A Twist on Sweetbread

Braided cheoreg, which resembles brioche, is an Armenian delight
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The cookbook Armenian Cuisine: Preserving our Heritage was launched in September, in conjunction with the three-day Armenian Festival at St. John’s Armenian Church in Southfield. It features more than 400 recipes, some of which have been preserved by word-of-mouth for centuries.

Photograph by Joe Vaughn

Cheoreg
(Brioche-like sweetbread)

  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup sugar, depending on taste
  • 3 tablespoons milk, warmed
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons shortening, melted
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup water plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mahleb (flavored, powdered spice from wild cherry seeds, in ethnic markets or Penzey’s Spices)
  • About 2-3/4 to 3 cups flour (1 cup being bread flour)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Egg wash (1 egg plus 1 teaspoon milk or cream)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Black (nigella) seeds, optional

In a mixer, beat the egg and sugar, adding the warm milk, melted butter, and shortening. Prepare yeast by adding it to the warm water and sugar. Cover bowl with a tea towel and let proof before adding to mixing bowl. Add mahleb and begin adding flour 1/2 cup at a time, and the baking powder, continuing to mix. When dough just begins to form, knead for smoothness. Add flour very sparingly for a tacky but not sticky dough.

Place dough in a large greased bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot for 1 hour. Roll each of three 5-ounce portions to approximately 10-inches long, place side by side, and braid loosely. Roll remaining dough into 2-ounce portions to 8 inches and form into a loose twist or a knot. Place 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined sheet. Let rise and soften another hour. Just before placing the sheet in a preheated 325-degree oven, gently egg-wash cheoregs, sprinkle with seeds of your choice, and egg-wash again. Bake loaves about 20 minutes, until golden.

Yield: one loaf and two to four individual cheoregs.

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