Get to know Armenian Easter Bread, or Choereg, a beautiful and delicious braided bread traditionally perfumed with mahleb and anise. Intrigued? Read on!
Looking for more Easter bread from around the world? I’ve got you covered.
Note that I made this bread for my friend’s communion service. If you are interested in more of my communion breads, see my milk and honey loaf and my champagne yeast pita. Yes, we schemed up a lot of interesting breads for her congregation!
Enriched Dough for Celebration Breads
Like many other celebration breads, this Armenian sweet bread is made from an enriched dough. (Note that it is very similar to the Greek Tsoureki.)
When I say “enriched dough,” I just mean that along with the standard flour, salt, yeast, and water that make up a basic bread, the dough is enriched with eggs, sugar, and fat to bake up into a softer, richer bread.
For other examples of enriched dough, look at these recipes:
- Chocolate Babka is not only enriched with sugar, butter, and eggs, it also has a wonderful chocolate pecan filling. So rich and so good, especially toasted.
- Apple Butter Yeasted Coffee Cake uses an enriched sweet dough rolled up around an apple butter filling and then topped with streusel. Yes!
- Cornish Saffron Easter Bread an sweet, enriched Easter bread using the Tangzhong method.
What sets this braided loaf apart is its subtle flavoring of mahleb and anise.
What is Mahleb (and Where Can I Get Some?)
Mahleb is a powdered spice made from the seeds of the St. Lucie cherry tree, a type of cherry native to Iran. Sometimes it’s referred to as mahlep or mahaleb. It’s all the same stuff though.
Mahleb lends a subtle perfume and fruitiness to breads and pastry. The flavor is described as a mix of almond and cherry, although I find it also has floral notes that make it more complex.
If you’ve never had it before, and I had not, you’ll wonder why your bread tastes so good. And once you know it’s because of the mahleb, you’ll want to put it in all the things.
Mahleb, Anise, and Fennel, Oh My!
Armenian Easter bread is similar to Greek tsoureki and Turkish coregi (a rose by any other name, as far as I can tell). The recipe I followed as a guide for my choereg called for both mahleb and anise.
I’m not a super fan of anise, so I never have it in the house. I did have ground fennel though, because I like to add that to Italian dishes when my Italian herb blend doesn’t contain fennel. At any rate, it’s what I had, so I went with it.
Yes, I realize that fennel and anise have a similar flavor. I’m sorry, anise. Maybe it’s all in my head.
The combination of the mahleb and fennel is lovely. The cherry/almond/floral notes of the mahleb and the bright, sweet, licorice notes of the fennel blend beautifully.
The resulting dough and eventual bread looks a bit plain but is aromatic and flavorful. It will leave you a)wondering why it tastes so good, and b)wanting more.
Choereg Baking Notes
To Reduce Rise Time
This bread is very sweet and contains a fair amount of butter. Because of its richness, it takes a long time to rise. As in a 4-hour initial rise. And that was in the cozy microwave with a steaming mug of water for company.
If you would like to shorten up the rising time, you can add a bit more yeast.
I used 2 teaspoons, but you can use a tablespoon to nudge things along. Also consider cutting back on the sugar just a bit–from the 1/2 + cup called for to maybe 1/3 cup.
As is, the bread was completely worth making, and I’m having some trouble resisting it. Still, if a super long rise doesn’t fit into your life, those couple of changes should reduce the rise time substantially.
What To Expect When Handling the Dough
The dough for Armenian Easter bread is very soft and sticky. I wasn’t sure it would behave itself enough for me to roll it out, but the long rise helped reinforce the gluten structure, and it turned out to be very supple.
Just know it will be a soft dough and try to resist the urge to add a bunch of extra flour.
Expect a more cakey and less bready end result. Think brioche rather than baguette.
Reader Ali made this bread, and here is what she said about it:
A Note About Measurements
NOTE: Most of my recipes are written by weight and not volume, even the liquids.
Even though I try to provide you with volume measurements as well, I encourage you to buy a kitchen scale for ease of measuring, accuracy, and consistency.
I really hope you love this recipe, you guys! If you make a loaf or two, please share a photo with me, either in the PCO Facebook Group or on instagram by tagging @onlinepastrychef and using hashtag #pcorecipe.
And if you have any questions, feel free to email me!
Thanks, and enjoy!
- 1/4 cup tepid water
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons dried yeast, (up to 1 Tablespoon. See notes)
For the Dough
- The yeast mixture
- 19.5 oz (by weight--about 4 1/2 cups) all purpose flour (King Arthur preferred)
- 6 oz (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 4 oz (1/2 cup) whole milk
- 3 large eggs, , lightly beaten
- scant 2/3 cup granulated sugar, (use 1/3-1/2 cup for a less sweet bread)
- 1 Tablespoon freshly ground mahleb, (I blitzed mine in the blender. You can also use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle)
- 2 teaspoons ground fennel, (or anise)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
To Finish and Bake
- 1 egg white
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1 Tablespoon (more or less) sesame seeds
- Combine the water, sugar and yeast and stir to combine.
- Let sit for 10-15 minutes until nice and bubbly.
For the Dough
- Warm the butter and milk together until the butter is melted. Let cool to warm.
- Pour the proofed yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer followed by the flour, the milk mixture, the eggs, sugar, spices and salt.
- Fit your mixer with the paddle attachment and bring the dough together on low speed. Increase speed to medium and knead for about 10 minutes. The dough will be soft and will clear the sides of the bowl to only about halfway down. That's okay.
- When the dough is ready, it will be shiny, smooth, soft, and stretchy.
- Spray the top with pan spray, cover with a lint-free towel, and let rise in a cozy place until doubled. This could take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, depending on whether you use more or less sugar and/or more or less yeast. See Notes.
- Once the dough has doubled, scrape it out onto a clean, smooth work surface, and gently press out the gases.
- Weigh your dough and divide by 9. If you don't have a scale, I implore you to get one. If you don't want to be so exact, divide the dough into thirds and then divide each third into three pieces.
- Press each of three pieces of dough into a rectangle and then roll up into a tight sausage. Roll out each into a rope about 12" long. Pinch the three ropes together at one end and braid fairly tightly. Pinch the dough together when you reach the other end. Tuck each end under the braid for a nice, polished presentation.
- Form two more braids in the same way.
- Place on a parchment-lined baking tray about 2-3 inches apart. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise i a cozy place until puffy, about 45 minutes.
- While the dough is rising, set a rack in the center of your oven. If you have one, place a baking stone on the rack. Otherwise, don't worry about it.
- Heat the oven to 350F.
To Finish and Bake
- Whisk together the egg white and water.
- Gently brush a thin layer evenly onto each braid. Sprinkle sesame seeds on each braid.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes until lightly golden brown. The internal temperature of the bread should be 200F.
- Remove to a rack to cool completely. Rewarm to serve or serve at room temperature. Butter and jam would not be unwelcome.
You can speed the rise by using an extra 1 teaspoon of yeast and by decreasing the sugar by up to half.
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Nutrition InformationYield 20 Serving Size 1/20
Amount Per Serving Calories 157Total Fat 2gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 1gCholesterol 29mgSodium 229mgCarbohydrates 31gFiber 1gSugar 9gProtein 5g
The stated nutritional information is provided as a courtesy. It is calculated through third party software and is intended as a guideline only.
And there you have it. Sweet, aromatic braided Easter bread.
Thanks for spending some time with me today. Take care, and have a lovely day.