Thursday, November 12, 2020

Koolunja, Koolenja, or Kooroonja: No Matter Which Name You Use, it's Still an Easy, 'Old-Fashioned' Choreg Recipe!

In the early days of The Armenian Kitchen, I received an email from a gentleman in MA asking if I had a recipe for Koolunja, a Kharpertsi variation of choreg. He went on to say that unlike the braided, softer choreg, koolunja has a drier texture that is cut into squares, triangles, or diamond-shapes. I searched but came up empty-handed.

Since I couldn’t oblige, I posted a request to readers of Kharpertsi descent asking for their help. I received only one response and passed along the recipe. He appreciated my help, but it wasn't exactly what he was looking for.

Present day:

Just a week or so ago, I received another inquiry about Koolunja – this time from a woman in Fresno, CA. As I searched through my Armenian cookbooks and other resources, I found 3 variations of this ‘Old-Fashioned Choreg. I promptly sent along one of recipes, much to her delight.

Koolenja (Koolunja, Kooroonja) - ready to serve with Sun-Ni Armenian String Cheese!
The recipe I’ve prepared for this post, is my adaptation of a ‘Koolenja’ recipe found in the cookbook, ‘Armenian Cuisine-Preserving Our Heritage’ from St. John Armenian Church in Michigan. 

(Note: As stated in the past, many recipes have different spellings and/or ingredient variations based on geographic locations.)

I made minor adjustments to the cookbook's recipe by incorporating some freshly ground spices that I love in choreg - mahlab, fennel seed, and anise seed.

If you prefer the taste of old-fashioned choreg, feel free to omit those spices.

I hope you’ll try – and – like this version!


Koolenja (or Koolunja - or- Kooroonja!)

Yields about 30 pieces, depending on the shape - and - how large or small the dough is cut.

Ingredients:

½ lb. unsalted butter (2 sticks), melted and cooled

1 cup milk

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. sugar (Note: If you prefer a sweeter product, you can increase the sugar to ½ cup, but then you might not want to add the optional seasonings listed below.)

Optional seasonings: 1 Tbsp. freshly ground mahlab, 1 tsp. ground fennel seed, ½ tsp. ground anise seed

1 pkg. (or 2 ½ tsp.) active dry yeast

½ cup warm water + ½ tsp. sugar

6 cups flour (Note: I used 5 ½ cups)

Egg Wash: 1 egg and 1 Tbsp. water, beaten  

Garnish: Sesame seeds and/or Nigella seeds


Directions:

1. In a large bowl thoroughly combine melted butter, milk, beaten eggs, salt, sugar, and optional seasonings, if using.

Step 1.

2. In a liquid measuring cup, combine yeast with 1/2 cup warm water and ½ tsp. sugar; cover and allow to proof.

Proofed yeast
3. Add the proofed yeast mixture and some of the flour to the ingredients in the large bowl. Add enough flour to create a workable dough. Knead dough until smooth.

Kneaded dough

4.  Place dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to double in size, approximately 1 hour.

Risen dough

5. Remove dough and place on a clean work surface. Pat down dough with your hands to create a rectangular shape that’s about ¾” thick. 

Dough patted by hand to 3/4 -inch thickness
Using a pastry wheel or pizza cutter, cut dough into squares, triangles, or diamond shapes of a uniform size for even baking.

Dough cut into triangles using a pizza cutter
6. Preheat oven to 375°F.

7. Place cut pieces of dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet with enough room between them as the dough will expand while it bakes. Brush koolenja tops with egg wash, sprinkle with sesame and/or Nigella seeds. 

Ready to bake.

8. Bake one tray at a time on the center rack for about 15 - 25 minutes (depending on the size of the pieces) or until golden brown.

Baked and cooling on wire racks.




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