Choereg (or choreg) is a sweet and buttery Armenian bread made and baked in large batches for Easter. Traditionally a coin is baked into one of the choereg loaves for good luck. The braided bread is also commonly eaten year round for dessert or breakfast. One of the most important and unique ingredients is the spice mahleb, commonly found in Middle Eastern grocery stores. Mahleb is the ground pits of a special Middle Eastern cherry and has a similar taste to nutmeg and cardamom (both of which can be used as a substitute, if you do not have access to mahleb). This recipe makes 5 loaves (about 30 servings) and takes just over 6 hours to prepare and cook.
In a medium pan, melt the butter and margarine in the milk. When both have melted add in 1 cup of sugar and cook until all the sugar has dissolved. Cool liquid off of the stove.
To prepare the yeast, dissolved 2 teaspoons of sugar in lukewarm water and pour the active dry yeast over the sugar's surface. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, add in eggs and gently mix them to break apart their yolks. Take the milk and butter mix from before and pour it into the bowl with the eggs. Whisk the mixture while doing this. Next, add the yeast and sugar mixture and mix until all the ingredients are blended.
In another large bowl, add the flour, baking powder, mahleb and salt. Using your finger, make a small well in the middle of this dry mixture and pour in the wet mixture from the other bowl. Mix everything together until dough is formed. On a flat and floured surface, place the dough and knead it thoroughly for about 10 minutes. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly greased bowl and allow to rise for about 2 hours (or until dough has risen to double its original size). After the dough has risen, deflate it by punching it down and put the dough back in the bowl to rise until it doubles again. It shouldn't take more than an hour to do this.
At this point, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide the dough into 5 pieces (each of these separate pieces of dough will become a loaf). Take each of these pieces and further divide them into three pieces. To braid the dough, first roll each of the three pieces into long ropes (about a foot long). Take these three ropes and braid them on a flat surface by bringing one rope over another repeatedly. Squeeze the ends of the loaf together to create a rounded end. On a waxed paper (or parchment paper) lined baking sheet, arrange the braided loaves a few inches apart from one another. Allow the unbaked loaves to rise for 30 to 60 minutes more before baking them.
Whisk one egg white with 1 teaspoon of water to create the egg wash for the tops of the choereg. Brush the loaves with the egg wash and lightly cover in sesame seeds. Bake the bread for about 25 minutes until the loaves are uniformly golden brown. After removing from the oven, allow loaves to cool.
Soon you will have wonderful hoomemade choereg to share with your loved-ones this Easter season!