At some point this weekend, I am going to attempt to make choreg, an Armenian sweet bread often made at Easter time. This bread is perfect for people who speak this insanity: “I don’t really care much for sweets.” Choreg is an ideal breakfast food as it is complimented perfectly by coffee and can easily be eaten on the go.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about choreg is that it involves an exotic spice never found in a Vons or Trader Joe’s. Mahleb must be tracked down at a Middle Eastern Market, and even finding it there can be challenging as I had to ask someone at Super King for help. For anyome in a rural or Middle America location where there may not be a Mid East market, online might be the best bet for acquiring the mahleb.
I often wonder how early people discovered certain cooking methods, ingredients, and processes when they seem beyond the realm of practicality or intuition. Mahleb baffles me in this way. Who and at one point did someone think, “I wonder what can be done with the inside of the sour cherry pit?” Yes, mahleb is the ground center flesh of a cherry pit. A specific cherry pit. Cooking shows which try to stump chefs with a series of odd or unrelated ingredients seem to be all the rave right now. I would like to give a master chef a bag with sour cherry pits and say, “Have at it.”
The scent of mahleb can give a person a substantial clue into the flavor of choreg. It tastes as it smells and that is a very pleasant thing. Mahleb’s scent is something of a nutty vanilla aroma. The appeal is immediate and unlike with dolma, I don’t think this appeal is debatable.
The reason I say that I will bake choreg at “some point” is because like many recipes, I am learning, this bread requires time. The initial rising time is 6-7 hours and then another hour of rising after the bread is formed and on that baking sheet. If you have any appointments or responsibilities in your day, choreg may be hard to squeeze on to the agenda. This is a busy weekend for my son and me with a day camp taking up from 8 am until 1 pm on both Saturday and Sunday, so my choreg expedition may need to wait until Sunday night.
My aunt recommends making the dough at around 11 pm the night before and then finishing the baking process in the morning, after the dough has risen overnight. Plan on finding me back here on Sunday and Monday, sharing with you the ups and downs of choreg baking. In the meantime, find yourself some mahleb, inhale, and enjoy.