This bread, associated with Easter and made by our neighborhood Armenian bakery during my childhood, was a special breakfast treat for us, when we’d eat it with homemade fig jam.
1package or 1tablespoondry yeast
2teaspoons ground mahlab
1cup/240g whole milk
1cup/225gunsalted butter, melted, or (240ml) oil
4½–5½cups/540g–660gunbleached (all-purpose) flour, sifted with 1teaspoonbaking powder
1tablespoonpoppy or sesame seeds
In a mixer bowl, dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup/60ml warm water. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Add the eggs, sugar, honey, mahlab, milk, and butter, and mix for 1 minute.
Gradually add 4½ cups/500g of the flour mixture, 1 cup/100g at a time, and mix until you have a sticky dough (about 10 minutes).
Turn the sticky dough in a well-oiled bowl to ensure it is coated evenly in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and a dish towel, and allow it to rise overnight at room temperature.
Turn out the dough on a floured surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed. Divide the dough into 3 balls. Working with 1 ball of dough at a time, divide it into 3 equal parts. Roll each part into a rope about 12 inches long. Secure the ropes at one end, then braid the 3 equal ropes together. Place this braid on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Follow the same procedure to braid the 2 remaining dough balls. Cover with a moist towel and let the braids rise again, at room temperature, for another hour.
Place the oven rack in the middle and preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Make the egg wash in small bowl by mixing together the egg yolks and water. Brush the tops with the egg wash and sprinkle the top with poppy or sesame seeds.
Place the baking sheets, 1 at a time, in the oven, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown and a tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack. Serve either warm or at room temperature, or store in plastic wrap. Nush-e Jan!