Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Khachapuri: Georgian cheese bread

Back in June I was delegated with cooking a Father's Day dinner, and I made this cheese bread, sort of a flat Georgian (as in Tiblisi, not Atlanta) calzone.  I ran into Naomi on the street and was bragging/complaining about having to cook my own dinner that day and I told her what I was making.  She said that I had to send her the recipe for the khachapuri.  I said I would soon, five months have passed, and since today is her birthday, I thought I should finally get around to posting it.

This is lightly adapted from the recipe in Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, which consists mostly of recipes from Greece and Macedonia, Syria, Southeastern Turkey (especially Gaziantep), and Georgia.  Many of Wolfert's later books have been justly criticized for being a pastiche of recipes from magazine articles, and Georgia doesn't really qualify as Mediterranean, but most of the recipes in this book are REALLY good, so who cares.  Believe it or not, I have tried a lot of khachapuri recipes in my day, and this one works the best.  I have modified it by making the crust a bit softer, and the filling a tangier, cheesier (American cheese consumption has tripled since 1970 so this would seem to be consonant with contemporary tastes) and more custardy.

So happy birthday Naomi -- maybe Tabitha will like this.  Most people do:

Kachapuri (Georgian Cheese Bread)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt (lowfat is ok, nonfat isn't, nor is the thick Greek yogurt)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • large pinch salt
  • 6 ounces pound Greek or Bulgarian feta, or a bit more if you want, crumbled
  • 8 ounces fresh salted mozzarella
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • 3 eggs, beaten well
  • 1 tablespoon or a bit more of butter or oil to cook

  1. Set aside 1/4 cup of flour for dusting when you roll out the dough (you may need more). Put another 1/4 cup of flour in a mixing bowl,  blend in the oil and then the yogurt, stirring in the same direction. 
  2. With a fork, mix the remainder of the flour with the cornstarch, baking soda and salt.  Add to the mixture in the other bowl a bit at a time, continuing to stir in the same direction.  When the dough being to adhere, dust with the flour that you set aside cover with a towel and set aside for 2 hours.  You can also put the dough in a plastic bag in the fridge overnight at this point.
  3. Mix the cheeses, salt and pepper (I like it peppery, about 15 turns of the grinder) and the eggs.
  4. Divide the dough in 2 even pieces, and pat one into a flat dish on a floured surface where you can roll it out.  Roll the dough to a circle about 10 inches, flouring the dough and the rolling pin and being careful not to break it.  If you can't get it quite this big, that is OK, just plan on using a bit less of the cheese filling.  
  5. Put half the cheese filling in a disk in the center, leaving a large border around, about 5 inches.  
  6. Bring the four edges of the dough together like an envelope to cover the filling and pinch with your fingers.  Pat into a 7 inch disk. Don't worry if it is not perfectly round. 
  7. Repeat with the remaining dough and cheese.
  8. Heat the butter on low in two 8 or 9 inch nonstick or cast iron skillets and transfer the pies to them, flat bottom side down. 
  9. Cover and cook the pies about 15 minutes,  flip, cover and cook 15 minutes more.  By cooking the seamless side down first the top side will cook lightly, making it less likely that the cheese will leak.  Even if it does when you flip it, don't worry, it will just turn into tasty crusty cheese.
  10. Ideally, these should be served at once, piping hot, but they can also be made in advance, wrapped in foil, and reheated in the oven.  They will even last for a few days in the fridge.  I have never tried freezing them.  
  11. They are traditionally served with tkemali, a Georgian sour plum sauce.  Since this is not readily available, I have served it with prune or rhubarb sauce or a sour Indian chutney out of a jar. It is also just fine by itself. See the recipes below.

One large pie: You can also make a single large pie by rolling the dough into a 14 inch circle and using a large 12-inch skillet to cook it. You will have a pie about 10 inches round. It will look much more impressive, but also be more difficult to  handle, so you are better off making the two pies the first time you try it.

Sauces:  Saute about 3 cloves of sliced garlic in oil until soft but not brown.  Add a sliced fresh red or green chili with the seeds, or 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes.  Add a cup or two of sliced rhubarb (in the spring) or pitted sliced Italian prune plums (in the fall) , 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and if you want it a bit sweet, 1 tablespoon of brown or white sugar.  Cook for about 10 minutes until it becomes a sauce.  Add a handful of chopped fresh coriander and cook a few minutes more.  This chutney also goes nicely with roast chicken. I have never tried it with cranberries in the late fall or winter, but I don't see why it wouldn't work, though I would add more sugar.


  1. Spectacular share. Question...Could I possibly do the chutney component with fresh figs whilst in season? Will definitely try with rhubarb (now!) and with the Quetsche plums we find everywhere in France in the late summer, early fall..I believe they are similar to the Italian variant...small, oval and almost black in hue?
    Thank you so much for your cuisine creativity!

  2. Whoops!..Forgot an important detail!..Is there any yeast in the bread portion of the recipe..or does the baking soda and "resting" period suffice? Loving your detailed, easy to grasp explanation of the process!

    1. ssorry but I just now saw the reply-- Ithink figs would be great, do experiment w the fruit. Re bread, the soda, even the small amount and the resting work fine