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Daring Bakers: Armenian Nazook and Nutmeg Cake

Friday, April 27, 2012

Lebuh Armenian or Armenian Street is in George Town, a Unesco historic city situated on Malaysia's west coast island of Penang. Armenians arrived in then Malaya in the late 18th to early 19th centuries and set up as traders, doctors and other businesses.
(Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of my own, but am allowed to use the photo by Gryffinder at Wikimedia Commons with credit to the author. Thank you, Gryffinder.)
There's not a lot online about the Armenians in Penang, but there is at least one book written on the subject. And this blogger quotes from that book at his site. In fact, there is a lot more information about the Armenian nazook and nutmeg cake online.
Ah yes, the pastries... the wonderful, wonderful pastries. Now that the brief history lesson is over, I'll get on with the subject of this post.
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.
Jason's instructions, along with links to videos on making the two sweets, were most helpful and I enjoyed making them.
Well, thanks to Jason's challenge, I found out about Armenian cakes as well as a little about Malaysian history! For more pictures of Armenian Street, this site has some really beautiful ones (all right, that was the last tourism plug for Penang. Promise.)
Armenian nutmeg cake (top) and nazook 
As the pictures show, my perspective was all wrong. I got it backwards with both items. Halving the amount of ingredients called for in Jason's recipe, I made two small nutmeg cakes, each one 10cm across (which made the slices doll-sized); and only a dozen nazook instead of about 20 (they were about palm-sized)!
The other Daring Bakers got the perspective correct. For a look at the results of the talented lot, do visit The Daring Kitchen.
Lovely layers
I didn't change the filling in the nazook but for the cake, I substituted about a quarter of the soft brown sugar for gula merah (red sugar). This sugar also comes from a palm tree, but I am still trying to find out if it is from the coconut palm or Palmyra or even some other kind of palm. Anyway, it is dark reddish brown and comes in loose form alhough I'm sure it is also made into a block like brown palm sugar (gula Melaka).
I made nazook a second time and went with a coconut flavour. I included some coconut cream in the pastry and loving the texture and taste of red palm sugar, I used it in the filling along with grated fresh coconut. This filling was moister, unlike the original sandy-textured vanilla filling. The caramelised sugar made the pastries chewy and the fresh coconut, of course, was irresistible.
I don't know if I can call them nazook any more, but they were certainly inspired by those lovely Armenian pastries.
And this time, I made them daintier. 
The red palm sugar creates a chewy centre
Coconut and Red Palm Sugar Pastries
Inspired by Armenian Nazook. Makes 20 pastries

Pastry dough
210g all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted
4g active dry yeast
80g sour cream
30g coconut cream
80g softened butter, at room temperature

50g all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted
100g grated fresh coconut
100g red palm sugar
70g softened butter (room temperature)
1 tsp coconut extract, optional  

1 egg yolk 

Make the Pastry Dough
Mix the sifted flour and yeast in a large bowl. Add the sour cream and mix to form a shaggy dough. Set aside for 10 minutes to activate the yeast. Transfer the dough to a work surface and pat out into a rough circle; spread the butter in the centre. Work it into the flour mixture with your hands to form a dough. Continue to knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough no longer sticks to the surface or your hands. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Make the filling
Combine all the ingredients and mix until the filling comes together into a rough paste. Set aside.

Make the nazook
Preheat the oven to moderate 175°C. Divide the refrigerated dough into two equal portions. Form them into balls.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out or pat the dough into a rectangle The dough should be thin, but not transparent. Spread ½ 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 2.5cm 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 loaf. Pat down the loaf with your palm and fingers so that it flattens out a bit (just a bit).
Apply egg yolk wash with a pastry brush. Use a crinkle cutter to cut the loaf on an angle into 10 equal pieces. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet (or one lined with baking parchment). Place in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until the tops are a rich, golden brown.


  1. This looks like a fantastic combo. I am sure this is very delicious.

  2. The palm-size nazooks look great - they would stop me from eating six in one sitting ;) I bet the coconut-red palm sugar combo is delicious!

  3. Delicious job on this month's challenge!! I love you mini nutmeg cakes, and our nazook look great, too! I have never heard of red palm sugar before, but it sounds fun! Love the chewy look it gives to the pastries! Great job!

  4. Your cakes look great - I think the size is irrelevant, I wanted to make small ones myself, but I don't have such a small form - and if they tasted as I know they do...all's well :)
    I've never heard of red sugar and first, from the photos, I thought you used chocolate. Very interesting combo (too bad I can't try it myself) - great job!

  5. The cake and nazooks have turned out well. I absolutely love the combination of coconut and sugar, must try them next time. I made the nazook and the cake as per the recipe as this month is my first challenge so didn't wanna mess up on this one.

  6. that looks sooooooooper good...fantastic cliks
    Tasty Appetite


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