So is anyone else, apart from me, enthralled by the Winter Olympics in Sochi at the moment?
Whether you are a sports fan or not, I believe these Olympic games offer so much for the spectator. Whether you are an ice hockey fan, a keen skier, a daredevil, a speed junky, or are fascinated by the entrancing figure skating, there is something for everyone here. All the competitors show such unreserved, complete dedication and some go that extra mile. Take the Indian (Independent) Skeleton Competitor, who practises on the hillside roads of India, having never practised on the ice track. Or the 43 year old Peruvian cross country skier who only took up skiing in 2005 and completed the race with a broken rib…just amazing! You can see I am hooked…
Another thing has struck me is how young the competitors are – the 15 year old Russian figure skater, or the 17 year old Japanese half pipe snowboarder – gosh, how old do I feel?
So, what is the relevance to this bake I hear you mutter? Well, it is two fold actually.
Last summer, my brother, who until recently was living in Moscow, challenged me to bake these Khachapuri breads on my blog. He enjoyed his time living in Russia and fully sampled and appreciated the regional cuisine. These breads are something he missed on his return and thought it would be fun for me to try. To be honest, I kept putting this bake off until the wintertime, when we tend to crave more rich, starchy foods. With the eyes of the world on Russia and the Olympics, now is the time to make this traditional cheese filled bread from Georgia (a neighbouring country to Russia).
So a little about this bread. Khachapuri is a traditional dish of bread filled with cheese, milk and eggs. It can be shaped in various ways and I have made the Acharuli Khachapuri, whereby the dough is formed into an open boat shape and the hot cheese mixture is topped with a raw egg and is then lightly baked further.
Whether you are used to making bread dough or not, this recipe is straightforward. No fancy pans are required just a regular baking tray. In terms of ingredients, this dough does not contain salt, which is unusual in bread making. I had assumed that the saltiness would come from the cheese, which indeed it did. Typically a Georgian cheese called Sulguni – a pickled cheese with a consistency of a Dutch cheese – is used. I used feta and Gouda cheese as a substitute and it worked beautifully. I adapted the recipe slightly by increasing the fluid content a little (I like wet doughs!) and by adding a 1/2 teaspoon to give the bread a golden hue.
This bread is actually a meal in itself. Typically, the egg on top should be just cooked and you are meant to mix it through the cheese, add butter and eat fresh from the oven with a knife and fork. We actually sliced it when it was a little cooler and ate it with cold meats. It would be lovely with a fresh coleslaw or red cabbage. The Khachapuri is a very flavoursome and satisfying bake.
So I urge you to go to give this a try. Grab the remote, tune in to the Olympics, pick your winter sport, and sample a little regional cuisine in your own home!
For other information and culinary ideas from Georgia, see www.georgiaabout.com
- 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 120ml water, tepid
- 5g fast action yeast
- 120ml milk
- 1 egg, beaten
- 25ml vegetable oil
- 200g Gouda cheese, grated
- 200g feta cheese, crumbled
- 40g butter, softened
- 4 eggs
- 1 egg yolk, for brushing
- In a large bowl, or the bowl of a freestanding mixer, add the flour and sugar and combine.
- In a separate small bowl, add the tepid water to the yeast. Stir and leave for about 5 minutes in order for the mixture to become a little frothy. Add the water/yeast mixture, milk, beaten egg and oil to the flour mixture and combine by hand, or with a dough hook, until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a ball and cover with a tea towel. Allow to prove for a couple of hours, or until the dough has at least doubled in size.
- Lightly flour a work surface and tip the proved dough onto it. Knead for about 5 minutes and then divide the dough into two. Line two baking trays with baking parchment and sprinkle them with a little flour. Shape the divided dough into two flat 'boat'/oval shapes and place on the prepared baking trays. Leave for a further 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 240 degrees C, or Gas Mark 8 and prepare the filling. In a bowl, crumble the feta cheese, grate the Gouda, add the butter and two eggs. Mix together with a fork until well combined.
- Divide the filling equally between the two dough portions. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving about a 5cm perimeter, clear of filling. Wrap the two long sides into the middle, leaving the filling open and visible. Wrap the ends tightly to secure. The bread should look 'boat-like'. Repeat with the second dough and filling.
- Reduce the oven to 220 degrees C, Gas Mark 7. Bake both loaves for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven. Brush the loaves with the egg yolk. Break an egg onto the top of each of the loaves and return to the oven for 3 minutes. Remove from the oven.
- Serve hot or warm with additional butter, if desired.
Source: Adapted quantities from ‘Georgia About’, www.georgiaabout.com