|Armenian Easter Bread Rounds (Choereg)
As soon as the yeast hits the warm milk and that wonderful smell rises up through the kitchen, I’m a little girl again. My Mom’s hands are mixing the flour, butter, eggs, milk and yeast in her giant pink and white glass Pyrex mixing bowl. When she made this bread, she made batch after batch…after batch. She made sure that everyone she knew got a loaf. Well, except for one Easter…
My Mom had a day-long marathon of choereg-baking. It was ridiculous, really. I have no idea how many batches she had made, but I can tell you that every square inch of our dining room table was covered in loaves and loaves of choereg all carefully wrapped in aluminum foil. When my Dad came in from work and saw the sea of bread, he decided to take us all out to our favorite Chinese restaurant for dinner. We left Duke, our sweet, loyal and perpetually hungry Labrador home to guard the precious silver loaves. I was very young, but I do remember when we returned I was walking into the house behind my Mom. She was screaming about something. I can still picture the carpets, speckled with bits of silver confetti here and there…and really, everywhere. It was all over the house. Not one, truly, not one loaf of choereg was left. I have no idea how Duke survived that one. My sisters and I thought for sure that if 20 loaves of choereg didn’t kill him, my Mom certainly would.
You have seen this bread before on Taste Love & Nourish, but I wanted to change things up a bit for Easter. This recipe is slightly different from my original. It’s a bit lighter in texture, but still has that wonderful flavor from the mahleb (a Middle Eastern spice made from the seeds of sour cherry pits). It’s a warm and nutty flavor. You’ll love it.
Normally, choereg is a long braided loaf, but since I can’t seem to ever leave anything alone, I took my braided loaf, brought the ends together to make a braided round. I had no idea how they’d turn out…but I love the way they look!
With a bit of butter and your favorite jam, choereg makes breakfast (or anytime) feel special…whether it’s Easter or not. Maybe that was Duke’s problem. He just needed to feel special.
Armenian Easter Bread Rounds (Choereg)
1 C. milk
1 T. sugar
1 packet active dry yeast or 2 1/4 t.active dry yeast from a jar
1/2 C. butter (1 stick)
5 large eggs (+ 1 yolk for the egg wash)
3/4 C. sugar
1 T. vanilla extract
1 1/2 T. ground mahleb
6 C. all purpose flour + 1/2 C. for kneading
In a 2 cup measuring cup, heat the milk in the microwave for a minute and a half. Stir in the sugar to dissolve, then the yeast. In a small bowl, microwave the butter until melted. Let both mixtures stand for 25 to 30 minutes.
In your largest mixing bowl, beat the 5 eggs, add the sugar, vanilla, mahleb, butter and milk mixture and whisk lightly to combine. Using a sturdy wooden spoon or your hands, mix in 6 cups of the flour until the dough starts to come together. The dough will be quite sticky at this point. Liberally cover your counter with the 1/2 cup of flour. Turn the dough out onto the floured counter and knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until the dough has become elastic,smooth and just until it is no longer too sticky to work with. Depending on the weather, and if the moons are aligned, your dough may not need all of the flour on the counter.
Wash out the mixing bowl, dry it well, then butter the interior. Place the dough in the buttered bowl and cover it well with either plastic wrap or foil and top off with a dish towel. Keep the bowl in a draft free spot on your counter for 5 to 7 hours.
At this point the dough should be doubled in size. Turn it out onto your counter. I do not flour the surface unless it really needs it. If your dough is too sticky, you could probably use the tiniest amount of flour. The reason is, once it’s floured, it becomes really difficult to roll the dough out into ropes. Divide the dough into 3 equal loaves. Now divide each loaf into 3 equal parts. Roll each dough ball out into a rope measuring about 16 inches. Once rolled, braid the ropes and pinch each end a bit. Now, bring the ends together to form a circle and gently pinch the ends together. Repeat for the remaining two loaves. Place the loaves on a baking sheet (one without sides) greased with butter or vegetable oil. Cover the loaves with a towel and let sit for 20 to 25 minutes to rest.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk with about 1/2 teaspoon of water to create an egg wash (the less water, the shinier the crust). Brush each loaf with the egg wash. Place the loaves into the oven and bake for about 25 to 28 minutes. Start checking around 20 minutes, since oven vary.
Once done, remove from the oven, place on a wire cooling rack and cool completely before wrapping.*
Makes 3 loaves
*Once wrapped, I do not recommend storing the loaves on your dining room table unattended. ;)
|Choereg served with butter and jam.
- You can find mahleb at any Middle Eastern grocery store. If you can’t find it, go ahead and make the choereg without it. I’ve made it with just the vanilla extract and it is still delicious.