New visitors to the Country of Georgia will quickly discover that the people of this region have a vast love of bread and cheese. Restaurant menus are loaded with several kinds of fresh baked bread, with the most popular stuffed with cheese.
We sampled all kinds during our visit to the Caucasus country, and found that one of our favorites was also one of the most unusual. Ajarian Khachapuri (also called Adjarian Khachapuri, Adjaruli Khachapuri, or Hachapuri) is a football shaped fluffy white bread stuffed with cheese and topped with a sunny side-up egg.
Diners are meant to mix the egg into the melted cheese, and then break off chunks of bread to collect the resulting rich and creamy center. The Georgian cheese used in this recipe is imeruli, a brined and spongy cheese with a slightly salty sour flavor. If that cheese isn’t available, I’ve suggested using a combination of provolone, muenster or mozzarella cheese mixed with feta to get very similar results.
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Ajarian Khachapuri is often shared as an appetizer along with a glass of homemade wine, another longstanding Georgian food tradition. Wine has been produced here for over 8,000 years using ancient methods of fermenting the grapes in large red clay containers that are buried underground.
Another dish also found alongside this classic Georgian Cheese Bread is another favorite comfort food, Khinkali. These Georgian dumplings are served piled high on a plate and are meant to be shared with a crowd. They can have several different stuffings, but the most popular is a soup dumpling style filling made with minced pork and beef.
The experience of enjoying a meal of Ajarian Khachapuri, some Khinkali Dumplings and a little (or a lot) of Georgian wine is a celebration waiting to happen. If you do get a chance to have such a meal in a traditional Georgian restaurant, you may just be lucky enough to enjoy some spontaneous harmonizing from a table full of locals gathered for a fun evening out. With food this good, you’ll want to sing too.
Here’s a quick video demonstration showing how to stuff and fold Adjarian Khachapuri
Recipe Yields 2 large loaves, serving 4 or more people
- 3 3/4 Cups All Purpose Flour
- 1 Teaspoon Dry Active Yeast
- 1 2/3 Cups Milk
- 4 Tablespoons Butter
- 1 Teaspoon White Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Vegetable or Olive Oil
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 3 1/2 cups shredded Imeruli cheese - or substituted with 3 Muenster cheese, Provolone or Mozzarella Cheese (or combination of the 3, and 1/2 cup of crumbled feta)
- 3 Eggs
- 1 Tablespoon Water
- Combine milk and 2 tablespoons of butter in a saute pan and warm over medium heat. The mixture should become hot to the touch but should not be boiling.
- Add the yeast and sugar and allow to sit for about 10 minutes (the yeast should begin to react and become frothy).
- Add the flour and salt to bowl. Add the milk mixture and combine with your hands. Once the dough is formed, adjust with a little more water or flour until the mixture is elastic and the dough bounces back after being pressed with your finger.
- Pour 1 Tablespoon of oil on your hands and continue to kneed for about 5 minutes.
- Place the dough in a greased and covered bowl and allow to sit for about 45 minutes (until the dough has doubled in size).
- In the mean time, combine the cheeses together in a bowl and set aside.
- When the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl and kneed on a floured surface for about 10 minutes.
- Cut the dough into 2 equal parts.
- Roll the dough into an oval shape.
- Place 1/2 of the cheese in the center of each loaf, leaving about 1/2 inch around the outside.
- Pinch the ends together and fold the outside of the bread over, leaving the center exposed.
- Twist each end once (see pictorial instructions and a video at the end of this recipe).
- Whisk together the water and 1 egg, forming an egg wash. Brush the egg wash onto the dough around the edge of the loaf.
- Repeat for the second loaf.
- Place the bread on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees.
- When the cheese starts to begin to brown, crack and egg into the center of each loaf and bake for another 5 - 6 minutes. The white should be almost set and the yolk should be runny.
- Remove from the oven and top each loaf with 1 tablespoon of butter.
- Serve warm.
- To eat, mix the egg yolk into the cheese mixture, being sure to scoop some of the cheese from under the crust.
- Rip the bread in chunks and dip inside the cheese mixture. Enjoy!
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