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 Jason said we could make the nazook and/or the nutmeg cake for this challenge, and when given the choice of yeasty vs. cakey, I will always go with yeast. The nazook also had a fun name, though it kept making me think of the Nazgûl from Lord of the Rings. These are the Ringwraiths, or the nine semi-dead/alive king servants of Sauron, also known as Dementors in Harry Potter. (For all of the hardcore LotR and HP fans, that was a joke.)
Making the nazook was much like making cinnamon rolls, only they’re baked on their sides aren’t topped with icing in the end. Mine also did not have cinnamon, but some of the other bakers included it in the filling.
The finished product is not at all like cinnamon rolls, particularly texture-wise. Mine were almost cookie-like, in that they were on the dry side and almost crisp. Shortbread was the closest thing that came to mind with the flavor, but the nazook were much lighter and flaky. I was expecting something a little more doughy with the yeast, but the outcome was definitely addictive in a different way. They are fantastic with tea or coffee (I’ve tried both…for science!) and since they last for a couple weeks in an airtight container, I think they would make perfect additions to one’s holiday gift baking repertoire!
If you would like to make a batch of nazook, rather than reinventing the wheel, I’m going to refer you to Jason’s write-up. His directions are very clear and easy to follow along with his step-by-step photos. He even included a video of his aunt making the recipe!
The only change I made was to the filling: I started by rubbing the zest of a lemon into the sugar, then mixed in the flour and butter and added only 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Reason? My vanilla is life-threateningly low and I had a lemon. Voila! It’s very subtly lemony, so if you want a more pronounced flavor, then zest two lemons and maybe nix the vanilla. Some ground ginger might be a nice addition!
Thanks to Jason for one of my favorite Daring Baker challenges so far! I hadn’t experienced any sort of Armenian food until now and would like to try the nutmeg cake along with all sorts of other dishes, too.