CHOEREG aka ARMENIAN aka EASTER BREAD
1 cup whole milk
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup salted butter
1 cup + 2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 (1/4 ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
5 eggs + 1 egg, beaten for brushing on top
6 cups all-purpose flour, or as needed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons ground mahleb (1/2 teaspoon almond extract + 1/4 teaspoon black cherry extract + 1/4 teaspoon vinegar substitutes well)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional & personally I don’t care for them at all)
- In a medium saucepan over a low heat, melt the butter.
- Add the milk and heat together until well blended, but not boiling.
- Stir in 1 cup of sugar until dissolved, then set aside to cool until lukewarm*.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, dissolve 2 teaspoons of sugar in warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface, and let stand until frothy, about 10 minutes or so.
- In a large bowl whisk the eggs just enough to break up the yolks.
- Slowly pour in the lukewarm milk mixture, constantly stirring.
- In a small bowl whisk together the almond extract, black cherry extract and vinegar.
- Add to the milk mixture just until incorporated.
- Add the yeast mixture, and stir just until blended.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
- Make a well in the center, and pour in the wet mixture.
- Stir until it forms a sticky dough.
- Pour onto a floured surface, and knead in additional flour as needed to make a more substantial dough.
- Knead about 10 minutes.
- Place in an oiled bowl, and set in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
- When the dough has doubled, punch down again, and let rise until doubled again. About another hour.
- Separate the dough into 5 even portions, then separate each of those into thirds. Roll each of those into ropes about 12 inches long. Braid sets of three ropes together, pinching the ends to seal, and tucking them under for a better presentation. Place the loaves onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Loaves should be spaced 4 inches apart. Set in a warm place to rise until your finger leaves an impression behind when you poke the loaf gently.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Brush the loaves with beaten egg, and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.
- Bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until nicely golden brown all over.
*Make sure this is lukewarm, not hot. You do NOT want the eggs to cook as you blend this in.