The Khachapuri (cheese bread) Tradition ხაჭაპურის ტრადიცია

GEORGIA
Khachapuri Georgian cheese bread ‘toast’

Khachapuri is a traditional Georgian bread with regional variations. Imeruli khachapuri from Imeretian in western Georgia is the common variation, with a vein of cheese through the middle of a flatbread. Acharuli or Adjaruli from Adjarian is a boat-shaped bread. Other shapes and sizes include Achma khachapuri from Abkhazian, Guruli from Gurian, Megruli from Mingrelian, Ossuri from Ossetian, and Penovani, Rachuli and Svanuri for a total of 53 varieties. 

In her book The Georgian Feast, American academic Darra Goldstein described the bread. ‘Khachapuri is found throughout Georgia in many guises – round, rectangular and boat-shaped. The dough can be yeasty with a thick crust, many-layered and flaky, or tender and cake-like. The bread is usually filled with a fresh, slightly sour cheese like imeruli or suluguni, but salty cheeses like bryndza may also be used … even the smallest towns have hole-in-the-wall cafés where piping hot khachapuri may be consumed on the spot or taken out.’

In 2018 Levan Qoqiashvili discovered 83 versions (53 varieties and 30 fillings). These include beans, mushrooms, onions and potatoes, and this revelation crushed the purist attitude that khachapuri is a ‘cheese bread’ and only authentic with a cheese filling. 

‘I often thought, which Georgian dish is worthy of national dish status? We interviewed about 500 people and almost all of them named khachapuri. Then I shared my idea to start exploring the dish with my friend, writer Diana Amphiamid. The first questions that popped into our minds was when was the first khachapuri prepared and which utensil was used for its preparation? In order to find it out, we teamed up with a historian and an archaeologist. We also had other questions during research, for example, approximately when Georgians started cultivating wheat and which are Georgian wheat species.’

Georgians insist that the dough is the secret to a successful khachapuri, not the shape and not the filling, and each home baker has their own secret recipe for the dough. Generally the dough is  made with matzoni (the Caucasian fermented milk), although kefir or yoghurt are appropriate substitutes. Milk is preferred in some recipes. The ratio between dough and filling varies from region to region, and from baker to baker. 

Matzoni 

500 ml milk
15 ml matsoni / sour cream (for the first batch)

Heat milk, pour into a bowl or pot, leave to cool, add matsoni or sour cream, stir. Cover the bowl or pot, wrap it in a warm towel for three hours, refrigerate. 

Dough 1

1 kg white wheat flour
400 ml matzoni / kefir / yoghurt
1 egg 
50 g butter, melted
20 g yeast, dissolved in 30 ml warm milk
5 g salt

Dough 2

1 kg white wheat flour
20 g yeast, dissolved in 500 ml warm milk or water
150 g butter
15 g sugar
5 g salt

Dough 3

900 g white wheat flour
400 g butter
300 ml water, warmed
1 egg
3 tbsp oil
3 tbsp vinegar

Filling for doughs 1 and 2

1 kg Suluguni cheese / Mozzarella cheese, grated
2 eggs
100 g butter
Salt, large pinch

Filling for dough 3

1.2 kg curd cheese / soft cheese
3 eggs

Finish for dough 2 and 3

2 eggs, whipped
Oil, for hands

For doughs one and two combine wet and dry ingredients. Knead into a smooth dough, rest for 4 hours. Divide into four pieces. With oiled hands shape into rectangles or rounds, roll out 1 cm thick and spread each piece with an equal amount of cheese mixture. Alternatively place cheese mixture on each piece, collect edges and bring them into the middle to form an envelope, then roll out 1 cm thick and egg wash. Place on oiled trays, leave to rise for 30 minutes. Bake at 300ºC for 10 minutes.

For dough three combine flour, warm water, egg, oil and vinegar to form a smooth dough. Divide butter into three parts. Roll out the dough, 2 cm thick smear surface with one third of the butter, fold into an envelope. Place in refrigerator for an hour. Take the cold dough and roll it out again, smear second third of butter over the surface, fold into an envelope and refrigerate for an hour. Repeat this process with the final third of butter. Oil a tray and preheat oven to 240ºC. Divide the dough into two pieces, roll out the first dough to the size of the tray. Place it on the tray. Whip eggs into the cheese, pour onto the layer of dough in the tray. Roll out the second dough to the size of the tray, place on top of the cheese-egg mixture. Wash surface with egg. Bake for ten minutes.

Other Fillings

Bean

1 kg beans
200 g butter
20 g green peppercorns, ground
20 g salt

Cheese

1.2 kg cheese
4 eggs
30 g butter
20 g green peppercorns, ground

Onion

900 g onions
120 g red pepper paste
75 ml sunflower oil
60 ml pomegranate molasses
10 g salt

Potato

1.2 kg potatoes, cooked, mashed
200 g butter
30 g salt
20 g green peppercorns, ground