Recipe Corner: Dolly Matoian’s Choreg from Guild Gatherings

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SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — Choreg is an Armenian specialty, especially baked at the holidays and for special occasions. For their annual Bazaar at St. John Armenian Church in Southfield, Michigan, the Women’s Guild bakes thousands of choreg to sell each year. The recipe they still use was created by the talented Dolly Matoian.

“My mother (the late Helen Sarkisian Baltayan) was an outstanding cook and baker. She encouraged me to learn to cook, and inspired me to create Armenian breads, desserts, and sweets. She loved making katah the Sepastatzi way by rolling strips of dough into a ball, and I recall seeing sou boereg dough drying on large tables. I still use her okhla (thin rolling pin). She would say every Armenian young man would want you to know how to make Armenian food,” says Dolly.

Later, when she was married, Dolly’s husband Mike was transferred to Paris for his work, and she gave up her job as Vice President of the Dorsey Business Schools to join him. They lived in Paris for 3 1/2 years, and Dolly took full advantage of the opportunity by attending Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. Founded in 1895, Le Cordon Bleu focuses its education on hospitality management, culinary arts, and gastronomy (See: https://www.cordonbleu.edu/home/en). Upon returning to Michigan, Dolly was asked to teach at a local gourmet store, and to include some Armenian recipes. “One of my first classes was teaching how to make choreg. Luckily, my students, Armenians and non-Armenians, loved the class and the tasty choregs we baked.”

Dolly continues to teach others how to bake. In response to the 2020 pandemic lockdown, the Women’s Guild began recording a series of instructional videos called Guild Gatherings. Dolly was an early contributor. Her “Choreg with Tips on Making Dough” video has been viewed over 600 times. “This recipe makes a sweeter choreg. For Easter, my mother would add bits of candied fruit.” See Dolly’s video plus more Guild Gatherings videos at: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLgaajJ5B0l5V_fCalkqdiHwLZU3qTyV7l

Dolly Matoian

Ingredients:

5 medium eggs

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1 1/4 cups sugar (plus 1 teaspoon for yeast)

1 cup milk, warmed

3/4 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup shortening, melted

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast (or 1 1/2 envelopes)

2 – 2 1/2 lb. flour (1/2 bread, 1/2 all-purpose)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon ground mahlab (found in Middle Eastern markets)

1 cup chopped candied fruit, dusted with flour (optional)

Egg wash (2 eggs plus 2 teaspoons milk)

Sesame and black seeds, as desired

Preparation:

In a mixer with paddle attachment, mix 5 eggs and 1 1/4 cups sugar. Add the milk, butter, and shortening.

Proof the yeast: In 1 cup measuring cup with 1/2 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees), add yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar, stir to combine. In 5 minutes, the mixture will double (if it doesn’t, replace with fresher yeast). Add some flour and the yeast mixture to the liquids in the bowl. On low speed add the rest of the flour along with the baking powder and mahlab, one cup at a time. When most of the flour has been added, replace the paddle with the dough hook. At this point add the candied fruit, if using.

Be careful not to add too much flour. The dough should be “tacky” but not stick to fingers when touched. This will result in a light and “cottony” choreg. The dough will come away from the sides of the bowl almost around the dough hook. Place dough into a large, oiled bowl then turn the dough over once to oil the top. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tea towel and place in a warm, draft-free place.

Allow dough to double in size, approximately one hour. (If you wish to delay baking the choreg, you can put the bowl in the refrigerator before rising, even overnight. When ready to use, allow it to rise.)

For individual choregs take 2 to 2 1/2 oz. of dough, roll each into approximately 9” snake and twist into a very loose twist or knot. For braided loaves weigh 5 oz. balls. Roll each into a 12” strand, place 3 side by side, and braid (preferably from the center towards each end).

Place the individual choreg on parchment or Silpat-lined trays 2” apart, more for the loaves. Cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap to rise 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until they are soft to the touch and double in size. Before baking, gently egg wash all over, especially at the point where choreg touches the tray. Sprinkle with seeds of your choice. Egg wash a second time, especially on tops—this gives a shiny surface. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven 15-17 minutes for individual choregs, or in a 325°F oven for 25 minutes for loaves, until golden. At the midpoint of baking, reverse tray, and complete baking.

Note: Choregs may be frozen in plastic freezer bags; defrost in the refrigerator. They may be warmed in a microwave or wrapped in foil in the oven. They are also delicious sliced and toasted.

Yield: 6 loaves, or 4 loaves and 16 individual choregs, or 36 to 40 individual choregs

Connect to Guild Gatherings and learn more about the Women’s Guild at: http://stjohnwomensguild.square.site.

Also available on the Women’s Guild website:

Armenian Cuisine: Preserving Our Heritage Cookbook

Over 450 tested recipes from the Detroit metropolitan Armenian community, updated using modern techniques and equipment. Detailed description of cooking and baking methods including tips for preparation. $35 with free shipping.

Pomegranate Apron

With 2 handy pockets and adjustable straps. Great for the kitchen, garage, or garden. $20 with free shipping. To order, go to: https://stjohnwomensguild.square.site/

Consider a Donation to Support the Mission of the Women’s Guild of St. John Armenian Church: Women’s Guild strives to nurture fellowship and service to our Church and community through a variety of activities and events. Your funds will help us continue outreach activities in Armenia such as sponsoring orphans and supporting Mer Doon, which provides young women with a safe home and instructs them in life skills.

For information, contact:

Women’s Guild of St. John Armenian Church

22001 Northwestern Highway

Southfield, Michigan 48075

Tel: (248) 569-3405

Fax: (248) 569-0716

sjacwg@gmail.com

https://stjohnwomensguild.square.site/

90 years in Greater Detroit (1931-2021)

Copyright © 2021 Women’s Guild of St. John Armenian Church

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