As long-time readers of TFD know, I am a zealous advocate of Georgian food (the proud country of Georgia as opposed to the equally proud state, whose food I also love). There are several Georgian recipes already listed on TFD, and here is the latest and perhaps the most well-known outside of the country: Khachapuri, aka Georgian Cheese Bread!
Think of Khachapuri as a calzone (but made of bread) and you’re not too far off – it’s stuffed with local cheese that is like a very tangy mozzarella and in some cases finely chopped nuts and spinach. My version includes all of these and the proper cheese mix (after much experimentation) to replicate Sulguni, (Georgian: სულგუნი) which is the Georgian cheese used in this recipe. It has a tangy, moderately salty flavor, a dimpled texture, and an elastic consistency.
According to a 2009 survey, 88% of Georgians prefer khachapuri to pizza. As a Georgian staple food, the price of making a khachapuri is used as a measure of inflation in different Georgian cities by the Khachapuri index, developed by the International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University.
Khachapuri achieved cult status outside of Georgia during the difficult Soviet years of Russia and the other members of the USSR. Moscow in particular had a dreary food scene, but the one bright spot were the few illicit and privatized Georgian restaurants that sprang up. Bread being a Russian favorite, Khachapuri became a celebrated dish throughout the USSR and remains so to this very day in Russia. For example, it was reported that 175,000 khachapuris were consumed during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Finding real khachapuri in the U.S. and in most places is nearly impossible since the cheese is so hard to replicate. Since my version hits the bullseye, please do try this recipe and feast upon this delicious ex-patriate from Georgia! 🙂
Battle on – The Generalissimo
Dough (From a King Arthur Flour Recipe):
1 cup (8 ounces) milk, scalded
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon non-diastatic malt powder OR 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon ground coriander seed
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 ¼ cups (12 ¾ ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
8 ounces cream cheese
½ cup minced roasted hazelnuts – you can whiz in a food processor
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
½ teaspoon ground coriander
2 Pinches cayenne
1 teaspoon fenugreek
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cooked spinach
4 ounces feta cheese, roughly crumbled
3 ounces havarti, coarsely grated
1 ounce Mountain gorgonzola, finely crumbled (JH note – most U.S. recipes call for feta, but I think Feta/Havarti/Blue is a closer taste to the original)
8 ounces Armenian string cheese or mozzarella, coarsely grated
Dough: Heat the butter and milk in a small saucepan, or in the microwave, till the butter has melted. Put the malt powder, coriander and salt in a medium-sized bowl, and pour the hot milk over them, stirring to combine and to dissolve the malt or sugar. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.
Add the instant yeast and flour to the milk mixture and stir to form a shaggy mass. Set this rough dough aside for 30 minutes.
Knead the dough until it’s smooth — in a bread machine set on the dough cycle, about 2 minutes in a food processor, 6 to 8 minutes by electric stand mixer, or 8 to 10 minutes by hand. Put the dough in a greased bowl, turn it over to coat the entire surface, and cover the bowl. Let the dough rise for 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until it increases in size by at least one-third.
For the Spinach-Cheese Filling: Mix together the cream cheese, hazelnuts, garlic, cilantro, coriander, cayenne, fenugreek, salt, and black pepper. Thoroughly drain the spinach and chop. Mix into the mixture, then fold in the Other cheeses. Set aside until ready to use.
Shaping and Baking: After the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in half (you’ll be making two loaves), and cut a small (1-ounce) piece of dough off of each half. Round all four pieces of dough into balls, and let them rest, covered, for 15 minutes.
Roll each large ball into a 10- to 12-inch circle. Place one circle into a lightly greased small pie tin, 8- or 9-inch round cake pan, or onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Dollop half of the cheese mixture into the middle of the circle, and pull the dough up around the cheese, folding and pinching it, and “pleating” it into a topknot. Leave a small hole in the very center of the knot, and place the small ball in this hole. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Cover the loaves and let them rise for 45 minutes or longer — they’ll look puffy, but not doubled in size. If the pleats have opened, pinch them shut.
Bake the loaves in a preheated 375°F oven for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350°F and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes. When finished, the loaves will be golden brown, and the middle should feel set. Tent the loaves with aluminum foil after 15 minutes if they seem to be browning too quickly. Remove the loaves from the oven, and allow them to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Slice the bread into wedges, and serve it warm, or at room temperature. Yield: 2 round loaves.