This Azerbaijani Sweet Milk Bread (Shirin Chorek) is traditionally made for the New Year (Nowruz) or for Ramadan, and gets its golden color from turmeric.
I have been blogging since 2008. I still remember how it was a this no-man’s land of blogs and websites. Many of us were like little islands in this big ocean of the internet, not connected with each, quietly doing our own thing.
And look at the blogging world today: blogs of every subject are EVERYWHERE and bloggers connecting with each other at conferences and through social media. It has never been easier to connect with people from all over the world.
One of the first blogs I discovered when I began blogging in 2008 was AZ Cookbook, by Feride Buyuran, who shares recipes from Azerbaijan and Turkey. Azerbaijan is a small country nestled northwest of Iran, east of Turkey and Armenia, south of Georgia and Russia, and west of the Caspian Sea.
I knew that Iran and Azerbaijan shared many similar recipes, and I enjoyed reading Feride’s blog and learning more about her beautiful culture.
Feride, like many other talented food bloggers, had a dream about sharing her recipes with the world and wanted to publish a cookbook. Big publishers felt there wasn’t a market for an Azerbaijani cookbook even though there was not a single Azerbaijani cookbook in existence. So Feride decided to self publish her cookbook, Pomegranates and Saffron.
And what a cookbook it is! Feride has won several awards: 2014 Winner of Gourmand Best in the World Award, U.S. Winner of Gourmand World Cookbook Award (Eastern European Cookbooks category), Living Now Book Award – Silver Medalist (Ethnic Cookbooks category), and National Indie Excellence Award Winner (International Cookbooks Category).
Feride took on the challenge of researching and documenting recipes from every region of Azerbaijan. Again, let’s look at the map where Azerbaijan is located and see how many countries surround this little nation. It is fascinating to read and see how all of these countries have influenced Azerbaijani cuisine in their own unique way.
Pomegranates and Saffron includes over 200 recipes for appetizers and salads, soups and stews, pasta, meat, vegetable and egg dishes, breads, saffron rice pilafs, aromatic drinks, and desserts. And many of the recipes featured are exclusively Azerbaijani, and not originally from another country.
So, yes, you can tell I’m a big fan of Feride. And when I saw that Melissa’s Produce was hosting a demo for Feride and her cookbook, I knew I had to attend and meet Feride in person.
Why you should try this recipe
I was happy to see this Azerbaijani Sweet Milk Bread (Shirin Chorek) was included in her book (this is the bread featured at the top of the post). This beautiful yellow sweet bread is made with turmeric and not saffron. Turmeric offers a subtle flavor with its brilliant color.
This sweet milk bread is traditionally baked for special holidays like Nowruz, but you can bake it anytime you want because I am sharing you the recipe. You can read more about shirin chorek on Feride’s blog.
I made this for my son’s 3rd grade class several years ago. The students were learning about many different countries throughout the school year and were able sample foods from those countries. When they came to “visit” Azerbaijan, I made a large loaf of this sweet milk bread.
Not only was it a gorgeous bread, look at that golden yellow from the turmeric! But this bread was truly delicious and all the children ate it up. No leftovers to bring home!
Ingredients you need
- Yeast: You can use active dry yeast (which needs to bloom in warm liquid) or instant yeast, which does not require a warm liquid to bloom.
- Milk: I used whole full fat milk.
- Turmeric powder: The golden color of this bread is from turmeric powder. There really isn’t a substitute for this spice. You can now find turmeric in stores and online.
- Eggs: For baking, I always use large eggs.
- Unsalted butter: If you use salted butter, omit the salt in the recipe.
- Poppy seeds: If you don’t have poppy seeds, you can use sesame or chia seeds.
- Pantry staples: All purpose flour, sugar, salt
1. This recipe for shirin chorek is made with yeast, yielding a very soft and delicious bread. Dissolve the yeast in warm milk and let it stand for 5 minutes. Then add this to a bowl containing flour, turmeric, eggs and melted butter.
2. The dough end up with at first is very sticky. Knead it on a flat surface until elastic and smooth. Working this bread dough is just like kneading and working regular bread dough. It requires some patience and a little bit of muscle. But, like all freshly baked bread, the work is well worth it!
3. Once the dough is smooth and not sticky, it is time to let it rise. My oven has a proof temperature and it has been a game changer for my bread baking. Just find a warm spot for your bread to rise until double in size.
4. Once the dough has risen, you can divide them into two smalls to make 2 small disks of bread, or make one giant flat bread. Form the flattened bread disks and place on a baking sheet. Cover the bread again and let it rise again.
5. Now we are ready to get baking! Brush with bread disks with an egg wash and trace out a cross-hatch pattern onto the dough. Sprinkle with poppy seeds and bake.
Recipe tips and FAQs
Working with yeast can be tricky, especially if you are making bread in a cold kitchen. Look for a sunny window or a warm room for your bread to proof. I have left bread dough to proof in my bedroom because that was the warmest room I could find that day!
When working with yeast bread dough, you need a warm room for the bread to rise. This temperature is about 75ºF (24ºC). Some ovens have the option to proof, which makes this process even easier.
Saffron and turmeric and completely different spices. They have different aromas and flavor profiles and can NOT be interchanged in recipes.
Turmeric powder a bright yellow-orange spice that comes from the root of a plant in the ginger family (Zingiberaceae), Curcuma longa. It is as a dye, in alternative medicine and in cooking.
- 2 ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
- 2 cups warm milk, divided
- 6 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 ¾ cups sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 large eggs
- 7 oz unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
- In a small bowl, combine yeast and 1 cup warm milk. Let it stand for 5 minutes until foamy.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, sugar, salt and turmeric.
- Make a well in the center and pour in milk-yeast mixture along with 1 cup warm milk, 1 egg, and melted butter.
- Using your hands, mix until a sticky ball forms.
- Transfer the dough onto a flat surface and knead until elastic. In the beginning, the dough will very sticky in the beginning, but it will become less sticky as you continue kneading it.
- The final dough should be fluffy and not very tight, so resist the temptation to add more flour unless the dough is remains sticky after continuously kneading it.
- Shape the dough into a ball and place it back in mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 1 ½-2 hours, or until doubled in size.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Punch the dough down and divide it into 2 equal pieces and shape them into balls.
- Place the balls onto your work surface and flatten with your hands to form into disks 9 inches in diameter and ½ inch (1.2 cm).
- Transfer the disks onto 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
- Cover the bread again with a clean kitchen towel and let it rise again for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- Right before baking, whisk 1 egg in a small bowl.
- Brush the tops of the breads with egg mixture.
- Using the back of a fork, press across the top of the bed creating a cross hatch pattern.
- Scatter poppy seeds over the top.
- Bake in the center of the oven until golden, 30 to 35 minutes. If you can't fit two baking sheets on one rack, place one sheet on the lower rack, and another on the top rack, bake for 15 minutes, then switch and bake until ready.
- Remove from the oven. Allow to cool completely, then cut into pieces and serve.
Serving Size:1 wedge
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 193Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 26mgSodium: 32mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 1gSugar: 11gProtein: 4g
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Disclosure: I was provided a cookbook to review, but no additional compensation. I paid for the cookbook that I am giving away.The opinions I expressed here are my own. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t blog about it!