I was first introduced to Georgian food when I was studying abroad in the USSR in 1990 at a restaurant in Moscow called, if I recall correctly, Kavkaz. We sat around a long table and were treated to a small version of a legendary Georgian feast - small, but we were there for several hours and ploughed through many bottles of Georgian wine.
Although I enjoyed all of the dishes, especially the Chicken Satsivi, my favorite was the platter of Khachapuri which they served to us as part of the appetizer course. These cheese-filled boat-shaped breads had come straight from the brick oven and were viciously, piping hot, but we fell on them, ripping them apart and enjoying the stringy, gooey mixture of Georgian cheeses, most likely sulguni and imeruli.
I've always wanted to recreate it at home, but never got around to it until yesterday as I was snowed in by this winter storm. I knew there was no way I'd find the special cheeses without a trip into Brooklyn's Brighton Beach, "Little Odessa," so I did the next best thing: I improvised, and with pretty tasty results.
For the dough:
- ½ cup warm water (check your package or jar of yeast for the correct temperature range)*
- pinch of sugar
- ½ teaspoon dry yeast
- 1¼ - 1½ cups all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ tablespoon olive oil
- 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, crumbled
- 4 ounces shallot and chive Boursin (herbed goat cheese is also good, about 3 ounces)
- Approximately 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs - I like thyme and oregano
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- Cornmeal for dusting
- Sea salt and cool water for glazing
- Place the warm water, sugar and yeast in a bowl and let sit until the yeast is foamy and has "bloomed," about 5 minutes. Add ½ cup of flour and stir to incorporate well. Add the salt, olive oil and stir well. Add enough of the remaining flour and stir until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl and form a rough ball.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Place the ball of dough in an oiled bowl, turning to coat evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise, about an hour or until doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 450 and prepare a cookie sheet by lining it with parchment paper and sprinkling it with cornmeal. Mix together the filling ingredients and set aside.
- Once the dough has risen to twice its original size, lightly sprinkle your work space with more cornmeal. Punch the dough to release the gas and turn it out onto the cornmeal. Flatten the dough into an oblong, slightly oval shape. Mound the cheese filling on the dough, leaving a 1-inch border of dough along the edges.
- Fold the edges over to make a thick rim. The bread should look somewhat like a boat.
- Bake in a preheated oven for 12 - 15 minutes, until the bread has started to brown on the edges and the cheese is nice and melty.
- Serve immediately.