April 5, 2019
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The Republic of Georgia Has a Family of Cheesy Breads
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If you can roll out pizza dough, you can make khachapuri—Georgia’s famous cheese- and egg-filled bread canoes.

Look on a map, and you’ll find Georgia nestled between Russia to the northeast, Azerbaijan to the southeast, Armenia and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the west. Georgia’s cuisine is influenced by all of these neighbors—from its khinkali (soup dumplings filled with ground meat and herbs) to narsharab (deep-red pomegranate sauce) to badrijani nigvzit (fried eggplant with walnut sauce). But it’s a whole family of cheese-filled breads, known as khachapuri, that really stands out. (“Khacha” means cheese curds and “puri” means bread. And now you know a little Georgian.)

There are probably more regional types of khachapuri than there are Americans who can locate Georgia on a map. Think flaky pastry and yeast-raised crusts. Imeretian is a circular, cheese-filled bread from the west-central region of Imereti. Khabizgina adds boiled potatoes to the mix. Achma, from the Abkhazian region, involves multiple layers of dough, resembling a cheesy white lasagna.

One of the most famous Georgian breads internationally is adjaruli (or acharuli), a yeasted dough formed into a canoe shape, edges folded over and filled with a combination of creamy, fresh, and sharply aged cheeses, served hot with a raw egg that cooks before your eyes in the molten cheese and a pat of butter in the middle that melts into this mixture.

In Georgia, acharuli khachapuri is filled with sulguni, a salty and sour cow’s milk cheese that is good for melting, and imeruli, a fresh salted cow’s milk cheese that’s crumbly and also melts well. If you’re trying to re-create the tastes and textures of these in an American kitchen, you can try substituting with a combination of feta cheese (to impart those sour notes) and mozzarella (for its good melting properties). I’ve made a version with feta and taleggio that was over the top.

Curious about the flavor and consistency of sulgini and imeruli cheese, I recently made it my mission to track some down in Northeast Philadelphia, which is home to a large Eastern European population. I found several domestic versions of sulguni and imeruli, produced and packaged in Brooklyn, and a few imports, including a smoked version of sulguni.

Making acharuli khachapuri at home starts out in a similar fashion to rolling out pizza dough. You roll out the dough, layer on the cheese topping, and then, to form the iconic shape, you give the ends a roll, twist, and pinch to seal. Add a bit more cheese (because more cheese is of course always better) before sliding it into a hot oven. Once it comes out bubbling hot, top your canoe with a cracked egg and a pat of butter.

Acharuli khachapuri is best enjoyed straight from the oven when the cheese is at its meltiest. The egg, cheese, and butter are then stirred together with your fork to form a decidedly rich, decadent, and delicious combination. To eat, just tear off a piece of bread, scoop up some cheese and egg mixture, and enjoy.

Acharuli Khachapuri

Acharuli Khachapuri

2 khachapuri

Ingredients

  • Dough
  • 1 ¾ cup bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup water, room temperature
  • ¼ cup milk, warmed slightly
  • 1 ½ teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 egg for egg wash
  • Filling
  • 2 cups sulguni or mozzarella, freshly grated, plus extra for topping each khachapuri
  • 8 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 1 whole egg
  • splash of brine from feta or milk
  • 2 egg yolks, plus little bit of the whites
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • red pepper flakes

Acharuli Khachapuri is a Georgian bread stuffed with cheese and baked in the oven until molten and sizzling hot. An egg yolk is added during the last minutes of cooking, and the whole delicious mess is topped with a pat of butter. When the cheese, yolk, and butter are swirled together, it’s a thing of beauty.

  1. Preheat the oven to 500°F with a pizza stone/steel or baking sheet, the latter turned upside down. Heat for at least 1 hour.
  2. Combine the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Make a well in the middle. Add the water, milk, and olive oil. Use a spatula or spoon to work the flour into the liquid. Continue until it forms a shaggy ball.
  3. Lightly flour your work surface. Knead the dough until smooth, about 5 minutes. Lightly oil a bowl. Place the dough in the bowl, cover with plastic or cloth and place in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1½ hours. Punch down and divide the dough in half. Form into rounds. Keep covered and let rest for 20 minutes while you prepare the filling.
  4. Combine the cheeses and whole egg. Add a splash of feta brine or milk so that the cheese just forms a paste.
  5. On a piece of lightly floured parchment paper, roll one piece of dough into a 10" to 12" oval about 1⁄8" thick. It doesn't need to be exact. Spread half of the cheese mixture over the dough, leaving a 1⁄2" border all the way around. Roll one of the long sides of the dough toward the center so it overlaps with the cheese a bit. Repeat on the opposite side. Pinch the two narrow ends of the rolls together and twist twice to seal, making a boat shape. Top with a generous handful of grated sulguni or mozzarella. Brush the dough with egg wash.
  6. With a pizza peel, transfer the bread to the hot stone. Cook until the cheese mixture is hot and bubbly and the dough golden brown, about 9 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. Using a fork, make a small well for the egg yolk. Pour the egg yolk with a little bit of the egg white into the well. Place back into the oven and cook another 2 to 3 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly.
  7. Remove from the oven and add a tablespoon of butter. While still hot, take a fork and swirl the cheese, yolk and butter together. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Tear off a piece of bread and scoop up some of the molten cheese. Repeat with the other half of dough.

Linda Schneider

Linda Schneider is a home cook who is obsessed with good food and all things local. Follow her adventures at Wild Greens and Sardines.

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