Friday, April 27, 2012

maple nazook

This month's Daring Baker's challenge was an interesting one. Armenian desserts.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.

Although I really wanted to make both, I had a weird month, so I made the nazook early on, and am saving the nutmeg cake for when I have more free time.

Although a few months ago I would have been totally stressed out by this recipe because of the rolling pin involved, but I think my skills really evolved recently, and this recipe was fairly easy. The dough came together just fine and didn't behave like a yeast dough. After chilling in the fridge overnight, it rolled out without tearing and I don't think I even cursed once!

For the filling, I substituted a cup of the sugar for maple sugar, added 1 tsp maple extract instead of the vanilla called for in the original recipe below. I also sprinkled a bit of maple sugar on top of the egg-washed pastries before baking.


Pastry dough
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2½ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup sour cream
1 cup softened butter (room temperature)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup softened butter (room temperature)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1-2 egg yolks

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!

Pastries were good. I'm not a big fan of pastries in general, but I had a lot more than I should have, then gifted the rest... the containers came back empty! I'm glad to have discovered desserts from another culture! Can't wait to see what the Daring Bakers have up their sleeve for us next month!

UPDATE: Flower is royal icing, not butter :) Can it be done with butter?! If so, totally want to learn!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

chocolate marshmallow cups and easter chocolates

Although I had all the ingredients to make this week's Baked Sunday Mornings recipe, I just kept putting it off. I'm not a big fan of working with melted chocolate.  I don't do truffles, or cake pops for this very reason. I've previously failed to temper chocolate properly when we were presented with this challenge by the Daring Bakers. I just made a mess out of everything and totally lost my cool when all my hard work was rewarded with streaky candies.

Although the Baked recipe didn't call for tempering the chocolate, I really wanted to, one to prove to myself that I could do it, and two, I wanted to use cute Easter chocolate molds that I bought especially for this recipe. I had grand plans to give home made marshmallow filled chocolate to all the kids in Charlotte's class... Yeah right! I am definitely not a chocolati√®re. (The kids in Cha's class did not get treats this year...)

I did manage to temper the chocolate properly. It had a nice glossy sheen and a strong snap when bitten into. The marshmallow filling was just the right texture for these candies. But the process of filling the molds, tapping the excess chocolate out, letting it set, filling the cavities with marshmallows, re tempering chocolate to finish the candies is just such a pain in the ass! I made two trays of marshmallow filled chocolates and gave up. Sooo not worth it!

The candies were very good though. They sat on the counter for a week waiting to be photographed and we ate all the ugly ones. (Note to self, silicone ice cube trays from Ikea do not make good chocolate molds). But never again. I've proved to myself that I can temper chocolate, now I'm never doing it again!

I'm sure if I had followed the method in the book everything would have been fine. For the recipe, and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings members fared with their chocolate marshmallow cups, hop on over the the Baked Sunday Mornings Blog.

And happy Easter to everyone. While you're enjoying beautiful chocolates, take a moment to appreciate how much work goes into making these candies! I sure will!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

pineapple upside-down cake

I have been craving this cake for weeks! WEEKS! And holy hell it was good! It's a good thing I decided to share and made three small cakes instead of one big one, because I totally would have eaten most of this recipe all by myself.

I'm not sure I have ever made an upside-down pineapple cake before, but in my head, it was so much more complicated than in reality! I think it might be why I waited so long to make it after the craving struck. Really, the hardest part is waiting for the butter to soften.

I combined two recipes and made three six-inch round cakes.

The first component of this cake is the butter sugar mixture that will turn into beautifully gooey glaze when baked with the pineapple and melt into the cake. Some recipes called for boiling the sugar and butter together, but I went with a recipe adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home that called for creaming butter, brown sugar, honey, and vanilla together. The original recipe called for dark rum too, and if I had had some, I would have added some, but all I could find was rye... For some reason, I don't think that would have worked. And instead of vanilla extract, I scraped half a vanilla bean in the mixture. I love the look of the tiny vanilla seeds all over the pineapples!

The cake part is just as simple. I didn't even wash the mixer bowl... just creamed butter and the sugars in that same mixing bowl, added eggs, then alternately added the dry ingredients and the milk/pineapple juice. Spread that over the pineapple, and bake.

I strongly recommend adding a baking sheet under the cake pans in case it boils over. Will save you from having to clean the oven, and air out the kitchen!

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

For the pan schmear
Recipe adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home via Jun-blog

8 Tbsp (1stick, 4 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp scraped vanilla bean seeds
pinch kosher salt

12 pineapple rings, juice reserved

For the cake
Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup reserved pineapple juice
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease three 6-inch cake pans. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla seeds and salt and beat until smooth and well blended. Divide the mixture between the cake pans, and spread evenly over the bottom.

Arrange pineapple rings over the butter mixture.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. In the same bowl used to make the butter-sugar mixture, beat softened butter, granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Add eggs; beat until combined. On low speed, beat in half the flour mixture. Pour in reserved 1/2 cup pineapple juice and the milk; beat until combined. Beat in remaining flour mixture and vanilla.

Spread batter carefully atop pineapple slices in pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. (If you invert the coffee cake too soon, the pineapple rings may stick to pan.) Place a serving tray or baking sheet over coffee cake; carefully invert. If any pineapple sticks to pan, gently replace on cake top.

I'm pretty sure that this cake could be made in a 9x13 pan instead of the three smaller pans. Just be sure you have people to share this cake with if you bake it that way... or else you might end up eating way more of this cake than you intended!