31st Mar 2019
This is cheese bread from Georgia, baked here with spinach and an egg. The butter on top forms a molten puddle, making these attractive gondola-shaped breads especially delicious. Baked in the traditional way, khachapuri would have enough of a lip that you can saw it off with a small knife, and then use the offcuts to dip into the runny yolk and melted cheese, before picking up the khachapuri and demolishing the rest.
Spinach & Walnut Khachapuri
500g plain or strong flour
2 tsp fast-action dried yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt, plus extra to season
1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil, plus extra for frying
350ml warm water
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
500g spinach, use cooked fresh or defrosted, either way squeeze out the water
150g mozzarella or halloumi cheese, chopped or grated (shredded)
40g unsalted butter
40g shelled walnuts, roughly chopped (optional)
freshly ground black pepper
Mix the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, oil and water together in a large mixing bowl, until well combined to a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured or oiled surface and knead for a few minutes until elastic and smooth to the touch. Put back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put to one side until almost doubled in size (about 2 hours).
Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas mark 7. Line a baking sheet with baking paper, or, better still, heat a pizza stone in the oven.
Put enough oil in a frying pan to coat the base, and place over a moderate heat. Add the onion and fry for 8 minutes or so, until soft. Stir through the spinach and season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly, then stir through the cheese.
Divide the dough into 4 balls and roll each into an oval shape about 25cm long. Divide the spinach mixture between the pieces (at this stage it helps to leave an indent in the spinach to add the egg later), leaving a 3cm border all around the edge. Fold up the sides and pinch the ends to seal.
Lightly beat 1 of the eggs in a bowl to make a glaze, and brush over each dough shape before gently placing them on the lined baking sheet or pizza stone. Bake for about 5 minutes, until the dough is beginning to brown in places underneath. Crack an egg into the centre of each dough shape and add a good-sized knob (about 2 tbsp) of butter. Place back in the oven and continue cooking until the egg whites are opaque and the dough is cooked through.
Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the walnuts and serve immediately.
Extracted from New Kitchen Basics by Claire Thomson (Quadrille, approx €30). Photography by Sam Folan.
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