National Cheese Lover's Day is on Sunday. What better way to celebrate than with Khachapuri (a.k.a. Georgian cheese bread)—essentially pizza boats filled with gooey, melty cheese?
I first learned about khachapuri while working as the recipe editor for Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook's newest book, Israeli Soul. (Although the cheesy boats hail from the country of Georgia, they're very popular throughout Israel and are gaining ground here in the U.S., too.) My own take, inspired by Solomonov's, relies on pizza dough to house a mixture of feta, mozzarella, buttery semi-soft cheese, and fresh herbs.
Feel free to use any mixture of mild-tasting cheeses, as long as they are mostly meltable. I love the tanginess that feta brings to its fellow shipmates (see what I did there?), but you could really up the creaminess by substituting crumbled fresh farmers cheese instead. As for the herbs, anything goes! Choose fresh herbs that complement your cheeses, and don't skimp on the butter at the end. Sure, it's super decadent, but isn't that the best quality of all comfort foods? Make it for your upcoming Superbowl party (shaped like a bowl instead of a boat, if you're feeling clever).
PS: Did you notice my shiny new toy in the first photo above? A few months ago, I was selected to be an official Ooni brand ambassador—and they sent me my very own Ooni Pro outdoor pizza oven! [Insert happy dance here.] Follow me on Instagram for dispatches from my wood-fired pizza journey. And don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel for how-to videos and other upcoming antics.
Khachapuri with Fresh Herbs
- 1 (14- to 16-ounce) ball pizza dough
- 8 ounces feta cheese crumbled
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella shredded
- 4 ounces mild, buttery-tasting semi-soft cheese shredded (such as Muenster or something cool from your local cheese shop)
- 1½ cups chopped fresh dill, mint, and tarragon or any mix of fresh herbs you like
- 2 large eggs separated
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Divide the dough into two equal-size pieces, and form each into a ball. Cover and set aside.
- Place your pizza stone or steel (if using) on an oven rack in the bottom third of your oven. If you plan to cook your pizza on a baking sheet, just place a rack in the middle of the oven (you do not need to preheat the baking sheet). Preheat the oven to 500°F (or the highest temperature your oven will allow, if using a pizza stone/steel) and let it heat up for at least 30 minutes while you stretch the dough and assemble the toppings.
- If you're using an outdoor pizza oven, get a fire going with charcoal and hardwood (maple, oak, or pecan work great), and keep it steady for 20 to 30 minutes. (Aim for a temperature between 600°F and 700°F.)
- In a mixing bowl, stir together the cheeses and herbs, then use your hands to form the mixture into two balls.
- Stretch or roll each piece of dough into a 8 x 6-inch oval. Place a cheese ball in the center of each piece of dough, and smash them down with the palm of your hand. Pull the dough up to surround the cheese, and twist the ends to make a boat shape (see photo above). If you're having trouble getting the ends to stay twisted, dab them with a little water to help create a seal.
If you're using a baking stone/steel or an outdoor oven
- Transfer the boats to a lightly floured pizza peel and shimmy them into the oven. (Work one at a time if you don't feel comfortable baking both together.) Bake until the cheese is bubbling and the crust begins to brown—4 to 5 minutes in an indoor oven, or 2 to 3 minutes in a wood-fired oven—then slip the peel underneath, remove them from the oven, and drop an egg yolk in the center of each boat. Return to the oven and bake for a minute or two, until the yolks are set on the outside but still jiggly on the inside.
If you're using a baking sheet
- Transfer the boats to a lightly oiled or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 5 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the crust begins to brown, then slide an egg yolk on top of each boat. Bake just until the yolks are set on the outside but still jiggly on the inside.
- Remove the boats from the oven and immediately top each one with a tablespoon of butter. Serve hot, pulling the crust from the edges and dipping it into the melted cheese.
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