the dough and refrigerate for 3-5 hours, or overnight if you like.
Mix the flour, sugar, softened butter and vanilla in medium bowl until the filling looks clumpy, like damp sand. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F.
1) Cut the refrigerated dough into quarters. Form one of the quarters into a ball, and roll dough into a large rectangle on a floured surface. The dough should be thin, but not transparent.
2) 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 (about an inch) along the long edges.
3) From one of the long sides, start slowly rolling up the dough. Be careful to make sure the filling stays evenly distributed. Roll all the way across until you have a long, thin loaf.
4) Lightly pat down the loaf with your palm and fingers to flatten it very slightly. Apply your egg yolk wash with a pastry brush.
5) Use a crinkle cutter (or knife) to cut the loaf into 10 equally-sized pieces. Put onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until the tops are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool, and enjoy!