Heart-shaped choreg

Heart-Shaped Choreg by Sylvia Hagopian of ArmenianDish

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TORONTO — “Armenians from around the world are busy making choreg at this time of year.  It’s a tradition to prepare this sweet, delicious bread at Easter, however we were lucky that our grandmother would make it throughout the year,” says Sylvia Hagopian, a resident of Toronto, and the founder and recipe creator at ArmenianDish.com.

“Nothing beats the smell of fresh choreg baking in the oven.  Practically every nationality around the world has a variation of choreg – and I personally enjoy mine warmed up with a slathering of salted butter and Armenian jam.  Making this recipe brings back memories of my beloved grandmother, Hélène Yacoubian, who lovingly baked these choreg for our family.  I’m happy to share her recipe, and I’ve added my own twist by making them heart-shaped since choreg = love.  You can make yours into a twisted knot or a braided loaf, but I hope you try making these heart-shaped choreg if only to see the smiles on a little one’s face,” she adds.

“ArmenianDish.com represents my journey to recreate and document my grandmother’s many family recipes and dishes.  She taught me how to make this choreg recipe. The smell of parsley immediately sends me back to her
apartment in East Toronto. She loved growing beautiful flowers on her balcony.  And no matter what was for dinner, she always had parsley dotting her outstretched hands as she greeted me with loving embraces,” remembers
Sylvia. “Her menu might include tangy yogurt soup with mint and ‘mante’ dumplings, deliciously seasoned kebab skewers, generously meaty lahmajoun with squeezed lemon, crispy cheese boereg with tabulé and zesty eetch kofte…to name a few. I’m obsessed with food and food photography, and I know some of these dishes can be time consuming to make.  But I promise to break down the steps in a way that helps the reader learn from my trials and errors.”

“My grandmother passed away in 2006.  We called her Melma because Medz mamma (‘grandmother’ in Armenian) was a mouthful for her Canadian grandchildren.  She spoiled us with unconditional love, kindness, and generosity—while raising us with the strength, resilience and wisdom that could only come from a survivor of trauma, suffering, and the Armenian Genocide.  Her home was my escape— where I went to hear advice, guidance, and stories of unimaginable hardships and incredible resilience and strength.  Melma’s cooking was gifted with techniques and flavors from Armenia and our diaspora in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.  Like many other Armenians, my grandmother survived the Armenian Genocide and the systematic killing of our people that was started by Ottoman government authorities in 1914.”

“My grandmother’s family went into hiding soon after her father, who was a skilled tailor, was taken and killed. When the moment was right, they left their hiding place with as many belongings as they could manage and walked from Aintab, Turkey, her birthplace and home, until they reached Aleppo, Syria.  Having escaped the horrors of the Armenian Genocide, my grandmother grew up in Aleppo and then made her way to Beirut, Lebanon where my mother was born. They later immigrated to Canada where I was born,” says Sylvia.

“On my father’s side, both my grandparents were orphaned by the Armenian Genocide. They were raised in orphanages in Greece, and then the Near East Foundation settled many of these Armenians in Egypt and around the world.*

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My father was born in Cairo.  My father’s mother, Anahid Hagopian, had the most wonderful laugh, and was very loving and generous.”  She was orphaned because of the Armenian Genocide, and was taken to an orphanage in Cairo. She made the most spectacular Finikia cookies that I have ever eaten,” adds Sylvia.  (Finikia or Phinikia is a type of Greek cookie more commonly known as a Melomakarono.)

Sylvia Hagopian and her children

Armenian Choreg/Easter Bread Tips from Sylvia:

How I ensure this recipe is successful is to pull my butter and eggs out of the refrigerator the night before and leave them on the counter. All ingredients need to be at room temperature.  The day I am making choreg, I let the milk sit at room temperature while I prepare my other ingredients, or I microwave it for 10 seconds to take the chill off.

To prepare the yeast, I warm the water to approximately 95-100 degrees, and then I dissolve the sugar in it before adding the yeast. Don’t make the water too hot or you’ll kill the yeast. Your yeast should be nice and foaming when you add it to the mix.  Be prepared for this recipe to fill your stand-mixer.  First, mix the eggs and sugar by hand, and when that is blended, add the milk; drop in your chunks of room-temperature butter, and start to blend in the stand mixer while adding one cup of flour at a time. Add each cup once the previous cup has been incorporated.

Before you add the last cup, you will notice the dough will look thick – this is when you add the yeast and last cup of flour. Blend well and add the mahlab.  Stop mixing when the dough looks thick, creamy and sticky.  It takes 9 cups of flour, and it can get messy.  I always blend with the dough hook on the lowest speed, scraping the sides of the bowl with my spatula.

Spray a large bowl with a bit of neutral oil and drop your dough into it. Cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm spot for a minimum of 4 hours. I’ve had really great success with the dough rising in my oven with just the light on.  It’s the best spot.  After 4 hours of rising, your dough will be soft and doubled in size.  Try not to handle your dough too much, so that you get a fluffy texture.

Topics: Choreg

Take a hand full of the dough, roll gently into a ball, roll it out into a log, and then divide the dough almost until the end in half. Smooth out each end and then roll them up to form a heart. You can watch me do this in the video.  Don’t worry if you have a small hole in the middle when you roll because your bread will rise when it bakes.  I gently pinch the end to accentuate the “v” pointy end of the heart.

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with egg wash and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top.  Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Ovens vary, so just watch your choreg for your favorite, beautiful brown color and then pull them out.  Eat them warm with lots of butter and your favorite Armenian jam.

Note: Sylvia’s favorite jam is Ijevan’s sour cherry jam available at Middle Eastern markets.

Prep Time: 4.5 hours – Cooking Time: 25-30 mins – Total Time: 5 hours

“This choreg is a traditional staple at Easter time or any other time of the year.  Make these choreg and freeze them.  They are sweet and taste incredible when warmed up and served with butter and Armenian jam,” says Sylvia.

Ingredients:

Dough:

9 cups all-purpose flour (sifted)

7 eggs (room temperature)

2 cups sugar

2 cups unsalted butter (room temperature)

1 1/2 cups milk (room temperature)

2 teaspoons mahleb (see note)

2 + 1/4 teaspoons yeast with 1/4 teaspoon of sugar and 1/4 cup warm water

 

Note: You will find mahleb at many Middle Eastern markets and spice stores, especially around Easter.  Please do not omit it, as this is what gives these choreg their distinctive flavor and aroma.

 

Topping:

2 eggs, beaten

Sesame seeds

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Prepare yeast by dissolving the sugar with warm water and then adding the yeast. Let foam.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the sugar and eggs and mix well. Add the milk and combine well.

Attach the dough hook to your stand mixer. Dropped in your cubed, room temperature butter.  Add sifted flour, one cup at a time.  Blend on slow speed, adding flour one cup at a time when mixed.  Before adding last cup of flour, add yeast.

Add last cup of flour and mahleb.  Knead with dough hook on slow speed until texture is smooth, thick and sticky.  Drop into an oiled bowl and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 4 hours. (Sylvia likes storing the oiled bowl in her oven with the light on.)

 

Making Heart Shapes:

After 4 hours, your dough should have doubled in size ad be light and fluffy.  Without handing it too much, pull off a palm size ball and roll to a 5-inch log.  With a dough cutter, split your dough into two pieces almost until the edge.

Smooth them out, pinch the tip and roll your ends up to form a heart. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, glaze with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.  These choreg are best served warm.

For this recipe and video, go to: https://armeniandish.com/2021/04/make-heart-shaped-armenian-choreg-easter-br
ead/

Serves: 24

Sylvia Hagopian

“I am writing this blog from land that is the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. I acknowledge that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13 signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit, and the Williams Treaties signed with multiple Mississaugas and Chippewa bands. I acknowledge that settler colonialism has and continues to benefit my family. As a descendant of Armenian Genocide survivors, it is especially important for me to acknowledge this.” (http://mncfn.ca/)

See: Sylvia’s grandmother’s prized sarma recipe at: https://armeniandish.com/2020/08/armenian-sarma-stuffed-grape-leaves/

*The Near East Foundation (NEF), founded in 1915 as the American Committee on Armenian Atrocities, later the American Committee for Relief in the Near East (ACRNE), and after that Near East Relief, is a Syracuse, New York-based American international social and economic development organization, originally dedicated to the aid of Greek, Armenian and Assyrian victims of the Ottoman Empire. As the United States’ oldest nonsectarian international development non-governmental organization (NGO), the NEF has played a crucial role in establishing the American philanthropic tradition, and pioneered many of the strategies employed by the world’s leading development organizations today. ‘The American Committee for Syrian and Armenian Relief,’ as NEF was originally known, was founded in 1915 in response to the  massive humanitarian crisis precipitated by the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Many millions of Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, and members of other minority groups were displaced, and over a million and a half died as a result of deportation, forced marches, starvation, and execution. https://www.neareast.org/who-we-are/

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