If you follow me on Twitter, you know that my account there is mostly Eurovision with a smattering of blog promo. Imagine my surprise when I found another American Eurofan, who tweets mostly about Eurovision, but who also runs a food blog! Tony of The Market Chefs has become a good friend since I decided to be more active on Twitter, and my Twitter family has really helped me handle the stress of lockdown (yes, I consider myself under lockdown, y’all are crazy having weddings and parties, etc.). One way we’re beating the stress of COVID is through weekly food challenges that highlight a dish from a foreign country. Perfect for my #GentGoesGlobal series, right? Tony threw the first one out at me: Georgian Khachapuri.
Khachapuri is something that I’ve always wanted to make, but always been too afraid to attempt. I hate bread making. I’m always worried my dough is too sticky, or that I’ll overwork it, or underprove it, or tear it when I roll it out, or leave it too thick and it won’t cook, etc etc. Paul Hollywood haunts my nightmares. I burst a glass pan trying to create a steam bath to bake bread in and have never looked back. But if a friend challenges me, I have to rise to the occasion, so of course I gave it a shot.
We decided to celebrate Georgia (the state) turning blue in the election by baking khachapuri from Georgia (the country). I chose to take it literally, and add blueberry stilton to my cheese mixture for the filling. I thought I might have ruined the dish by adding the sweet element, but honestly it added an extra oomph that turned the concept of the dish from a fatty, savory appetizer (or entrée, live your life) to that delicate zone between dinner and dessert. The saltiness of the cheese mixed with the sweetness of the blueberries, while the mozzarella gave it stretch and chew. I tried a version both with the egg (as is customary) and without the egg, and decided I liked both equally. At this point, I’d like to kindly ask forgiveness from any Georgians who are scandalized at anything I’ve done with what could be called their national dish. I promise I have the utmost respect for the original version! But how did khachapuri become the national dish of Georgia in the first place? While yours bakes, let’s find out.
There are many varieties of khachapuri. The boat-shaped one that I made from Tony’s recipe is one of the most common – Adjaruli khachapuri. Other kids are filled with potatoes, onions, meat, different cheeses, or made with puff pastry instead of bread. But it’s Adjaruli khachapuri, with its egg and butter topping and reputation as a hangover food full of carby goodness, that has captured the hearts of tourists and native Georgians alike. One author described it in 1999 as “the original fast food in Georgia,” because of your ability to find it in cafes throughout the country.
Georgian food has grown prominent among former Soviet nations, and versions of khachapuri can be found in places such as Russia and Armenia. Even Georgian Jews have taken their food to Israel, where khachapuri has become a popular brunch food. As travel and tourism has gained popularity in the Caucasus region, more and more people are being exposed to the wonders of this simple but hearty food. And of course, even people like me that travel with their stomach rather than their wallet have fallen in love with it!
Khachapuri enjoys the status of being one of the Intangible Cultural Heritages of Georgia. That title alone is a massive advertising slogan for it. Once I tried it, I realized it wasn’t nearly as hard as I feared. Just follow the instructions, and you’ll have your own cheesy bread boat in no time! My recipe is for my bastardized blueberry version, but never fear – I’ll let you know what you need to do to make it more authentic. I hope you enjoyed this little dive into a region that many Americans don’t know much about. If you like this, I can promise another dish from the region coming very soon. Where is it from? What is it? I’ll answer in time – for now, dig into your cheese bread!
Until next time, here’s to good drinking, great eating, and even better living.
- Rolling pin
- 1.5 cups bread flour
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/8 cup milk
- 4 oz mozzarella
- 4 oz blueberry Stilton
- 3 eggs (two to top the boats, one for an egg wash)
- 2 small pats of butter
- To make the dough, add the flour, salt, and yeast to a large mixing bowl. Add the water and milk and stir until the dough is fully moistened and no more flour is on the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 10-15 minutes, until smooth and elastic (and less sticky – you can add a few pinches of flour if your dough is too wet).
- When the dough is ready, shape it into a ball and add it back to the mixing bowl with a drizzle of olive oil to prevent sticking. Cover and leave in a warm place to double in size, about an hour.
- Preheat your oven to 450°F. When your dough has doubled, punch it back and turn it out onto a floured work surface. Split in two and roll each out into an oval shape (add a few more pinches of flour if your dough is too sticky to roll and knead for a few minutes). Take the top and bottom of the oval and roll in towards the center, leaving space for filling and twisting the ends to seal them into the boat shape.
- Add the mozzarella and Stilton to the center of your boats and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Beat one of the eggs and brush onto the edges of the boats. Bake for around 15 minutes – the bread will still look a little pale, but don't worry. Make a well in the molten cheese and crack an egg into each boat before putting back in the oven for 5-6 minutes.
- Serve these cheesy breads hot and fresh! Add the pats of butter to the top, then tear off chunks of bread to dip into the hot cheese and egg, and enjoy!
- This recipe is adapted from my friend Tony’s at The Market Chefs. To make this more traditional, replace the blueberry Stilton with feta and add some cracks of seasoning like black pepper, or your favorite spice blend at the end!
- Research for this article came from here, here, and here.