Our Photo-Illustrated Guide to Georgian Breads

A primer on eight traditional (and fantastic) Georgian breads baked in Sheepshead Bay.

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One highlight of our fall travel issue is a profile of Apani restaurant, a Georgian take-out shop and bakery on Sheepshead Bay Road. The tiny, two-year-old spot is run by Ivane Shaishmelashvili and chef Nina Gendzekhadze, who makes a range of complexly flavored food from the Caucasus such as the chicken in walnut sauce known as sacivi, the aromatic lamb soup called kharcho, and khinkali, Georgia’s pleated stuffed soup dumplings.

But for those planning a visit, here’s a photo-illustrated guide to their many kinds of Georgian breads, without which no meal at Apani would be complete.

1. Imeruli khachapuri: Shown top right, above. The most commonly sold version of khachapuri, which are cheese-stuffed breads, is the imeruli. It is a thin round of double-layered yeast dough filled with a mixture of three cow’s milk cheeses meant to re-create the flavor of the original cheese made in Georgia. The inch-tall rounds are brushed with butter once they come out of the oven and can be cut into wedges, just like pizza, or just tear off a piece with your hands to eat as you walk.

2. Shoti: Shown center, above. Apani’s belt-shaped shoti bread isn’t a type of khachapuri but a loaf similar to French bread in flavor. Traditionally this bread is cooked on the sides of a deep, open clay oven, hence its shape, but Shaishmelashvili is proud of the results Apani gets with their traditional oven here in the United States.

3. Penovani khachapuri: Shown bottom left, above. Also seen written in English as fenovani, this style of cheese-filled khachapuri is made with a flaky, buttery, phyllo-style of dough. It’s folded into a neat square like a handkerchief.

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4. Megruli khachapuri: Shown above. Here the khachapuri dough is filled with cheese and quartered hard-boiled eggs before being shaped into a crescent. Its edges are nicked with a knife to create its frilly edge.

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5. Acharuli khachapuri: Shown above. This is Apani’s most decadent style of khachapuri, one made only to order, because it should be eaten directly from the oven. Acharuli is a puffy dough canoe whose center is filled with cheese, a freshly cracked egg and paper-thin slices of butter that are added just when it is removed from the oven. You swirl together the cheese, butter and eggs, then tear off little pieces of the crust and dip them in. “You have to be Georgian to eat the whole thing,” Gendzekhadze warns, noting that like the Imeruli it is originally from Imereti, the western region of Georgia where she grew up.

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6. Kvzeli: Shown above. These oblong stuffed treats are not technically khachapuri, but instead soft, savory pies, which are filled either with freshly riced potatoes, a mix of onions and meat, or seasoned cabbage. Each is slit on top to reveal a glimpse of what’s inside.

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7. Brooklyn-style khachapuri: Shown above. These are chef Gendzekhadze’s own creation, inspired by New York City. It’s essentially her imeruli wrapped around a skewer, and it has a slightly different texture and flavor than the imeruli as a result.

8. Lobiani khachapuri: Shown below. This is a fat wheel similar to the imeruli, but named after the red beans that go into its filling;  Apani also occasionally makes a kubdani, which is filled with meat.

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Photo credit: All photos Clay Williams, with the exception of the above, by Apani Bakery.

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Rachel Wharton is the former deputy editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She won a 2010 James Beard food journalism award, holds a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, and has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and reporter. A North Carolina native and a former features food reporter for the New York Daily News, she edited the Edible Brooklyn cookbook and was the co-author of both Handheld Pies and DiPalo's Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy. Her work also appears in publications such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Saveur.