January 12, 2013

Khachapuri: Georgian Cheese Bread

There are quite a number of types of khachapuri, and this one is generally referred to as Ajarian (Acharuli/Adjaruli). There are also round Imeruli, kubdari (which also contains meat), Megruli (which has extra cheese on top), Ossuri (also contains potato), and many other intriguing looking variations.

I'd been wanting to try this for ages. As a lifelong fan of all combinations of bread and cheese, and as someone who enjoys a nice eggy filling, in retrospect it's kind of a surprise that it took me this long.

I usually bring freshly made bread to housewarming events. However, I had been eyeing a few recipes with intent* prior to my friend Lisa's housewarming / birthday party, and decided that this Khachapuri recipe (from Everyday Russian) was the perfectly over-the-top bread to bring to the a housewarming party that was also a celebration of a significant birthday.

* When I say "with intent", you can imagine the same sort of intent that a kitty has, when crouched low, eyes fixed on target, and tail twitching with increasing agitation. That kind of intent.

So, in order to prevent myself from chickening out at the last moment, I told everyone that this is what I would bring. And so, I did. Here's the various stages of first-time Khachapuri-making, in pictures:

Mix up the dough (link for recipe) and let it rise - the dough is quite similar to a rich challah dough, full of egg and quite yellow (although, that may depend on your eggs):

Meanwhile, mix up the filling of cheese (I used a combination of grated full-fat mozzarella and crumbled feta), butter, and hard-boiled eggs, mashing everything together into a crumbly mass:

Divide risen dough into four pieces.

Roll out one piece of dough into a large circle, as though you were making a thin pizza crust, and cover the dough with a quarter of the filling, leaving a bare dough perimeter.

Beginning at the near side, start to roll the dough up over the filling, as though you were making a jelly-roll. Stop rolling just before you get to the middle:

Beginning from the far side, roll the dough up over the filling, again stopping before you get to the middle, so that there is a little window of filling:

Pinch and fold the unrolled ends to make a little boat shape:

Place the boats on a foil-lined baking sheet, and let rise for another 20 minutes or so (this step seems to be missing from the original recipe), then brush with beaten egg so that the finished bread will have a shiny golden brown glaze to it:

Bake at 425 F for approximately 20 minutes, or until puffed, golden, and delicious looking.

I failed to take a close up of one of the breads once it was sliced and ready to serve at the party, but I can say with confidence that they were very well received indeed, and definitely take a place of pride as a fun and somewhat unusual (in these parts, at least) item to bring to any event. I'm quite keen to make this again, hopefully soon. I might even devour them all myself!

Apparently, in many places there is a further step of sliding a raw egg into the middles, and putting them back in the oven until the egg is cooked to your liking. This seems to be a breakfast iteration, and is very popular in cafes - which makes perfect sense, as someone else gets to get up early to make the dough. I imagine you could cobble together some sort of advance preparation and hold them in the fridge until ready to cook, but frankly even the idea of that makes me a little nervous, and would take up a lot of precious real estate in my tiny fridge. Perhaps some of the more adventurous bread bakers out there can let me know if they've had success with such a method.

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