While Blini and Oladi, Russian Pancakes remains the most visited post on this blog, things are slowly changing. The top post for the past few months has been the Imeretian Khachapuri, followed by the Lángos (another greasy bread!) and the exotic Tajik Qurutob. So in the continued spirit of giving people more of what they want, I’m happy to bring you another cheese bread today, even more decadent than the last: the Mingrelian Khachapuri.
I’ve already written so much about khachapuri (see here, here, here, here, and a little bit here) that I’m not sure there’s anything left to say. For the record, a Mingrelian khachapuri is like an Imeretian khachapuri, but topped with more cheese (typically chkinti-kveli, Imeretian cheese curds), and it originates from the Georgian region of Samegrelo (better known in English as Mingrelia). Even if you travel to Georgia, this is a region you’re rather unlikely to visit. First, it’s adjacent to bellicose Abkhazia, with its mediocre beaches, decrepit Soviet buildings, stolen cars, and drunken locals hurling death threats for no apparent reason. So this is not a place where you’re going to stop on your way someplace else. I believe the border is closed these days anyway, ever since Russia’s latest intervention in attempt to free their Abkhaz brothers. Second, the regional capital, Zugdidi, doesn’t offer many touristic curiosities, except for a couple of palaces and churches, and some elegant Georgian houses in the suburbs (albeit this is still more than the average American state capital). My most vibrant memory is actually of the storm that caused a blackout in the whole area for half of an evening. History buffs might also appreciate that Zugdidi was the administrative center of Zviad Gamsakhurdia‘s government in exile. And third, you can eat Mingrelian khachapuri pretty much anywhere in Georgia — and beyond!
Back to our beloved cheese bread. I used to think my favorite khachapuri was the Adjaran kind, but I’m reviewing my judgement. A well-done Mingrelian khachapuri, with its double dose of cheese, is pretty bad-ass. It’s a piece of primal perfection. I tried to push the limits, but couldn’t do much. What if I add an egg on top? Some olive oil mixed with the cheese, maybe? Nope, completely superfluous. This is simply a duel between the cheese and the bread.
I could tell you to take my recipe for Imeretian khachapuri, add some extra cheese on top, and be done with it. This would produce a perfectly fine Mingrelian khachapuri. But I want to seize this opportunity to showcase a couple variations:
- There are many khachapuri dough recipes. This time, I’m making a yeast dough, adapted from Tinatin Mjavanadze’s Georgia with Taste, which is a bit more flavorful than the quick and easy yeast-free dough I made last time. Note that’s it’s still very different from the pizza-like dough commonly used in Adjaran khachapuri.
- As rewarding as it is to make your own cheese (see here and here), sometimes you just want to buy it at the store. Sadly, even if you live in Brighton Beach, you won’t get the same variety or quality that you find in Georgia. Therefore I’m recommending a blend of cheeses that are readily available: mozzarella and feta, a combination popular with Georgian expats, as it mimics a mix of Imeretian cheese and sulguni pretty well. But for the extra cheese on top, I’m going a step further. Since the original Mingrelian bread calls for cheese curds, let’s use cheese curds too: cheddar curds. If you live in Canada, this is the stuff that goes into poutine, so you can buy it on every street corner. In my experience, cheddar curds are also reasonably available in many parts of the US. In New York, they can be purchased at Murray’s, which also delivers nationwide. With the three cheeses bringing different flavors and textures, now this is a really mean khachapuri!
Yields 2 khachapuri of 23 cm diameter
5 g active dry yeast
80 g milk, lukewarm
5 g sugar
170 g plain whole milk yogurt
30 g egg
300 g bread flour, sifted
75 g melted butter
5 g salt
- In a cup, mix the yeast, milk, and sugar, and let rest for 5 minutes.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, add the yeast mixture, yogurt, egg and 2/3 of the flour, and mix on medium speed until homogeneous. Add the rest of the flour, melted butter, and salt, then mix again for 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rest in a warm place until doubled in volume, for about 1 1/2 hours. I usually keep the bowl on the stovetop, with the oven on on low heat.
- If you have time, punch down the dough, cover, and let rise to the same level again (the second time is usually a bit faster).
Yields 1 khachapuri of 23 cm diameter
200 g fresh mozzarella
100 g Bulgarian feta
flour (to roll the dough)
1/2 (about 315 g) of the yeast dough
150 g cheese curds
- Slice the mozzarella, and let rest on paper towels for 10 minutes to drain out some of the moisture.
- In a bowl, crumble the mozzarella and the feta, mix, and rectify the seasoning.; the mixture should be quite salty (but not inedible!).
- On a floured surface, roll the dough to a 28 cm diameter disc (it doesn’t need to be perfectly round). Add the cheese mixture to form a 15 cm diameter disc in the center.
- Wrap the dough around the cheese mixture, and pinch the extra dough in the center, like you would wrap a handkerchief around a package, shaping it like a drawstring pouch. Lift the whole pouch by the neck, and cut off the extra dough (where the string would be). Be sure to cut off a generous amount of dough: otherwise, the folds in the dough will create areas that contain too much bread and not enough cheese (see picture below).
- Flip the dough, flatten with the palm of your hand, and roll to a 23 cm diameter disc.
- Place a dish filled with water on the bottom rack of an oven heated to 225 C / 450 F, and a pizza stone on the middle rack.
- Transfer the khachapuri to a floured pizza peel. If you don’t have a pizza peel and stone, use a baking sheet. (In a city where pizza parlors of every kind, many boasting wood-fired ovens, can be found in nearly every neighborhood, I don’t find myself making pizza at home very often anymore.)
- Crumble the cheese curds on top, and immediately slide the khachapuri onto the pizza stone.
- Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. You could finish the bread under the broiler for a couple minutes, but in my experience it’s not necessary.
- Let rest for 5 minutes, slice and serve.