Imeruli khachapuri might not be as well known outside the country as the more familiar boat-shaped adjaruli version, but it's just as tasty. This cheese filled bread is easy to make, and filled with wonderfully oozing cheese. A delicious treat to enjoy as a snack or for lunch.
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Georgian cuisine (the country, rather than US state) is sadly not all that well known outside of the country, on the whole, but khachapuri is one of the few exceptions. Even if the name doesn't ring a bell, you would probably recognize the boat-shaped adjaruli khachapuri, filled with cheese in the middle and typically an egg on top.
That's not the only version of this cheesy bread, however, and since cheesy bread is hardly something to turn down, it's worth trying some other variations, too. This round style with cheese inside rather than on top is actually the more popular version in Georgia.
Where is Imeruli khachapuri from?
The name "Imeruli" comes from the region this version originates, the Imereti region of central Georgia. You will find it made and sold throughout the country, as well as versions in neighboring former Soviet countries like Russia and Armenia. I remember getting a version of this in the very South of Russia when I was there as a student many years ago now.
Imeruli is also the name of one of the cheeses typically used to fill the bread (also from the region). It is one of the more common cheeses in Georgia, along with sulguni. Some versions of this bread use a mix of both cheeses, others just one - it's as much a matter of taste than anything.
Unfortunately, neither cheese is particularly easy to find outside of Georgia, so you will most likely need to substitute. Sulguni is closest to mozzarella in that it has a stretchy texture when it melts, but it's usually drier than 'proper' mozzarella, so a low moisture mozzarella is about the closest substitute.
For imeruli, feta is the best alternative, in particular a cow's milk one so that it is that bit milder. Alternatively, you could use mainly feta (of any kind) with a bit of ricotta.
Most seem to agree it's worth using a mix of feta and mozzarella to get a mix of the stretchiness and saltiness each gives (sulguni is a little salty, too). Other cheeses you could mix in include some halloumi and/or munster.
Bread dough ingredients
As you can probably tell, this bread consists of two main components: the bread dough and the cheesy stuffing. The dough is a fairly typical yeasted dough so if you do any kind of bread baking, you probably have all the ingredients already.
Here I use milk in the dough rather than water which helps keep the dough soft. Most recipes use as at least some milk as the liquid for this reason - it also adds to the flavor. You can also use some sour cream or yogurt in there in part as well.
For this type of khachapuri, regular all purpose (plain) flour is more common. All purpose flour has a lower level of gluten forming protein. This means it doesn't have quite as much elasticity and chew, which is a better fit here. For Adjuruli style, you use bread flour as it helps with the structure to hold the shape and give more of a crust.
You can make the dough ahead and let it have a slow rise in the fridge for a day rather than a shorter rise at warmer temperature, if that suits your schedule better. As you are nearing the end ofd the rise, mix your filling which is as simple as stirring. You don't have to use an egg, but it does help hold the cheeses together that bit better.
Top tip: watch for holes!
The cheese gets soft as it cooks, so if you have any holes in the dough, it can leak out and get messy. So, try to make sure you don't have any gaps. Squeeze the dough together to seal it around the cheese and watch as you roll out.
The good news is you can fix holes. Just take a bit of dough from a thicker area and patch the hole, press or roll to get it to stick and seal.
Adding the filling
To fill the bread, you want to flatten out the dough in a disk, add the filling in the middle then pinch in the sides to join. Make sure the sides seal over the filling.
Then, turn the dough over and flatten it out with your hands first. This gives you a better feel for the filling - you want to help it spread right across the bread as you flatten out the dough. Then make the bread thinner with a rolling pin. But again, take care the filling doesn't leak out.
You can cook this bread either on the stovetop or in the oven, but on the stove is probably more typical. Use a heavy based, large skillet/frying pan. Don't cook on a high heat, just medium so it browns rather than burns.
While there's a good chance you will find this hard to resist and finish it all in one go, you can store leftovers for another time. I'd suggest cooking first, then store rather than storing uncooked bread.
Let the bread cool to room temperature, then wrap in foil or plastic (either cling wrap/film or a food bag with air carefully pressed out). You can store it at room temperature for up to two days.
To re-heat, it's easiest to warm just a minute or two on each side on the stove over a medium-low heat. You could use the microwave, but it may get more chewy. If you do, wrap in kitchen roll first to keep the moisture in.
Imeruli khachapuri is really relatively easy to make, and is entirely worth the effort. This comforting cheese filled bread is packed with delicious flavor, and makes such a great snack to share with friends and family. We love it as an after-school snack, or really any excuse!
Try these other tasty breads:
- Peshwari naan (a delicious soft Indian flatbread filled with nuts and fruit)
- Japanese milk bread (such a wonderfully soft and fluffy everyday bread)
- Anadama bread (a gently sweet bread with molasses and cornmeal)
- Plus get more bread recipes and Eastern European recipes in the archives.
Imeruli khachapuri (Georgian cheese filled bread)
- 1 ½ cups all purpose flour plain flour
- ¾ teaspoon instant yeast
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ cup milk gently warmed, may need a little more
- 1 ½ cup mozzarella grated, or better sulguni if available (1 ½ cups is approx 5oz)
- ⅔ cup feta crumbled, or better imeruli if available (⅔cup is approx 3.75oz)
- 1 egg
- ½ tablespoon butter approx
- Mix together the flour, yeast, salt and sugar then mix in the warm milk until it comes together and pulls away from the side of the bowl. If needed, add a little more milk if it seems dry - the dough should be soft but not sticky.
- Knead the dough for around 5 minutes. You can mix the ingredients in a stand mixer then use a dough hook for around 2-3 minutes to knead, but I find it easy enough to mix by hand and then knead by hand on a clean surface (you probably don't need any flour).
- Add a little oil to a medium-large bowl and brush up the sides slightly. Put the dough in the bowl, turn over to coat in the oil and then cover with a cloth or cling wrap/film. Set aside in a warm place to double in size, around 90 minutes.
- As the dough has almost finished rising, mix together the crumbled feta, grated mozzarella and egg. Stir together so the ingredients are well mixed then divide in two. Form each half of the mixture into a ball.
- Knock back the dough once it has doubled in size then divide the dough in two. Set one piece aside while you work with the other piece.
- Gently flatten out the one piece of dough into an evenly thick circle around 6 in/15cm in diameter. Place one of the cheese balls in the middle of the dough.
- Pull opposite sides of the dough over the cheese filling and pinch them together. Pull up further pieces of dough all around the filling and pinch them to join together so that the cheese is fully covered with dough.
- Press the pieces of dough together so that they seal together. Gently flatten the ball slightly, pressing on the joined pieces so they flatten and smooth out, then turn the dough over.
- Flatten the dough further with your hand, making sure you can feel the cheese spread out towards the edges. As the dough flattens, you can start using a rolling pin to smooth out into an even circle, reaching around 9-10in (23-25cm) in diameter. Take care not to have any area too thin and the filling escape. If you do accidentally make a hole in the dough, seal it over, if need be by taking a bit of dough from a thicker area. You can use a little water to help seal, if needed.
- Once you have formed the flattened, filled bread, repeat with the other piece of dough and filling.
- Warm a large, heavy based skillet/frying pan or crepe pan over a medium heat. Once warm, place one of the breads on the pan and cook for around 3-4 minutes, until it is gently brown in patches on the underside. Turn over, then rub butter over the cooked side so it melts. Cook the second side for around 3-4 minutes, then transfer to a plate and rub the second side with butter as well.
- Repeat the cooking process with the second bread. Cut the breads into slices and serve warm.
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