There is nothing sweeter than the freshly baked smell of Choreg over Easter.
Choreg, tsoureki, çörek, kozunak, cozonac. Whatever you want to call it, is a sweet egg rich brioche like bread that is baked over the festive Easter weekend.
Mahlep/Mahlab, is the main flavouring of Choreg. What’s Mahlep? It is essentially the kernel found inside the seed of Mediterranean wild cherries that has been grounded into a fine powder. It has a very distinct flavour and smell and I can’t imagine Easter without the smell of Mahlep in the kitchen when a batch of Choreg is baking away in the oven.
This is my Mumma’s recipe, she keeps it hand written on a sheet of paper that is about as old as I am. Her recipe page is covered in stains and food splatters that has accumulated over the years but she still refers to the same piece of paper and won’t transfer her recipes onto a nicer, cleaner notepad.
So here it is! Susan’s famous Choreg: Recipe makes 6 loaves
- 1 block of butter (250g block)
- 2 ½ tablespoons Mahlep*
- 350g pure icing sugar
- 3 tablespoons dry yeast (or 3 x 7g sachet’s)
- 1kg plain flour
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup full cream milk
- ½ tablespoon white sugar
Glaze: 4 egg yolks and Sesame seeds (white/black) and/or flaked almonds.
*Mahlep can be found in the dry herbs and spcies aisle of supermarkets, delicatessens and most Middle Eastern specialty stores.
This is the type of recipe that is made to the T, none of this ‘a bit of this and a bit of that’ in this one! It is long and time consuming but I promise it is worth it!
Start by making the yeast mixture by mixing the dry yeast with ½ cup of warm water; add 1 tablespoon of plain flour and the ½ tablespoon of white sugar. Max this mixture in a large bowl as it should double in size and froth almost instantly if covered.
In a separate large bowl cream the block of butter with the icing sugar with your fingers. Add the yeast mixture to the creamed butter and continue to mix with your hands. Add the Mahlep, eggs, and slowly incorporate the flour as you start kneading the batter. Knead away for 10-12 minutes by ‘slapping’ the mixture in the bowl towards your body in a wave action.
Once you have a smooth, dense dough, dust the mixture with more flour, making a cross indentation in the dough (this is completely optional, it is traditional in Armenian/Greek culture to signify the religious cross of Easter). Cover the bowl with a lid and wrap your closed bowl in a heavy blanket for a minimum of 6 hours. Overnight is optimal.
When you unwrap your dough, it should have doubled in size. Gather up all your strength and punch the batter nice and firm to deflate it. Knead for a minute further to get a nice consistency
Separate the dough into 6 smaller balls, dust with flour and cover with a damp towel. Leave for a further hour to rest.
Take one ball, and separate it into 3 smaller balls. Roll out the 3 small balls with a rolling pin and ‘braid’ your mixture into a nice pattern. Repeat with your 5 other large balls.
Glaze your braided Choreg with egg yolks and cover with your choice of sesame seeds or flaked almonds. Bake your Choreg in a preheated oven of 180degrees or 350f for 20 minutes until golden brown.
Choreg can be eaten on its own, with a chocolate spread or (my favourite) with a slather of sour cherry jam. Enjoy it with a cup of tea.
Happy Easter to you all.