Recipe Corner: Guest Recipe By the late Anne Marootian, adapted by Robyn Kalajian

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Savory Armenian Chorag

Anne Marootian

Many years ago, a unique, delicious Armenian chorag recipe was handed down to Robyn Dabbakian-Kalajian’s family from a dear old family friend who, in Robyn’s humble opinion, was one of the best Armenian cooks in New Jersey – the late Anne Marootian. Unlike many chorag recipes which tend to be sweet, this one is on the savory side with the addition of freshly ground mahlab, anise seed, fennel seed, and ginger. It might sound like an unusual mix of flavors, but the results are quite delicious.

Yield: About 2 dozen

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. unsalted butter

1 cup whole milk

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1 egg

1 package dry yeast

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon each of freshly ground mahlab, fennel seed, anise seed

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons active baking powder*

5 to 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

 

Egg wash: 1 or 2 eggs, beaten (the number of eggs depends on how many chorags you’re making)

*Before you begin, test the baking powder to make sure it is “active.” To do this, simply sprinkle some baking powder into a small amount of tap water. If it is active, the baking powder will fizz and foam.

Garnish: Toasted sesame seeds, optional.

Preparation:

  1. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add milk and heat to a gentle simmer (do NOT boil). Cool.
  2. Beat egg and add to cooled milk.
  3. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water (about 105-110° F). You can check the temperature with a food thermometer or by putting a drop on your wrist. If it feels comfortable to your wrist, the temperature is good to go. Set aside.
  4. Mix sugar, salt, spices, and baking powder together. Set aside.
  5. Place 5 cups of flour into a large mixing bowl. Combine the blended spice mixture into the flour.
  6. Add the milk-egg mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir in the dissolved yeast and mix well.
  7. Place dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (This can also be done in an electric stand mixer using a dough hook, but only mix for about 2 minutes.) If the dough seems a bit sticky, add some of the extra 1/2 cup flour that was not used earlier.
  8. Place dough in a large, clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, then cover with a towel. Allow to rise for 2 hours.
  9. Break off about a golf ball-size piece of dough (roughly 2 ounces for each chorag). Roll it into a long, thin rope, about 15 inches in length. Break off about one-third (5 inches) of the dough. Shape the longer piece of dough into a horseshoe (U) shape. Place the shorter piece of dough in the center of the “U,” and begin braiding the 3 strips of dough. (Here’s the link to TheArmenianKitchen.com video on ‘How to Braid Chorag’: https://youtu.be/ggehjkweSBs)
  10. Place the braided dough on an ungreased baking sheet. Continue to shape dough until tray is full. (Do not place chorags too close to each other. Give them room to expand while they bake.)
  11. Cover the unbaked chorags with plastic wrap and let the shaped dough rise on the tray for one more hour before baking.
  12. Remove the plastic wrap and brush tops with the egg wash. Sprinkle chorag tops with toasted sesame seeds, if desired.
  13. Bake at 375° F. on the bottom oven rack until the bottom of the chorag is golden (about 15 minutes). Then transfer the tray to the top rack until the top of the chorag is golden (about another 5 minutes). Cool chorag completely on wire racks.
  14. Continue this procedure until all dough is shaped and baked.
  15. Store completely cooled chorag in a container with a tight-fitting lid. If you plan to freeze them, layer the chorags in a plastic storage container with parchment paper or plastic wrap placed between the layers to prevent them from sticking to each other. Alternately, chorags can be frozen in freezer bags.

 

Note: This recipe can easily be doubled. Chorag can be thawed in the microwave by simply wrapping each chorag in a slightly dampened paper towel, and microwaving for about 20-30 seconds on low power, or until defrosted.

“Mahlab is the dried “heart” of the cherry pit. It can be purchased in most Middle Eastern stores. If you cannot find it, you can omit it from this recipe; the taste will be slightly different, but still delicious. This recipe can easily be doubled.” – Robyn Kalajian

Recipe courtesy of Robyn Kalajian at TheArmenianKitchen.com.