these mildly sweet little buns are brioche-like but with a different taste than the commonly known french type — it is one of the eastern mediterranean, namely turkey, armenia and greece. flavoured with mahlep, the ground kernals of a particular (wild) cherry tree, these breads are served with strong coffee and enjoyed with preserves and sometimes kaymak which is a very thick cream, something like that of english devon cream. the mahlep cannot be replaced and there is no substitute for it. do seek it out and give it a try. we also add orange flower water to these and sometimes a bit of cinnamon mixed with allspice but only in a very small amount.
makes 7 buns (recipe can be doubled)
1 tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp water
4 tbsp butter or margarine, melted (or oil)
4 tbsp milk or soymilk
1 large egg
3 tbsp sugar
2 capfuls orange flower water (opt)
1 1/2 c ap flour
1 tsp mahlep
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg yolk + 2 tsp milk or water
sesame seeds (and/or nigella seeds)
place yeast and water in a small bowl and let sit 10 minutes.
in the meantime, melt the butter in the microwave or on stovetop (only just to melt — don't make it scorching hot). add the milk and sugar only and mix well. once the mixture is only warm, add the eggs and orange flower water, if using, and mix well again.
add the yeast mixture and stir again. set aside.
in a medium bowl, mix together the flour, mahlep*, baking powder and salt. mix well with a whisk.
*make sure to pulverize the mahlep completely or pass it through a fine sieve as it tends to clump. this is very imporant.
add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix well.
add the rest of the flour mixture and knead for about 2 or 3 minutes. it should be a soft dough and feel a bit greasy but not sticky. as you knead more, it will become less sticky (it may be initially when you start kneading it).
place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap. cover the tea towel with a plastic bag and let everything rise for about 1 1/2 hours. it needs to double. i usually place it above a smaller bowl filled 1/3 of the way with boiling water to keep the dough warm as it proves.
once doubled, take the dough out of the bowl and deflate it slightly.
cut 7 equal pieces of dough and roll them into balls. make sure they are nice and round. if you have handled the dough a lot before cutting, it is harder to make nice cohesive balls of dough. it can still be done however.
cover them and let them sit for 10 minutes.
take one of the balls and flatten it into a disc shape.
with your thumb, press a small hole into the center of the dough and almost all the way through.
place the disc on a parchment lined or greased baking sheet and press again into the disc to make the hole open up all the way through.
continue with the rest of the dough, leaving space in between.
cover the baking sheet with a tea towel and let it rise for another hour. tedious yes, but necessary or they won't puff up properly. i've made these countless times and they are always smaller if i don't prove them fully.
after 30 minutes of proving, heat the oven to 350 F.
before placing the churik in the oven, make your eggwash and coat them fully. sprinkle sesame seeds and/or nigella seeds all over.
bake them for 20 to 22 minutes until they are just golden brown.
let them cool on a rack.
serve with turkish coffee and jams or preserves. store them in a plastic ziploc type bag and they will stay fresh for about 2 to 3 days. you can reheat them slightly in the microwave, if you like them warm.