|The Armenian Kitchen's version of Anne Marootian's 'Savory Chorag"|
Chorag is a traditional Armenian braided yeast roll. Some like sweet chorag; others a bit savory, so the recipe (and spelling) 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 our video to see how easy it is.
A unique chorag recipe was handed down to my family from a dear family friend who, in my humble opinion, was one of the best Armenian cooks in New Jersey – Anne Marootian. Unlike many chorag recipes which tend to be sweet, this one is on the savory side with the addition of ground mahlab, anise seed, fennel seed, and ginger. It might sound like an unusual mix of flavors, but it’s quite delicious!
from Anne Marootian; adapted by Robyn Kalajian for The Armenian Kitchen
Yield: Approximately 2 dozen
(This recipe can easily be doubled.)
½ lb. unsalted butter
1 cup whole milk
1 pkg. dry yeast
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. each of GROUND mahlab**, fennel seed, anise seed (freshly ground is preferred)
(** 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
2 Tbsp. active baking powder**
5 to 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Egg wash: 1 or 2 eggs, beaten (# of eggs depends on how many chorags you’re making)
Garnish: Toasted sesame seeds, optional
** NOTE: 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.
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 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. (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 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 (roughly 2 ounces for each piece). 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.
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. 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.
Chorags 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.
Chorag can be served anytime of the day or night with coffee, tea, Armenian string cheese – or - an assortment of cheeses, fruit, etc.