I’ve written countless times about khachapuri. This cheese bread is featured in each of my Georgian restaurant reviews at least once, if not more, and it appears on the menus of many Russian restaurants too. I’ve posted my Adjaran version, but I’ve never posted an Imeretian khachapuri, the simplest kind, which consists of a round bread stuffed with cheese. Many would consider it to be Georgia’s national dish
The reason why I’ve waited so long is that I wanted it to be really good. I’m sure I’ve read most of the khachapuri recipes ever published, and I’ve tried a good dozen different formulas. I also had to make my own cheese, which took yet more time to perfect; I’ve posted my takes on Imeretian cheese and sulguni recently.
Nothing’s ever really perfect, but the state I’ve reached satisfies me for now. Before I change my mind and decide to do a few more batches to find more details to improve upon, let’s talk about various criteria of a good Imeretian khachapuri…
- According to Tinatin Mjavanadze’s Georgia with Taste, the cheese should be only Imeretian, so that the khachapuri still tastes good when you eat the leftovers cold. A bread made with sulguni would have the texture of cold pizza, and many people don’t like that. I’m not a supporter of leftover bread, but the goal is still commendable. I’ve made sure my khachapuri’s still great when eaten cold, although I’ve found I can achieve this while still using some percentage of sulguni.
- In the Cookbook of the Soviet Peoples, khachapuri is described as a baked good “with high cheese content”. Pokhlebkin suggests a cheese-to-flour ratio by weight around 2:1, and my formula’s pretty close to that — I use slightly more cheese, even! Yes, it does take an awful lot of cheese to make a khachapuri. I’ve “discarded” (read: forced myself and my family to eat) countless versions that were too doughy.
- Since it’s such a staple, there’s the idea that one should be able to prepare khachapuri quickly if need be. My recipe is indeed quite easy, with a yeast-free dough that contains matsoni (Georgian yogurt), another must-have ingredient. You don’t really have to make your own cheese; a blend of feta and mozzarella works quite well (more on this another time).
- As far as I’m concerned, a good khachapuri should reach what I call the fat saturation point, both in the dough and the cheese mixture. Add more butter to the dough, and it will become too soft. Add more cheese, and you’ll start seeing drops of grease in your cooked khachapuri. The proportions below strike just the right balance.
Yields 2 khachapuri of 9″ diameter
5 oz plain whole milk yogurt
1 1/2 eggs
11 oz flour, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
3.5 oz butter, soft
- Place the yogurt and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment. Add about 2/3 of the flour with the salt and baking powder, and mix over medium speed until homogeneous.
- Add the butter and the rest of the flour, and mix again.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer, and knead the dough by hand for about one minute. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Yields 1 khachapuri of 9″ diameter
- Preheat the oven to 450 F, and place a dish full of water on the bottom rack.
- Slice the Imeretian cheese and sulguni. In a bowl, crumble both cheeses between your fingers. Season with black pepper, and adjust the salt level if necessary — the mixture should taste quite salty, but still be edible! I use an extra 1/4 tsp with my homemade cheeses.
- On a floured surface, roll the dough to an 11″ diameter disc (the shape doesn’t need to be perfect at this point). If you’re a perfectionist, make the edges a bit thinner. Place the cheese mixture in the center.
- Fold the dough over the cheese, just like you would wrap something in a hankerchief. Make sure the overlaps are minimal, otherwise you will end up with some very doughy areas.
- Flip over, and gently roll back to an 9″ diameter disc.
- Transfer the khachapuri to a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. Mix the egg yolk and water in a cup, and brush the dough with the resulting egg wash.
- Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Let cool 5 minutes, then serve.