Georgia: Khachapuri (Cheese Bread)

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At the Farmer's Market in Madison, there's a cart on one of the corners that sells cheese bread. At regular intervals, one of the guys yells out, "HOT! Sp-icy cheese breaaaad!" It wasn't until last year that I finally tried some of the Hot! Spicy! Cheese bread! and it was awesome.

I was excited to know that something called "Khachapuri," listed as one of Georgia's national dishes, was cheesy bread! Granted, it's not exactly the same as the kind sold at the Farmer's Market (which is just melted cheese enveloped in bread). Khachapuri comes in many varieties, but this type (Imeritian Khachapuri) is the most common. Khachapuri is made into large loaves for special occasions, but is sold in smaller quantities ("beggars purses") by street vendors.



Khachapuri (from Recipezaar.com)
Dough
-1 cup milk, scalded (heated until bubbled form around edges, and wisps of steam come off the milk)
-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
-1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
-1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
-1 1/2 teaspoons salt
-2 teaspoons instant yeast
-3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Filling

-2 cups cheese (Monterey Jack, Sharp Cheddar or Muenster)
-1 cup ricotta cheese or cottage cheese or goat cheese
-2 large eggs
-2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
-1/2 teaspoon salt, if needed (depends on how salty your cheese is to start with--do a taste test)
-1/2-1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
-1 teaspoon paprika

1. Heat the butter and milk in a small saucepan, or in the microwave, till the butter has melted. Put the sugar, 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.

2. 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. **NOTE: If you do not have instant yeast, you will need to wait for the yeast to proof before adding the flour. Because of the warmth and the sugar, the yeast will have a microbial fiesta, as pictured below.


What yeast looks like when it's happy. Or when it's colonizing a new planet.


3. 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 1/2 hours, or until it increases in size by at least one-third.

4. If you have a food processor, use it -- it's ideal for this filling. Cube the hard cheese, add the soft cheese, and process until well-mixed but some chunks remain. Add the eggs, flour and seasonings, and pulse just to mix thoroughly. Refrigerate until ready to use. If you don't have a food processor, grate the hard cheese, and beat in the soft cheese and eggs. Continue beating, adding the flour and seasonings. Refrigerate until ready to use. (**NOTE: I just bought a bag of shredded cheddar and tossed it in the processor).

5. 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.



6. 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.



7. 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.


Cheese Avalanche!


-Makes 2 loaves
-Calories: If you cut a loaf into 8 wedges (which are pretty good sized), each slice will have approximately 210 calories. 38% of those calories come from fat, so obviously, this is not the greatest recipe for you. However, it does make a tasty treat that will not completely kill your diet if you have one slice.

Verdict: This was not exactly what I hoped for, but it was good. I may have over-kneaded the bread (the dough is a bit dry), or it may have browned too quickly, but parts of it were drier than I would've liked. Also, as is evident from the photo of the finished bread, I did not do Step 6 well enough. Make sure that the hole at the top is TINY (that is, much, much smaller than the ball you've pinched off). Otherwise, you will end up with a cheese volcano like I did. This didn't affect the taste, only the appearance.

5 comments:

Andrea said...

Wow this intrigues me greatly!!! I love cheese bread but I've never seen anything like this, with a cheese stuffing. I'm about ready to fire up my food processor and make a batch of this ASAP. Cheese + bread = delicious :)

Heather said...

I know! Can't believe I hadn't tried something like this sooner.

Talita said...

So different! I've never heard about a bread like this. Looks delicious!

Heather said...

Hi Talita--Welcome to the blog! I would definitely recommend giving the bread a whirl. :)

Lo said...

That hot spicy cheese bread at the market does rock. But, this... I'm going to admit... is looking pretty darned good. But really, who can argue with cheese & bread together??!!

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