Man does not live by bread alone. We need cheese too, and lots of it. And between the bread and the cheese—well, judging by the size of my hips lately, I'm clearly living very well.
I got to pick this month's theme for TwelveLoaves and it will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me even a little that cheese was the first thing that came to mind. Glorious cheese, marvelous cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese. And what could be better than a bread that's literally stuffed with cheese? Not much, I tells ya. Not much. So herewith…Georgian—as in Republic of—Cheese Bread. (I discovered this mighty wonder during intermission at the Met Opera's "Carmen," when I chanced to Google mezzo soprano Anita Rachvelishvili, who's from Georgia, of course. The lesson here: iPad. Never leave home without it. The things you can discover on the interwebs…) If ever there was a bread with my name on it, this was it.
Here are some fun khachapuri facts for you, and pay attention because there may be a pop quiz:
- Khachapuri is one of Georgia's traditional dishes, a national dish according to some.
- It's traditionally made with sulguni cheese, sometimes called the "pickle cheese," for its briny, sour and salty taste.
- Different regions have their own variations. Two of the most popular are Imeretian, which is what I made–a circular stuffed bread, and Adjarian, basically a big open canoe of dough filled with molten cheese and topped with an egg.
- Since khachapuri is such a staple food in Georgia—and the most popular—the International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University developed the Khachapuri Index as measure of inflation, based on the ingredients and energy costs needed to cook one Imeretian khachapuri.
- Khachapuri has become increasingly popular outside of Georgia, including as a brunch food in Israel. It was also reported that 175,000 khachapuris were consumed at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
- Eighty-eight percent of Georgians prefer khachapuri to pizza. What? WHAT?!? Actually, now that I've had it—several times—I kind of don't blame them.
This is good stuff. A golden brown, chewy, butter topped dough surrounding an ooey-gooey filling of molten hot cheese. Oh baby. And while it does reheat well—not that it will last that long—it's definitely best eaten hot out of the oven. Just beware the dreaded pizza burn (hereafter renamed the khachapuri burn). You know, when you eat really hot pizza and torch the living daylights out of that little bit of flesh behind your two front teeth? Don't say I didn't warn you…)
georgian cheese bread (khachapuri)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (a 1/4-ounce package)
- 7 tablespoons warm water (105-115°F)
- 1 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 pound sulguni cheese (traditional) OR
- 1/4 pound Havarti cheese, coarsely grated AND
- 1/4 pound salted mozzarella, coarsely grated
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, melted
- Pour warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle yeast on top, then stir in 1 tablespoon of the flour. Let stand until mixture is foamy.
- Add remaining flour and salt to a large bowl and mix. Add the egg and yeast mixture and stir.
- Flour a work surface, turn the dough out and knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth. Coat dough ball lightly with flour, then place it in bowl, cover and set aside in a warm spot to rise for approximately three hours, punching the dough down every hour.
- Towards the end of the rise time, preheat the oven to 500°F.
- Grate the cheeses, then mix them together and compact them tightly into a 3" ball.
- Flour your work surface and turn out the dough. Roll it into a round about 7" in diameter.
- Place the cheese ball in the center of the dough, then gather the edges over the ball and seal together.
- Flatten the dough ball, pressing the cheese from the center to the edges, then roll out until the round measures approximately 11". Use a toothpick to pop any large air bubbles.
- Line a sheet or pizza pan with parchment, place the dough round on top and slash an X in the top. Bake for about 10–12 minutes or until pale golden. Remove the bread from the oven, brush with butter, then back for another 3–5 minutes, until golden brown.
- Remove from oven, cut into wedges and eat it while it's hot!
Adapted from epicurious.com
Traditionally, khachpuri is made with sulguni cheese. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it ANYWHERE, and trust me, people, I was on a mission. Thankfully, substitutions abound, anywhere from feta to mozzarella to goat cheese…pretty much anything but Cheez-in-a-Can will do the trick, it seems. Every recipe I found suggests something different so feel free to experiment!
I found it a lot easier to roll out the dough rounds, rather than pat and stretch as called for in the original recipe. It also helped to use a toothpick to pop any large air bubbles, because no matter how hard I tried to keep them from happening, there were always a few at the edges. Just press the tiny hole from the toothpick together and no one's the wiser.
What percentage of Georgians prefer khachapuri to pizza? DON'T CHEAT AND SCROLL UP!
- Buttermilk Goat Cheese Biscuits from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Casatiello from Cake Duchess
- Cheddar Chive Bread from Karen's Kitchen Stories
- Cheddar Dill Twists from blackberry eating in late september
- Cheese Babka from Hostess At Heart
- Cheese Soda bread from Ma che ti sei mangiato
- Cream Cheese and Cherry Buns from girlichef
- Feta & Olive Swirls from The Bread She Bakes
- Khachapuri (Georgian Cheese Bread) from A Shaggy Dough Story
- Pimento Cheese Straws from Kudos Kitchen By Renee