This month I went rogue. With the move to Newfoundland and getting settled in a new home, I decided to complete Around the World in 12 Plates: Israel on my own. I wanted to get acquainted with my new kitchen, and while this challenge started from a need to cook with friends and family, sometimes a girl just needs to get all floured up in the kitchen by herself. For the past few months, I have focused on very traditional recipes but I went off book there too. Throughout my research, a particular dish kept reappearing and I just couldn’t avoid it: a bread boat full of cheese.
Khachapuri is a Georgian-influenced dish that has become a hipster brunch food in Israel. Who can blame them? Bread? Good! Cheese? Amazing! With an egg on top? Genius!
Israel’s cuisine is fairly modern if you look at it as it’s only been a country since 1948 — the cuisine is new but oh-so-old. An amalgamation of traditional Jewish cuisines and neighbouring countries with a Middle Eastern influence is entrenched in every bite. Georgian flavour came to Israel along with the immigrant influx from the Soviet Union in the 1970s. 140,000 Georgians now live in Israel and their restaurants are having a food moment.
I’ve always been more of a cook than a baker, jealously drooling over other bloggers’ gorgeous breads. So, for May’s Around the World in 12 Plates: Israel challenge I went with the bakery vibe and made some bread (because, carbs).
Around the World in 12 Plates: Israel
After doing research for khachapuri recipes, I adapted two recipes to created my own, which is posted at the bottom of Around the World in 12 Plates: Israel! The first is for a Kale Khachapuri from Joy of Kosher, and the second was the beautifully photographed Acharuli Khachapuri from award-winning blog Chocolate + Marrow. The former blog’s adaptation of Saveur’s recipe was helpful because it gave background on the ingredients. All recipes use the same techniques for making the dough and constructing the little boats, but different cheeses are used. The traditional cheese used in khachapuri is a Georgian sulguni, but most recipes sub in muenster and feta.
Why I don’t bake
I remembered five minutes into making khachapuri why I don’t bake — I’m so impatient! I had to let the yeast sit for ages and then wait 45-minutes for the dough to rise? I’m much more at home slaving over a hot stove.
Once my dough had risen, I did have fun making the boat shapes, carefully making sure to roll and seal the sides so my precious cheese mixture didn’t melt all over the oven.
But I finally met my match: I didn’t even put enough cheese on the first one! The first boat had nowhere enough cheese, and didn’t have that melty gooeyness I was wanting, so I put more in the second boat. The cheese to bread ratio was perfect, and that runny egg. Oh baby.
Brunch for one: eating khachapuri
After spending the morning baking and slaving away, I enjoyed brunch for one. It was nice to just sit with a giant boat of cheese and a hot cup of coffee.
The other culinary adventurers
Check out the other bloggers conquering culinaria from Israel this month!
- 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- ¾ teaspoon sugar
- 2 cups warm water
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cups all purpose flour plus extra for kneading and prepping the dough
- 4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 450 grams Muenster cheese, grated
- 100 grams good quality feta
- 3 eggs
- Salt and pepper for finishing and garnish (optional)
- Combine yeast, sugar, and warm water in a small bowl and let stand for 10 minutes or until it gets foamy.
- Mix olive oil, 4 cups of the all-purpose flour and salt in a big bowl and incorporate yeast mixture. Combine it all together with your hands (it’s gonna be sticky).
- Transfer the dough to a well-floured surface to knead the dough until it’s no longer sticky. Feel free to add a little more flour to make sure the dough is smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes.
- Put the dough in a bowl lightly-greased with olive oil and cover it with a cloth. Set it in a warm place for 45 minutes or until the dough doubles in size (I usually put it on my oven while I’m preheating it).
- Place your pizza stone in the cold oven and preheat 500F. Make sure to put the stone in while preheating; if you put a cold pizza stone in a hot oven it can crack!
- After the dough has risen, you're ready to make the boats. Punch it down and divide the dough into three parts. Roll out the dough into a 10-inch circle and then roll the sides of the dough inwards on both sides, leaving a space in the middle. Then pinch and twist both ends to make a boat shape.
- Fill those little boats each with a third of the cheese mixture (grated Muenster and crackled feta). Make sure to leave a little indent in the middle for the egg.
- Transfer the cheese boats to your hot pizza stone and cook for around 14 minutes or until the sides are browned. I cooked mine one at a time because they were large.
- Once the sides are browned, crack an egg into the cheese indent and bake for another 5 minutes or until the white of the egg is just set.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper to garnish (optional).