This Armenian Easter bread is delicious, and said to be authentic.
Trivia:According to Wikipedia, Armenia is officialy the Republic of Armenia. It was once a republic of the Soviet Union.
In Armenia, this bread is called Choereg.
Do you prefer to work with metric amounts? You'll find an excellent Cooking Converter at this link.
Tip: This recipe calls for a spice known as mahleb. Please do not omit it, as it is key to the recipe's success. Mahleb is a spice used in the Middle East, Greece and Turkey. It is used much as you might use nutmeg. Try it in baked goods such as shortbread, pie crust, waffles or cakes. It can be difficult to locate in North America, but Amazon has it: Mahleb - Powder 2.0 oz - Zamouri Spices
Armenian Easter Bread Recipe
1 cup of milk
2 cups of butter
1 cup of white sugar (first amount)
1/2 cup of water
2 teaspoons of sugar (second amount)
2 packages of dry yeast
5 eggs (first amount)
7 cups of regular flour (or more if needed)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons ground mahleb
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg, beaten (second amount)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Put your milk, butter and the first amount of sugar in a saucepan. Heat, stirring, only until the butter is melted. Allow to cool.
In a separate cup or bowl, sprinkle the second amount of sugar (2 teaspoons) in the 1/2 cup of water. The water should be lukewarm. Stir to dissolve, then sprinkle the yeast over top. Let it sit until the yeast is ready (foamy). This may take about eight minutes or a little more.
Place the five eggs (first amount) in another bowl. Whisk them a little, but not too much. Slowly, whisk in the milk, which should have cooled to lukewarm. Be sure to whisk constantly while adding the milk. The eggs will cook if the milk is too hot, or added to quickly. You don't want that to happen.
Add the foamy yeast to the egg-milk mixture. Stir.
Using another bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together (except the sesame seeds). Make a hole in the middle of dry ingredients, and pour the egg-milk mixture into this hole.
This will create a sticky, fairly greasy dough. Flour a kneading surface and place this dough on it. Knead this for about ten minutes. You may need to add additional flour until the dough is less sticky. Grease a large bowl and place the kneaded dough in this bowl. Allow it to rise until it is twice the size. This typically takes about two hours.
Divide the dough into fifths. Cut each piece into three equal pieces -- 15 in total.
Using a rolling pin, roll out each piece of dough until it resembles a rope that is about 12 inches in length.
Braid the ropes -- three pieces to a braid, totaling five braids. Tuck the ends in well to seal.
Prepare baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper or waxed paper. Place your braids on the baking sheet, about four inches apart. Allow this to rise for the second time. To test it to see if has risen enough, poke your finger in slightly. If an indent remains, the dough is ready to bake.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Beat the remaining egg. Brush this egg over the top of the bread dough. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over top of this.
Place your Easter bread in the oven and bake until done. This should take about twenty-five minutes.
Tip: Traditionally, when making this Armenian Easter bread, Armenian cooks sometimes used smaller pieces of dough than the amounts given here. They then formed the smaller braids into small circles. When serving, they placed an Easter egg in the center of the circle.