Zatiki Chorek: Armenian Easter Bread Photos courtesy: (Photo courtesy of https://www.osharak.com/chorek-armenian-easter-bread/)

Recipe Corner: Zatiki Chorek: Armenian Easter Bread

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“As a young girl I would make this chorek/choreg recipe with my dear mother. She would give us a small piece of dough and we would shape it into flowers, letters, birds or some abstract figures. My mom would make the braids and roulades filled with walnuts or apricot preserves, sprinkled with poppy or sesame seeds,” says Noune Jihanian, the talented Armenian blogger at Cafe Osharak. “My aunt Victoria makes chorek and gives it away as a gift for Easter. This recipe was passed down, and now I am here to share it. The aroma of the baked chorek was sweet and enticing, lingering in our kitchen for days. It penetrated into all the nooks and crannies of my senses and became engraved in my memory.”

“What makes chorek so memorable is the unique spice called mahleb. It gives chorek its distinctive taste and enchanting aroma. Mahleb is the wild cherry stone kernels that are not as bitter as ordinary cherry’s but have very delicate and exquisite flavor. Known for its medicinal properties mahleb was used since ancient times, and eventually made its way into the kitchen as one of the spices prevalent in countries around the Mediterranean.”

“Recently I came across an article which had an excerpt from Fethiye Cetin’s autobiographical book, My Grandmother: An Armenian-Turkish Memoir,” says Noune. “The book is about her grandmother, one of the many brave, courageous Armenian women who were forced to became Muslims to survive and escape the death march during the horrendous events of the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1922. This passage tells a story of chorek and how it was a secret message between the Islamized women who had the same fate. Women who tried to hide their identities from their children and grandchildren but who held on to a sting of their roots by sharing their customs with one another.”

“Cetin is a Turkish human-rights lawyer who has represented, among others, Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian journalist assassinated in Istanbul in January 2007. Growing up in the town of Maden in Turkey, Cetin knew her grandmother as a happy, respected Muslim housewife called Seher. Only decades later did she discover the truth. Her grandmother’s name was not Seher but Heranus. She was born a Christian Armenian. Most of the men in her village had been slaughtered in 1915. A Turkish gendarme had stolen her from her mother and adopted her. Cetin’s family history tied her directly to the terrible origins of modern Turkey and the organized denial of its Ottoman past as the shared home of many faiths and ways of life”:

“Cetin recalled the day her identity shattered: She was a young law student when her beloved maternal grandmother, Seher, took her aside and told her a secret she had hidden for 60 years: that Seher was born a Christian Armenian with the name Heranus and had been saved from a death march by a Turkish officer, who snatched her from her mother’s arms in 1915 and raised her as Turkish and Muslim.”

“Do you know that when I was a child, my grandmother and I came to your house? My grandmother baked chorek all day. After sitting for a while, after tasting my grandmother’s chorek, we also visited Shasho Ibrahim’s wife, Aunt Seher, and Tatuml, aunt. It caught my attention that day that all the people we went to served chorek. The choreks we tasted in other houses were like the ones we made in your house. When I was expecting a different kind of hospitality and was always disappointed to see the same pastry. My grandmother ate and drank tea in the homes of all the people we visited. It was only years later that my attention was drawn to the hospitality of that day and the community of homes we visited. ‘Shasho Ibrahim’s wife, Aunt Seher, was Armenian, and Aunt Tatiml later converted to Islam, like my grandmother.’”

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“Easter heralds the end of Lent and celebration of new beginning, awakening and rebirth. This enriched bread chorek is loaded with eggs and butter, milk and sugar, similar to brioche, challah, pana pasquale.” Here are Noune’s specific ingredients and directions:

Zatiki Chorek: Armenian Easter Bread Photos courtesy: (Photo courtesy of https://www.osharak.com/chorek-armenian-easter-bread/)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups butter, melted

6 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar + 1 tablespoon for starter

1 1/2 cups milk + 1/4 cup milk for starter

8 cups flour

1 teaspoon active dry yeast (not instant/rapid rise)

1 teaspoon mahleb

1 egg for egg wash

Sesame, poppy and nigella seeds, if desired

 

Preparation:

Starter:

Mix 1 teaspoon of yeast with 1/4 cup of lukewarm milk. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and flour to make a creamy consistency. Cover and let rise for 15-30 minutes.

Dough:

Start mixing the melted butter with one cup of flour in a standing mixer with paddle attachment. Then add the eggs and sugar and beat well. Add the milk followed by the starter. Sprinkle the ground mahleb.

Replace the mixer with the dough hook. Gradually add the flour. After adding 8 cups of flour, scrape the mixing bowl from the bottom and continue kneading (8-10 minutes).

The dough should feel smooth and elastic but not sticky. If it feels sticky add more flour until it no longer sticks. Once the dough is kneaded and glossy, place an a bowl that has room to rise, cover and place in a warm place.
Let it rise for 2 hours. It should double in volume. The ideal temperature is 75°F (24°C).

Punch the dough down and make a couple of folds by bringing the dough from the bottom across diagonally over. Repeat for all sides. Cover and let it rise a second time. Once the dough rises the second time, divide it into portions.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF while you shape and make the breads. Make the braids or rolls in any shape that you like. Beat the whole egg with a little bit of water and brush it on the ready breads. Let them rise for 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with the seeds, if desired, and bake for 20-40 minutes. The smaller breads will bake quicker. The thicker braids will require up to 40 minutes.

Noune Jihanian

For this recipe and braiding information, go to: https://www.osharak.com/chorek-armenian-easter-bread/

“‘Osharak’ is Armenian word that means ‘the nectar of the fruit,’ typically known as a drink that is refreshing, satisfying, and colorful. I am an Armenian native, living and working in Colorado, happily married to an Italian from New York. Most of my recipes are heirlooms from both our families that have become staples and true favorites.”

For more choreg recipes, see:

https://www.diningindiaspora.com/food/2018/3/30/choreg-for-armenian-americans-identity-is-braided-into-this-bread

https://www.armenianinstitute.org.uk/food/cheoreg

https://mirrorspectator.com/2023/06/29/barbara-hovsepians-baghaj/

https://mirrorspectator.com/2023/04/06/recipe-corner-zatiki-chorek-armenian-easter-bread/

https://mirrorspectator.com/2022/11/17/elmass-avedisians-famous-choreg-walnut-rolls/

https://mirrorspectator.com/2022/05/19/barbara-adishians-chorag-with-golden-raisins/

https://mirrorspectator.com/2022/04/16/traditional-armenian-chorag-and-mahlab-cake-from-thearmeniankitchen-com/

https://mirrorspectator.com/2022/02/10/recipe-corner-dolly-matoians-choreg-from-guild-gatherings

https://mirrorspectator.com/2022/01/20/recipe-corner-armenian-mothers-choreg-from-steve-sharafian/

https://mirrorspectator.com/2021/09/16/goldie-nakashians-koulenje-from-gesaria-kayseri/

https://thearmeniankitchen.com/savory-gluten-free-choreg/

https://thearmeniankitchen.com/a-chorag-recipe-from-holy-trinity/

https://thearmeniankitchen.com/carolann-najarians-whole-wheat-choreg/

https://thearmeniankitchen.com/chorag-zeytoonian-style/

https://thearmeniankitchen.com/savory-or-sweet-its-still-chorag/

https://www.facebook.com/CafeOsharak/

https://www.pinterest.com/cafeosharak/

https://www.instagram.com/osharak.cafe/

 

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