MY THOUGHTS STIRRED, AS THEY STIRRED,
INTO A TANGIBLE STRINGY MESS OF RESTLESSNESS.
I thought long and hard about how I should talk to you about this.
I thought about it when I saw it glaring at me, all too long ago, from Tasting Table on their grinning newsletter. I thought about it when I laid sleepless at night, combing through the mental steps of how, and when, I would realize this absurdity in my own kitchen. I auditioned my blunt vocabularies, while pushing the apathetic shopping cart through the even-less agreeable cheese-section in my grocery store… gruyere (gooey?), gouda (gooey-er)?… mozarella (gawh, fuck it…). And speaking of words, I ought to find out how this khachapuri is pronounced… catch-a-puri, catch-a-puri, kah-tch-a-puri? Georgian, is it? I thought I should probably google Georgia, right, I totally should, a place where I felt utterly disconnected from emotionally, and even more so, geographically, as I sank my palm over and over into the quiet, warm, springy dough. I thought, given that it was unquestionably non-traditional, about how I could explain the heightened savouriness and sharpness brought by the added black olive tapenade, as I smeared it across the supple dough. Oh people should definitely hear how tall these cheeses mounted, yes, definitely, how promisingly they talked back through the folded window… reassuring. Most of all, I for sure thought about it when I sagged myself over the hot vent of the oven by the handle, witnessing the yeasted dough puffed and browned, damming an increasingly fluid and active pool of melted cheese, I thought, and sagged, but I promise it was mostly thoughts. Then, when that raw glistening yolk, that damn raw and glistening yolk that slipped over the hot cheese, and touched the cheeks of a chunk of topping butter… my thoughts stirred, as the pool stirred, into a tangible stringy mess of happiness and restlessness.
How, do I talk to you about this…?
Then, amidst my struggling mind, under the tip of his knife and fork, my husband asked:
“So, a melted cheese, butter and egg bread-boat? Why?”
“Really. You need a reason for this?”
And that put a stop to my thoughts.
Makes: 2 large breads that can feed 4 people
OK, a few things. The recipe is very loosely adapted from here, and you’ll see that I’ve made quite a few adjustments. First, for a lack of Georgian cheese-supplies, I used a more generic assortment of melty cheeses that were gruyere, gouda and dried mozzarella, which yielded a satisfactory gooey-ness and flavours. And instead of mixing them with egg before baking, I used a thick bechamel sauce because… raise your hand if you’re egg-intolerant, too (you can use a beaten egg instead of bachamel). Then, the added tapenade/olive pesto really gave the bread another depth of savouriness and flavour. At last, I found a problem with that whole egg that went on top, which was the egg white could never be quite cooked in the same time for the yolk to remain runny. So instead, I just placed a raw egg yolk on the finished product.
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp (270 grams) whole milk
- 2 tsp instant dried yeast
- 2 tbsp (27 grams) olive oil
- 3 cups (400 grams) bread flour
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp (28 grams) unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp (16 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (183 grams) whole milk, cold
- 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, plus more to top
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 cups (320 grams) of equal parts of shredded gruyere, gouda and dried mozzarella cheese
- 4~6 tbsp store-bought or homemade tapenade/black olive pesto
- 2 large egg yolks
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- Chili flakes to sprinkle
- TO MAKE THE DOUGH: Warm whole milk in the microwave for 40~50 seconds until it's warm to the touch (but doesn't burn, around 110F/45C). Stir in the instant dried yeast and let sit for 10 min until dissolved, then add the olive oil to the milk. In a large bowl, or stand-mixer bowl with dough-hook, combine bread flour, sugar and salt. Add the warm milk-mixture then knead for 3 min until the dough is soft and elastic. Cover the bowl with plastic-wrap and let proof for 2 hours at a warm place until doubled.
- Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and divide in half. Fold the doughs over itself for a couple times, then shape them into 2 balls. Cover with plastic-wrap or a large bowl, and let proof again for 30~40 min. The dough should expand again but not doubled.
- TO MAKE THE CHEESE FILLING: While the dough is proofing, cook/stir unsalted butter and all-purpose flour in a pot over medium heat for 1 min. Add the cold milk and whisk the mixture continuously until it starts to simmer and thicken. The consistency should be like mayonnaise. Add the grated nutmeg then season with a bit of salt and black pepper. Let the sauce COOL COMPLETELY, then evenly mix in the shredded cheese (the cheese should not melt). Set aside.
- If you're making your own tapenade: In a food-processor, combine 1 1/4 cup (155 grams) pitted black or green olives, 6 tbsp (80 grams) extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp (15 grams) raisins, 3 cloves of garlic, 4 fillets of anchovy, 3/4 tsp white wine vinegar and 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Puree the mixture as smoothly/finely as you can. Taste and season with salt if needed. Set aside.
- TO MAKE BAKE THE BREAD: Preheat the oven on 500F/250C, with a pizza-stone or large inverted cast-iron skillet in the middle.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a large oval with pointy tips, then transfer to a piece of parchment paper. Rub 2~3 tbsp of tapenade over the dough, then pile 1/2 of the cheese-mixture across the middle. Fold the dough over to partially cover the cheese, then bring the 2 ends together and tuck the tips underneath itself, then pinch at the bottom so it sticks. Repeat with the second one.
- Slide the parchment with the bread on top, onto the pizza-stone or inverted cast-iron skillet. Bake for 10 min until golden browned on all sides. Place a large egg yolk, and 2 tbsp of unsalted butter in the center of each bread, then grate a bit of nutmeg and sprinkle some chili flakes over the top (plus some flake-y sea salt if needed).
- To serve, stir the yolk into the cheese and dig in.