Choreg is a traditional braided Armenian bread made year-round but especially at Easter. The dough is sweet and rich and flavored with mahlab, an aromatic spice that comes from the ground-up pits of sour cherries. This recipe is adapted from Treasured Armenian Recipes, a 1949 book of recipes collected and distributed by the Detroit Women’s Chapter of the Armenian General Benevolent Union.
- Sift flour and put in a large bowl. Add baking powder, salt, and mahleb to flour. Make a hole in the center of the flour. In a separate measuring cup, dissolve the package of active dry yeast in ¼ cup of warm water to make the yeast cake. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and mix. Cover measuring cup with plastic wrap and set aside to let it proof for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter over low heat in a saucepan. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl. Pour the yeast cake, butter, and sugar into the hole in the flour. Blend the flour with liquid gradually, first with a wooden spatula or spoon, then with your hands. Knead the dough for about ½ hour or until your hands stay free of dough.
- Put the dough in a well-oiled bowl and cover first with plastic wrap and then a towel. Let stand for 4 to 5 hours (or overnight), after which it should have roughly doubled in size. Divide the dough into 4 balls. Cut each ball in thirds and let rest for an hour back in the bowl. Slice each ball three times again and with the palm of your hand, shape each slice into long strands. Braid the three slices together. Let the braids stand for a while on the greased baking sheet until they rise some more. Then brush them with egg yoke. Sprinkle sesame seeds or the sliced almonds on top. Bake 20 minutes in a 350-degree oven until golden brown.
Liana Aghajanian is an Armenian-American journalist from Iran currently based in Detroit who writes for national and international publications. She is working on a long term project called “Dining in Diaspora,” (www.diningindiaspora.com), documenting the Armenian experience in America through food.