Georgian Cheese Bread
When I saw the photo for this on the May 2008 Gourmet magazine, I knew I had to make it. How can I resist cheese? I’ve also been meaning to get into bread-making. I thought this would be a good start. Yes, I’ve made cinnamon rolls so many times, but it’s time to move on and progress towards my goals of baking a good French bread and soft pretzels.
This recipe was not one to disappoint as you can see. It smelled and tasted so good, and it has that rustic look and texture, it made us feel like we’re in the country as we drooled over it:
The dough was a bit of challenge to work with, I should warn you (or it could just be me, really). For my first time, I think I did good. I ‘cheated’ and used a rolling pin to flatten it out, instead of using just my hands. Having refrigerated the dough overnight, I was faced with a really tough dough.
You might be wondering how the cheese got ingrained in there. The two kinds of coarsely grated cheeses (I used havarti and fresh mozzarella chopped in the food processor) are lumped into one big ball — and you might cry when you realize the amount of cheese in there as you hold it, but carry on because this really is one mightily awesome food to reach your mouth — but as I was saying, so the ball is placed in the middle of the slightly flattened dough, then it’s wrapped and ‘tied’ at the top, then pushed back down to spread into an 11-inch disk. Makes sense? That was the most challenging part for me.
It’s baked for 10 minutes, then sprayed with olive oil and baked for another 3 minutes to brown. And then you’ll be rewarded with this:
I’m killing you now, aren’t I? Please, dig in!
You know what else you can use this dough for?
Pizza! Yup, I made this with parmesan, mozza, and turkey bacon. Great for snacks. The dough is comparable to the frozen pizza doughs you can buy, and reminiscent of Pizza Hut’s P-zone’s dough. Not too shabby since this doesn’t take a lot of effort as the other pizza dough recipes I’ve seen (and have been scared with).
Alright, after taunting you, here’s the the recipe: [And Happy Friday!]
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (1/4-oz package) active dry yeast
- 7 tablespoons warm water (105-115°F)
- 1 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/4 lb Havarti cheese, coarsely grated
- 1/4 lb fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated (add 1/2 tsp salt)
- olive oil (for spraying or brushing)
- Sprinkle yeast over warm water and stir in a tablespoon flour. Let stand until creamy, about 5 minutes. (If yeast does not activate, start over with new yeast.)
- Stir together salt and remaining flour in a large bowl, then stir in egg and yeast mixture to form dough.
- Transfer dough onto a well-floured surface and turn to coat with flour, and then knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Form into a ball and dust with flour. Let the dough rest in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, punching down with a wet fist every hour, at least 2 hours and up to 3.
- Preheat oven to 500°F with rack in middle. Turn out dough onto floured pizza pan. Turn to coat. Flatten with your fingers into a 7-inch disk.
- Toss together cheeses and compact them into a 3-inch ball with your hands. Place ball in middle of dough, then gather dough up around ball of cheese, squeezing excess dough into a topknot. Press down on topknot with a damp fist to press cheese out from center. Continue to flatten dough and distribute cheese evenly, pressing outward from center, until dough is an 11-inch disk.
- Cut a 6-inch X through top of dough to expose cheese. Bake until pale golden, about 10 to 12 minutes. Brush/spray surface of dough with olive oil and bake until golden and cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes more. Serve cut into wedges.
Dough can be made 1 day ahead and chilled in bowl (for a slow rise), covered with plastic wrap. Punch down and bring to room temperature before proceeding with recipe.
If you are using a perforated pizza pan, be sure to have a baking sheet on the rack underneath it when you bake the bread. There might be cheese dripping through the holes. On that note, the cheese might burn so be ready for a smoky oven (and kitchen, and house…).
The cheese bread reheats well in the microwave for 20 seconds.