Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Khachapuri (Georgian cheese pastry)

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I always loved khachapuri, this incredibly Georgian pastry filled with cheese. Especially the Adjarian version, which is shaped as a boat and holds a gently cooked egg over the melted cheese. Khachapuri cafe is one of my favorite Georgian places in Moscow and a couple of days ago I got lucky to learn to make khachapuri from their chefs. It turned our absolutely doable at home, which felt like magic.



Moscow suddenly became so summery that it's even hard to believe. For a week or so I've been only wearing my favorite summer dresses and kept going to the farmer's market for lovely tomatoes and fresh greens. Evening is the best time of the day as it get's a little cooler - perfect for being outside. That was why I so much loved the idea of TRY&TELL club to gather this Georgian dinner at a summer terrace of Khachapuri cafe.


The dinner brought together some of the most interesting Moscow foodies and bloggers, including Vlad Piskunov, Sergey Milanchikov, Julia Markina, Irada Koryagina and Olga Siutkina, who just published a new book about Soviet cooking. Olga's publisher, Valentina Chemyanskaya was also there. She told me about her job and I felt like speaking to a cookbook publisher from Julie and Julia movie. She loves what she is doing. She actually tests recipes from the books she is working on at her home kitchen. Given that I am now writing my first cookbook, I couldn't wish a meeting happier than that one.


We were slowly gathering and gossiping over delightful Georgian food. Eggplant rolls with walnut stuffing and eggplant pkhali are my old favorites.


I never tried these cheese bags before. Salty leaves of suluguni cheese are filled with nadugi (special Georgian fresh cheese similar to ricotta) mixed with greens. No least good was satsivi (chicken in walnut sauce) and tarhun (chilled tarragon drink).


The active part started a little later. Our khachapuri making class also took place outside and was given by Khachapuri cafe lead chef Dmitry Miliukov and a lovely lady chef Nana, both from Georgia and living in Moscow for a while. They taught us to make the dough and put together two kinds of khachapuri: Imeretian (a round one with cheese inside) and Mingrelian (like Imeretian but with lots of extra cheese added on top). The dream for me would be to also make Adjarian khachapuri, but the dough for it is the same, so I believe I'll figure out how to make it shortly.


It turned out that there is nothing too difficult about making khachapuri. It does take some time though as it's about yeast dough. So plan it for a leisure homey day, when you are in the mood for the kitchen, and go for it. It is so much worth it.


Interestingly enough at Khachapuri cafe they handle yeast dough quite differently from what I'm used to. They let it rise three times before shaping khachapuri (two times in a warm place and the third time very very slowly in the fridge). They explained that letting it rise many times helps to activate the gluten in the dough better. After that they shape khachapuri and bake them immediately (without letting the dough rise once more). Though it sounded odd to me, I absolutely liked the result.


The primary cheese for khachapuri is suluguni. It is not too mature, salty and it melts really well. If it it's not available where you live, I'd look for something similar. I guess mozzarella would do well as a substitute. At Khachapuri cafe they blend suluguni with other fresh Imeretian cheese, but making khachapuri with suluguni only is fine too.


Mingrelian khachapuri (round with cheese inside and on top)

makes 4 khachapuri (24 cm each)

1 portion of khachapuri dough (recipe below)

Cheese stuffing:
400 g suluguni cheese (or other similar cheese, e.g. mozzarella), coarsely grated
200 g Imeretian cheese or more suluguni, coarsely grated
salt to taste

Cheese topping:
400 g suluguni cheese (or other similar cheese, e.g. mozzarella), coarsely grated
2 eggs
salt to taste

Divide the dough into four equal parts. On a floured surface roll each part into a rough round about 24 cm in diameter (you can even do it with your hands without any roller).


Mix the cheeses for the stuffing and add salt, depending on how salty your cheese is. Divide the stuffing into four parts and mound each part in the center of one dough round. 


Lift the sides of the dough round and gather them on top of the cheese, so that you get a bag filled with cheese. Tweak them tightly together with your fingers, to make sure there are no holes.


Flip the stuffed khachapuri upside down. Stab it 4 - 6 times with a wooden stick and roll into a round about 24 cm in diameter again (now it already has cheese inside). Transfer each khachapuri to a baking tray covered with baking paper.


Mix the cheese and eggs for the topping and add salt depending on how salty your cheese is. Spread the mixture on top of the khachapuri. 

Bake at 200C oven for around 15 minutes till the cheese topping melts and crisps up. Take out of the oven, let stand briefly and serve.


Imeretian khachapuri (round with cheese inside)

makes 4 khachapuri (24 cm each)

1 portion of khachapuri dough (recipe below)

Cheese stuffing:
400 g suluguni cheese (or other similar cheese, e.g. mozzarella), coarsely grated
200 g Imeretian cheese or more suluguni, coarsely grated
salt to taste
Optional: 60 g (1 bunch) mixed greens (parsley, dill, spring onions, cilantro), finely chopped
40 g (4 table spoons) butter

Divide the dough into four equal parts. On a floured surface roll each part into a rough round about 24 cm in diameter (you can even do it with your hands without any roller).

Mix the cheeses and greens (if using) for the stuffing and add salt, depending on how salty your cheese is. Divide the stuffing into four parts and mound each part in the center of one dough round. 

Lift the sides of the dough round and gather them on top of the cheese, so that you get a bag filled with cheese. Tweak them tightly together with your fingers, to make sure there are no holes.

Flip the stuffed khachapuri upside down. Stab it 4 - 6 times with a wooden stick and roll into a round about 24 cm in diameter. Make a 1 cm hole in the center. Transfer each khachapuri to a baking tray covered with baking paper.

Bake at 200C oven for around 15 minutes till they are golden brown. Take out of the oven, let stand briefly, brush with melted butter and serve.

Khachapuri dough

makes 4 khachapuri (24 cm each)

400 g (3 cups plus 2 table spoons) all purpose flour
1 tea spoon rapid rise yeast
1.5 tea spoon salt
10 g (1 table spoon) butter
80 ml (1/3 cup) water
320 ml (1 and 1/3 cup) milk

Mix the flour with yeast and salt.

Heat the milk with water and milk till the butter melts and the mixture is a little warmer than your finger.

Add the milk mixture to the flour and mix till combined (either by hand or using the dough hook of electric mixer). Knead the dough for 10 minutes by hand or for 5 minutes using the dough hook of electric mixer.

Knead the dough for 10 minutes by hand or for 5 minutes with a dough hook of electric mixer. Do not skip this step. It really adds to the texture of the baked khachapuri.

Cover the dough and let it stand in a warm place till it doubles in size. It should take 30 - 45 minutes. If it's not very warm at your home, use your oven heated to 30C. Once the dough has risen, knock it back and let it rise in a warm place for the second time. Knock it back again and put it in the fridge for at least one hour (up to 24 hours). Now it's ready to make khachapuri.

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