April 27, 2012

An Armenian Nutmeg Cake (Meshgengouz Gargantag) & Some Nazook (Yeasted And Rolled Pastries With Sweet Filling) : Daring Bakers Challenge, April, 2012

I
f one thing describes my blogging these days it would be the word “irregular” and it’s pretty much the same with my Daring Bakers Challenges as the last one I did wasin January. I haven’t been much of a baker in a while and there’s been nothing daring in what I’ve been turning out for breakfast, lunch or dinner in ages.
There is a rule somewhere in the Daring Bakers manual for members that says that a DB cannot miss more than 2 challenges at a stretch and must do 8 out of 12 challenges in a year if they want to retain membership, unless they have genuine reasons for missing the challenges. Luckily for me, the DB power-that-be are not too strict with adherence to this particular rule.




All the same, I thought I’d better play safe and do this month’s challenge. When I finally got around to checking this month’s challenge I found that 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.
So we had a twin challenge this month with an option to do any one or both, according to our preference. I must say that I was quite happy to see that neither recipe was challenging in the manner of the tasks that DB hosts usually set us, as I made the Nazook yesterday and the Nutmeg Cake this morning!




I hadn’t heard of either before though both looked interesting. One thing that both these recipes have to recommend for themselves is that they don’t require much time (except rising time for the yeasted dough for Nazook) or effort to make. I did both challenges and did them both without eggs. I also adapted them slightly, partly by design and partly by accident.


Nazook (Yeasted And Rolled Pastries With Sweet Filling)

I was taken up with the name of these Armenian yeasted and rolled pastries. I’m not sure what it means in Armenian, but in Hindi (India’s national language, which used to be quaintly referred to as Hindustani by the British), the word “naazook” means delicate. Perhaps it refers to the consistency of the yeasted dough that needs rolling out, or the delicate looking pastry itself.


Nazook are small baked pastries made by rolling out the dough, filling them with a sweet flour paste, rerolling the dough jelly/ jam roll style and then cutting this into smaller pieces before baking. I made some changes to the challenge recipes to suit me.  I halved the given recipe and then reduced the butter a bit. We don’t get sour cream here so I substituted that with yogurt. Perhaps because yogurt has more moisture I needed more flour than suggested.
The thought of flour, butter and sugar as filling didn’t really excite me so I used a filling somewhat similar to what we fill Nevries with - mixture of flour, semolina, sugar, ground almonds, desiccated coconut and cardamom - for my Naazook. I wanted to keep my pastries free of egg so I used yogurt instead of an egg wash and sprinkled the tops of half the Naazook with toasted sesame seeds.
These pastries are delightful, somewhat flaky and a bit crunchy and really good to serve with coffee or tea. The filling worked perfectly with the dough and the sesame seeds were the perfect finish.


Nazook (Yeasted And Rolled Pastries With Sweet Filling)

Ingredients:

For the Pastry Dough:


1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

 1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

1/2 cup thick yogurt

100 gm softened butter (room temperature)


For the Filling:

1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted 

 1/4 cup granulated sugar 

1/4 cup semolina (rawa) 

1/4 cup coarsely powdered almonds (I powdered flaked almonds)

75 gm softened butter (room temperature)

3 to 4 pods cardamom, powdered

2 tbsp yogurt for brushing the pastries 

2 to 3 tbsp toasted white sesame seeds (optional)


Method:

 You can do this by hand but I used the processor to knead the dough. To make the pastry dough, place 1 1/2 cups of the sifted flour and the dry yeast in the processor bowl and pulse once or twice to mix. Add the yogurt and butter and process into a dough. If required keep adding a as much flour as required and knead into a soft elastic dough that is just short of sticky.
Cover the dough and refrigerate for 3-5 hours, or overnight as you prefer. I ended up refrigerating the dough for almost 36 hours!
When ready to make the pastries take the dough out and keep at room temperature for about 10 to 15 minutes to soften it slightly. In the meanwhile make the filling by putting all the ingredients for the filling into a bowl and mixing together till it looks clumpy and sand-like.
To make the Naazook, divide the dough into 2 halves. Lightly knead the dough so it smooth. Dust your working surface lightly with flour and roll the dough into a large rectangle. It should be thin but not transparent.


Spread half the filling evenly as close as possible to the edges on the short sides, keeping some of pastry dough uncovered (about 1/2 “) along the long edges. 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 log. Pat it down the log so that it flattens out a bit. Brush the top and sides with yogurt and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Lightly pat them into the dough. Use a knife or a crinkle cutter to cut the log into 10 or 12 pieces of equal width.
Place the pieces on ungreased cookie sheets and bake at 180C (350F) for about 30 minutes or till the tops of the pastries turn golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack. This recipe makes 20 to 24 Naazook.  
These are best eaten a little warm from the oven. Nazook will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of weeks or can be frozen in an air-free bag for upto 3 months.


Armenian Nutmeg  Cake With Cashewnuts



I understand that Armenian cooking is noted for its use of spices. This particular not too sweet cake, called Meshgengouz Gargantag  I understand, features nutmeg and has an unusual process which was why I decided to make it.
The process involves using part of the cake ingredients to make a sort of pie-crust and then adding liquids to the remainder to make a batter. So it’s a sort of “cake in a pie crust” resulting in a spicy and moist cake that has two layers, a lower crunchy/ somewhat crisp layer and an upper moist and cakey layer.



Again, I slightly adapted the recipe and made it egg-free. When I started getting the ingredients for the cake this morning, I realised I had run out of eggs and I didn’t have another key ingredients – the walnuts. So I left out the egg and substituted cashewnuts for walnuts, which was a good thing because no one here likes walnuts very much.
I also reduced the sugar by half a cup, as I had a feeling the cake might otherwise end up too sweet for our liking.
This is an unusual cake and a good one to serve for a special evening with tea or coffee. You can also serve it as a dessert cake with vanilla ice-cream on the side. I’ll just leave you with a few words of warning though.
You might not like this much if you’re not very fond of nutmeg, but then you could always use another spice of choice like cardamom or even vanilla. It wouldn’t be the same cake but it would still be a very good cake.
This cake is also quite rich in butter – I used 150 gm against the original 180 gm and still found it quite rich.

Armenian Nutmeg  Cake With Cashewnuts

Ingredients:

1 cup milk

1 tsp baking soda

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 cups brown sugar, loosely packed

150 gm cold butter, preferably unsalted, cubed

 1/3 cup cashewnut pieces

1 to 1 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg, according to taste

1 tsp chai masala



Method:

 You can mix the cake together by hand but I took the easy way out and used my processor. Mix the baking soda into the milk and set it aside. Put the flour, the baking powder and sugar into the processor bowl and pulse a couple of times to mix well.
Add the butter cubes and run the processor till the mixture resembles more or less uniform crumbs. Take half of this and press it down, using your fingers, into a crust in an 8” cake tin with a removable base/ spring form cake tin. I pressed down some of the mixture along the sides too.
To the remaining mixture in the processor, add the milk-baking soda mixture, the grated nutmeg  and the chai masala and run till you have a smooth batter. Pour this batter into the cake tin with the pressed crust.


Toss the cashewnut pieces in a tsp of flour till coated and sprinkle them gently over the surface of the batter. Bake the cake at 180C (350F) for about 35 to 45 minutes till the top is a golden brown or till a skewer pushed through the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Cool the cake in the tin, and then remove.  Cut and serve. It is best eaten while still warm.This recipe makes 12 servings.
This cake will keep (covered) at room temperature for 2-3 days or freeze in a sealed bag for upto 3 months.

And now that we’re done here, do join me while I take a look at what my fellow DBs have been doing with this month’s challenge!

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