Baking Bread, Breaking Bread in Georgia

Baking Bread, Breaking Bread in Georgia

Never heard of Georgian bread? An internet search pops up thousands of links on the multiple variations of this wonder(ful) bread shaped into delectable designs, and made from simple ingredients that are truly “of the earth” – nothing artificialMIR’s Tour Manager Devin Connolly is a huge fan of Georgia, having led many MIR tours there. So I nabbed her in between bites of bread to get her favorite Georgian picks.

MIR's Devin Connolly in the countryside of Georgia <br>Photo credit: Devin Connolly

MIR’s Devin Connolly in the countryside of Georgia
Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Laden with cheese, <i>khachapuri</i> is one of Georgia's most famous breads, and one of Devin's favorites <br>Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Laden with cheese, khachapuri is one of Georgia’s most famous breads, and one of Devin’s favorites
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

HELEN: What’s the bread you see everywhere in Georgia? It’s as ubiquitous as Coca-Cola!DEVIN: Tonis puri. In Georgian it means “bread from the oven” because it’s best fresh from the oven. The word for “oven” is tone. When you drive through villages or towns in Georgia you’ll see signs that say tone. That means they sell bread there.

Dough is pressed against the inside walls of this round oven for "tonis puri" bread <br>Photo credit: Devin Connolly

Dough is pressed against the inside walls of this round oven for tonis puri bread
Photo credit: Devin Connolly

The art of making 'tonis puri' and other Georgian breads is handed down from generation to generation <br />Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

The art of making tonis puri and other Georgian breads is handed down from generation to generation
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

The tonis puri bread is the yeasty kind that sticks to the sides of the round oven. You just plaster it on the side of the oven and it sticks, like tandoori. Because it’s yeast bread and not flat bread, it keeps the shape of the oven – a crescent. What’s really cool is that in paintings that depict Georgian life, like Niko Pirosmani’s “Feast of Four Residents,” you’ll notice people in their costumes, notice the dishes they eat, PLUS notice the crescent-shaped bread sitting end-up at the table. It’s yeasty, salty and it’s great for dipping in soups, or dunking in a favorite nutty eggplant dip.

Notice how Niko Pirosmani painted crescent-shaped Georgian bread into his “Feast of Four Residents”
Photo credit: Georgia Tourist Board

A really rare bread is Sioni (Zion) bread, given that name because it’s baked right across the street from Sioni Cathedral in Tbilisi. The basement bakery in this photo is the only place in Georgia where this lopsided fiddle bread is baked.  I think it looks more like a mandolin, but that’s probably splitting hairs.

Rare Sioni Georgian bread, fresh from the oven <br>Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Rare Sioni Georgian bread, fresh from the oven
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

HELEN: What’s that famous Georgian bread that’s shaped like a boat?DEVIN: That’s called shotis puri, or “boat bread.” It’s made with the all the same ingredients and prepared like tonis puri, but it’s shaped liked a boat. It’s wider in the middle with “ears” at the end so you can grab it and tear it easily.

HELEN: OK, we know you LOVE this bread because you talk so much about it — that cheese bread. What’s it called?DEVIN: Yes, I love it! It’s khachapuri, which literally means “cheese bread.” This is what most people think of when they think of Georgian bread.

A variation of this is Adjaran khachapuri. It’s a kind of marriage of shotis puri and khachapuriboat-shaped with cheese, egg, and butter. They cook the bread with the cheese and then put butter on it. At the table they’ll crack a raw egg on top and spread it out to every corner of the bread, gently cooking the egg in the process. Doing this is an art form in itself, and best done by your waiter or someone with lots of Georgian dining experience.

Adjaran khachapuri, truly a Georgian indulgence! Photo credit: John Wurdeman

Adjaran khachapuri, truly a Georgian indulgence!
Photo credit: John Wurdeman

HELEN: So what’s your favorite Georgian bread?DEVIN: It has to be Adjaran khachapuri – it’s a meal in itself! Don’t even think of counting calories on this one. It’s truly an indulgence – and worth every bite!

Travel to Georgia with MIRYou can “break bread” in Georgia on MIR’s scheduled tours that visit the South Caucasus.  You can also book a custom private journey.

(Top photo credit: Martin Klimenta)

PUBLISHED: July 7, 2014

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2 thoughts on “Baking Bread, Breaking Bread in Georgia

  • Yee Wah Chan

    I just love all the knowledge on all the BREAD in South Caucasus . Reading it made my mouth
    watered .

  • Helen Holter

    Thanks for your comment, Yee Wah Chan. Researching and writing about these yummy breads made my mouth water, too!