Daring Bakers' April Challenge: Armenian Nazook

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.

We had the option to choose which pastry we wanted to make and after reading through the recipes I settled on making Nazook.

Flour, sugar, butter, almond extract...How could it turn out bad??  

It did not fail me.  Nazook is tender and sweet and perfect with a cup of hot coffee.  You can check out the recipe and video instructions Jason provided for us here.

The end result looks like something that would be a little tedious, but its actually quite simple and is worth the time. 

Try it out if you are up for a new little challenge!

In other news......

Now that the craziness of tax season is over and I have my Friday's back, you can keep an eye out for menu plans and some more recipes. 


The Daring Bakers' March Challenge - Dutch Crunch

Sara and Erica of Baking JDs were our March 2012 Daring Baker hostesses! 

Sara & Erica challenged us to make Dutch Crunch bread, a delicious sandwich bread with a unique, crunchy topping. Sara and Erica also challenged us to create a one of a kind sandwich with our bread!

The Baking JD's included a recipe for a soft white roll and it was fabulous.  
Soft and dense...just how I like my bread. 

I can't say the topping added anything for flavor to the bread, but it did provide a fun look for the top of the rolls.  Both parts of the recipes were easy to make and certainly something I would do again.

  Now for the sandwich....

I took inspiration from one of my favorite sandwiches at coffee shop down the street from my office.  
Cream cheese - sunflowers - roasted red pepper - red onion - 
cheddar cheese - cucumbers - turkey breast - avocado

To die for...really...I could eat this thing every day
I don't...because I'd end up soft and dense just like the bread...but you don't want to hear about that.  

Soft White Roll
     Makes six sandwich rolls

This recipe approximates the quintessential white sandwich roll found throughout the Bay Area. The recipe is simple, quick, and addictive.


1 packet (¼ oz) active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (105-110º F) 
1 cup warm milk (105-110º F) 
1½ tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (plus additional oil for greasing bowl during rising)
1½ teaspoons salt
Up to 4 cups all purpose flour

In the bowl of an electric mixer or large mixing bowl, combine yeast, water, milk and sugar. Stir to dissolve and let sit for about 5 minutes (The mixture should start to bubble or foam a bit and smell yeasty).

Add in vegetable oil, salt and 2 cups of flour. Using the dough hook attachment or a wooden spoon, mix at medium speed until the dough comes together.  Add remaining flour a quarter cup at time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, as shown in the photo below (For us, this usually required an additional 1½ to 2 cups of flour).

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 4 minutes, until smooth and elastic.  Place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled (or more) in size.

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 6 equal portions (if you’d like to make rolls) or 2 equal portions (if you’d like to make a loaf) (using a sharp knife or a dough scraper works well). Shape each into a ball or loaf and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet (try not to handle the dough too much at this point).

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 15 minutes while you prepare the topping.

Coat the top of each roll or loaf with the topping as described above. While the original recipe recommends letting them stand for 20 minutes after applying the topping, I got better results by putting them directly into the oven.

Once you’ve applied the topping, bake in a preheated moderately hot 380º F for 25-30 minutes, until well browned. Let cool completely on a wire rack before eating.

Dutch Crunch Topping
     This recipe should make sufficient topping for two 9x5 loaves or 12 rolls.

2 packets (1/4 oz) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105-115º F)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups rice flour (white or brown; NOT sweet or glutinous rice flour)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a whisk; beat hard to combine. The consistency should be like stiff royal icing – spreadable, but not too runny. If you pull some up with your whisk, it should drip off slowly. Add more water or rice flour as necessary. Let stand 15 minutes.

Coat the top of each loaf or roll with a thick layer of topping. We tried coating it with a brush but it worked better just to use fingers or a spoon and kind of spread it around. You should err on the side of applying too much topping – a thin layer will not crack properly.

Let stand, uncovered, for any additional time your recipe recommends. With the Soft White Roll, you can place the rolls directly into the oven after applying the topping.

When baking, place pans on a rack in the center of the oven and bake your bread as you ordinarily would. The Dutch Cruch topping should crack and turn a nice golden-brown color.


Daring Bakers' January Challenge - Scones

I thought the procrastination of my first Daring Bakers' Challenge was just a one time thing.  
It wasn't.  'Cuz I just finished the January one...a day late.  

Audax Artifex was our January host and mastered light and fluffy scones (or biscuits as we know them in the States) so that we could master delicious and perfect biscuits in our own kitchens.

I've made biscuits from scratch before, so this wasn't entirely new to me, but some of the techniques were.  

I've never triple sifted my dry ingredients...
or grated frozen butter...
or chilled my flour...
or baked them at such a high temperature

The results really were the lightest biscuits I've ever gotten from scratch.  And as you can imagine, there are endless variations to these.

We served ours with chicken pot pie filling for "upside down chicken pot pies".  Next I think I'll make an asiago cheese variation.  Yumm...........

Basic Biscuits
  makes 6-8 biscuits

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp frozen grated butter
1/2 cup cold milk
1 Tbsp milk (optional for glazing biscuits)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  

Triple sift the dry ingredients and place in the fridge to chill.  After chilled, rub the frozen butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs with a few pea size pieces (if you want tender biscuits, rub until mixture resembles coarse sand).  Add the liquid and gently mix just until dough comes together.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board.  Knead gently (about 4 or 5 times) until dough is smooth.  Pat the dough into a 4-inch by 6-inch rectangle.  Stamp out biscuits using a well floured 2 inch biscuit cutter.  Alternately, you can cut the dough into wedges or squares with a sharp knife.  

Place dough with sides barely touching onto baking pan.  Brush with milk.  Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes.  The scones are ready when the sides are set.  Immediately move to a cooling rack.  

Buttermilk Biscuits:  add 1/4 tsp baking soda, increase butter to 4 Tbsp, and replace milk with buttermilk


Chunky Chicken Chili

I adore soup.  And when Ryan and I saw this one on Food Network, we looked at each and said, "We need to make this now!"  And we did.  
It has just the right amount of heat.  It also comes together fairly quickly, which is always a plus in my house.  

Not a great picture...I apologize...and I'm working on my pictures...just be patient with me.  
And don't let it deter you from making this.  It is really, quite delicious.

Chunky Chicken Chili
    adapted from Food Network

4 Tbsp butter
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1/4 cup flour
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup green pepper, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 (14.5 oz) cans butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 (4 oz) can mild green chiles
1/2 cup sour cream
cheddar cheese, for garnish
parsley, for garnish

In a large Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Brown the chicken pieces until nicely colored and cooked through.  Remove chicken to a large bowl and set aside.

Add flour to the pan and stir, to create a roux.  Add the onions and peppers.  Add chicken stock to deglaze the pan and stir in the heavy cream.  Lower heat and cook until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.  When sauce has thickened, add chili powder, coriander, cumin, cayenne, black pepper and salt.  Stir and cook for a few minutes.  Add the beans, chiles and chicken and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.  Stir in the sour cream before serving.  Garnish with cheese and parsley.  



Kitchen Happenings

A lot of cooking and baking has been going on in my kitchen lately.  Trouble is...I forget to take pictures...or the kids are "starving", so I just feed them and don't bother with the pictures.  
But...I still want to share some of my favorites with you.  They'll just have to be links to other people's sites rather than posting them on my own.  So in no particular order...

from Simply Organized Living
These are delicious!!  And so easy.  We used brown and serve rolls with ham and american and some with turkey and american.  I also left out the poppy seeds (that would have been a melting point for the kids).  These would be great for a crowd and the filling possibilities are endless.

from The Kitchen Sink
All I can say is "Oh Yum!"  I love all Mexican food...in a "could eat it every day" kind of love.  But this was a first time for me.  And it was so worth the effort of making it.  Like she says, you could substitute the ground beef and pork sausage with ground chicken and turkey sausage or whatever kind of ground meat you like to use.  Its all the other flavors that really make this what it is.  I made 1-inch meatballs, but will make them about half the size next time (I don't like to have to cut things up in my soup.)

from Jamie Cooks It Up!
The kind of dish my kids won't fuss about when they hear I'm making it.  I did not have cream of chicken soup at home when I made this, so I improvised on the sauce and did more of a "swedish meatball sauce" to go with it.  You could certainly skip the sauce altogether though.  

from My Baking Heart
This was the perfect combination to satisfy my Mexican desires and the kids picky mouths.  They'll eat any and all of the "bubble" recipes.  {They just really like biscuits I think...and who can blame them!!}
Perfect after work meal, because its quick and easy!  

from Once a Month Mom
You know when your potatoes are starting to sprout?  And you really don't want to put them outside for the deer?  And the only potatoes your kids will eat are mashed potatoes or hashbrowns from McDonalds?  Enter freezer mashed potatoes!  I made this about a week ago and pulled out the first one on Wednesday to have for supper.  I wasn't sure how the texture would be coming from the freezer, but they were delicious.  

I think that's it for sharing today.  Hopefully you found some inspiration for your own kitchen.  
Have a great weekend!