Choreg is a favourite in my family. It is the classic Armenian Easter bread that my grandmother made every year. As a child, I would sit in the kitchen and “help” her make it, which mostly consisted of me waiting for opportune moments to steal bits of dough.
As I grew older, I became very involved in helping my grandmother every year as she made over 20 loaves of bread for her church, and our family. It was such a special time for us. We would spend an entire day in the kitchen, making bread, talking, and eating. I can’t think of a better time.
My grandmother passed away unexpectedly this past summer. She was 86 years young, and the most vibrant woman I had ever met. She was a force to be reckoned with. I can’t describe the heartbreak and loss I felt when she was gone. I had lost one of my best friends, my mentor. She was so much more than a grandmother to me.
Leading up to Easter this year, it felt imperative that I carry on the tradition of baking Choreg for my family. Although we are physically isolating from each other with the COVID-19 pandemic, delivering bread and feeding my family felt so much like something my grandma would have done at this time.
When I made the dough at my house, the smell of the spices brought back such intense scent memories it almost unnerved me. It felt like I was back in my grandmothers kitchen with her by my side. And I know she was there with me, the whole time I was baking.
I delivered the bread to my family, after the second rise so that they could finish braiding and baking the dough themselves. Partly for sanitization sake, and also so they could participate in the process, even if we were not together. I received photos of the finished breads from each family member I dropped off the bread to. And I know my grandmother was there, smiling down on us.
Choreg is an egg fortified sweet bread, almost like a mix between challah or brioche, with more sugar and more density. We enjoy it plain, or with a spread of butter. I have even made it into cinnamon buns! I hope you can enjoy this classic recipe.
Grandma's Choreg (Armenian Easter Bread)Print Recipe
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup butter (unsalted)
- 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3 1/2 - 4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons finely ground mahleb*
- 1/8 teaspoon finely ground mastika*
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
Warm 1/2 cup of the milk in a small bowl until it is lukewarm (or 100-110 degrees F). Add the yeast and let sit for 5 minutes until it has bloomed and frothy.
In a small pot or bowl, melt the butter. Add the rest of the milk, and stir in the sugar. Let mixture cool to lukewarm (we do not want to kill the yeast when we add it).
Measure flour into a bowl. Add the mahleb, mastica, and salt. Mix together.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.
In a large bowl, mix together the butter mixture and eggs. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, stirring between each addition with a wooden spoon. When the dough gets too stiff to mix, switch to your hands.
Knead dough until it no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl (about 7-10 minutes)it is ok if it still sticks a bit to the bottom. You can also do this in a stand mixer with the dough attachment for about 5 minutes or so. You may need to add more flour if the dough is too sticky (add 1-3 tbsp at a time).
Lightly oil the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise in a warm area for 2-3 hours (dough should double in size).
Roll portions of the dough into 9 even-sized balls (~1/2 cup each). Place on a lined baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. keep somewhere warm to rise for about 1 1/2 hours.
To make a loaf, take 3 balls of the risen dough. Roll each into a rope, and braid together to form a loaf. Tuck each end under slightly. Place braided loaves on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Cover braided loaves with plastic wrap and a towel. Let rise for about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Add blanched almonds to the creases in the dough where the pleats meat.
Beat 1 egg in a small bowl with 2 teaspoons of water to make an egg wash (this will make the bread shiny and help the seeds stick). Brush each loaf with a thin layer of egg wash. Sprinkle loaves with sesame seeds and nigella seeds.
Bake loaves in the top 1/3 of the oven for about 28-30 minutes or until golden brown (You may need to use 2 baking sheets to avoid burning the underside of the loaves).
Let bread cool on a baking sheet. Enjoy!
* You can find mahleb and mastik in most middle eastern grocery stores. I grind mine with a mortar and pestle