Sunday, April 5, 2009
Savory or sweet, it's still chorag!
Chorag is a traditional Armenian braided yeast roll. Some like sweet chorag; others a bit savory, so the recipe varies from household to household.
But whatever your preference, chorag is always served with cheese and strong coffee.
Some cooks might be a bit intimidated by the intricate shape, but don't be fooled. It's a snap. Check out the video by clicking Read more! for the recipe.
A dear family friend, Anne Marootian, is one of the best Armenian cooks I know. I don’t know how much cooking she still does now that she's in her 90's, but to me she’s still the “Queen of Chorag.”
Here's a slightly modified version of her recipe for crisp, flaky chorag that tastes rich but feels light.
Anne Marootian’s Chorag
Yield: Approximately 2 ½ to 3 dozen
½ lb. unsalted butter
1 cup milk
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp. each of GROUND mahlab**, fennel seed, anise seed
(** Mahlab is the dried “heart” of the cherry pit. It can be purchased in most Middle Eastern stores. If you can’t find it, you can omit it; the taste will be slightly different, but still delicious.)
½ tsp ground ginger
1 pkg. dry yeast
2 Tbsp. baking powder
5 to 5 1/2 cups flour
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp. of water (for egg wash)
1. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add milk and heat gently. Cool.
2. Beat egg and add to cooled milk.
3. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in ¼ 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 temp. is good to go. Set aside.
4. Mix sugar, salt, spices, and baking powder together. Set aside.
5. Place 5 cups of the 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. If the dough seems a bit sticky, add some of the extra ½ cup flour that wasn’t used earlier.
8. Place dough in a large, clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, then cover that with a towel. Allow to rise for 2 hours.
9. Break off about a golf ball-size piece of dough. Roll it into a long, thin rope, about 16 inches in length. Break off about one-third 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.
10. Place the braided dough on an ungreased baking sheet. Continue to shape dough until tray is full. (Don’t place chorags too close to each other. Give them room to expand while they bake.)
11. Let shaped dough rise on the tray for one more hour before baking.
12. Brush tops with beaten egg. (This is the egg wash.)
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 on cooling 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, or place in freezer bags, and freeze until ready to serve. They can be thawed in the microwave - simply wrap each chorag in a paper towel, and microwave for about 30 seconds on low to medium power, or until defrosted.
SPECIAL NOTE: This recipe can easily be doubled.