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.
When I studied at the university in Moscow, my parents who lived in the south of Russia used to send me parcels every month. I always looked forward to getting them: I knew that among other goodies I would definitely find a sweet treat from my mom: home-made gata. She spent her childhood in a house in the centre of the city where they had Armenians as their neighbours. No wonder, she learnt a lot about their national cuisine and gata was one of the things that she cooked quite often for my brother and me.
When I saw a foto of this month challenge, I was astonished: it seemed we are gonna be making gata! On reading the instructions, however, I realized that it was another Armenian dessert which looked exactly the same: nazook. There is a small difference between them: nazook has yeast in yet, while gata is made simply with buttermilk; the filling for nazook is just mixed, in case of gata sugar, butter and flour are cooked over low heat before being spread over the rolled-out dough. Anyway, both types of Armenian “cookies” are very flavourful and serve as a great tea-time snack.
Armenian nutmeg cake was also a good accomplishment for our tea (and coffee) break! Actually I’ve never heard of this dessert before (neither did my mom despite the fact that she had a profound Armenian culinary background!) and was eager to try it. The walnuts that I sprinkled on top sank during the baking time and I had to add a handful of some more before serving the cake. Nevertheless, the cake was very moist, with a good hint of nutmeg and although I found the crust too sweet for me, it had a good texture and caramel flavor provided by the brown sugar.
All in all, it was a great challenge since it brought back my childhood memories and gave me an impetus to broaden my (as well as my mum’s) gastronomic outlook on Armenian cuisine!