There is one bread book I can never get tired of. I's also a book that any serious flatbred lover must have: Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid's Flatbreads and flavors. Apart from having a wide range of flatbread recipes (which sometimes have a minor flaw, see below), there's loads of matching recipes to go with them (salads, sauces, stews, etc.) and always some nice background story going with them too. It's a book I've read already twice from beginning to end and I have a feeling it won't end at that. Saturday my hands were itching from the need to bake something, but I didn't have so much time so after looking at the list of quick breads in the book I decided to go for emeruli khachapuri or Georgian cheese-filled bread. Flatbread, yep; quick, just what I needed; filled with delicious melted cheese... what could I ask for more?
Khachapuri, from what I can make out from the book and from a little research I did on the web, are filled yeast-free breads, coming in different shapes: they can be round, boat shaped and even turban shaped. Classic fillings are cheese, red beans, potatoes and herbs and cheese and eggs. They can be baked in an oven but the traditional way is to cook them over a griddle. As said I went for the cheese one both because of what I had in the fridge/cupboard and because for me there's very few things so simple but so mouth-watering as bread and melted cheese.
Apart the bread "folding", which takes a little practice (but after all very little), the recipe itself is quite simple. First the filling: just mix together 1 large egg, 2 Tbs plain yogurt, 120 g. (4 oz) grated mild cheese (mild cheddar, edam or similar) and 60 g. (2 oz) well crumbled feta.One could probably use other cheeses (I guess the Georgians do :-)) but it's important that there's a contrast between mild and sharp/salty cheese.
For the bread dough I first mixed 1 cup of all purpose flour with 1 tsp salt and 1 1/2 tsp baking powder. To this I added 2 cups (about 500 ml) plain yogurt to get a fluid batter. I then kept adding flour till I got a soft but non-sticky dough (in my case 2 1/2 cups). I divided the dough into 8 pieces. Each piece got rolled to have a 15 cm (6 in) circle. In the middle went 1 slightly heaped tablespoon of cheese filling, which I slightly flattened before closing the bread. To do this i pinched the dough's edge and pulled it to the middle. I repeated this moving an eighth of circle at the time, till I had enclosed the stuffing. With a slightly floured hand I carefully pressed the bread till it was about 12 cm (5 in) in diameter and about 1/2 cm (1/4 in) high. This is the only part where I constantly find myself arguing with Alford's and Duguid's book. They say you should get a 7 in circle but press as much as I could I only ended up with the dough tearing and the stuffing looking out. I had the same problem with a few of their recipes and noticed that in the end its usually more important to get the thickness right
I decided to bake the breads in my oven, pre-heated at 230C (450F), for about 6-8 minutes (till they started to puff up a bit), instead of on a griddle since that way I could bake more breads at once. This produced breads that had one browned side and a pale one, which I wasn't very happy about, so next time they'll end on the griddle. Apart from that the breads were great and only took 30 minutes fro start to finish. Still probably next time I will make fewer but bigger ones using the same quantities and serve them in wedges. Can't wait to try the other stuffings.