Adjaran Khachapuri, or Death by Cheese

Wherever you go in Georgia, you can be sure to eat khachapuri at least once a day. These national cheese breads come in various shapes. The Imeretian khachapuri is a round pie filled with cheese, by far the most common. The Mingrelian one is similar, but topped with more cheese. The cheese is usually whatever is produced locally, from curds to sulguni, fresh or aged.

Today we’ll look at the Adjaran khachapuri, an open-face version topped with tons of cheese, plus an egg and slices of butter for maximum artery clogging. The bread is comparable to pizza dough, and many places actually sell both khachapuris and pizzas.  If you travel to Abkhazia, you’ll find out that the exact same dish (though sometimes without the egg) is marketed as the national dish:

Don’t call it Adjaran there though — you might get shot in the head! Locals have renamed it “lodochka”, “little boat” in Russian, which is particularly funny when you know that the only boats you’ll see in Abkhazia are Russian war ships.

I’ve made several changes to the normal dish. For the bread, I’m using Heston Blumenthal’s pizza dough recipe, only slightly modified. You can buy malt syrup here, and Caputo pizza flour here or here (unlike other places that sell you 55 lb, these two repackage the flour into smaller bags). I always find that there’s too much dough, so my version favors the toppings.

For the cheese mixture, I think there’s no point in sticking to the letter of the recipe. People in Georgia use whatever cheeses they have access to and like. Living in New York, I have a vast selection to tap from. Instead of buying factory-made sulguni, I prefer my own blend of rustic cheeses, and it doesn’t bother me that none of them are Georgian. I even add some corn purée to the mix. Finally, I use duck eggs instead of chicken eggs because of their richer and larger yolks.

If you’re in a hurry, you can scroll to the end to find tips for a quick “Lazy Boris” version!

Pre-ferment
Yields 5 servings

5 1/4 oz pizza flour
1/4 tsp malt syrup
3 oz water
1/2 packet active dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt

  • Place the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the dough hook. Stir the malt syrup into the water, pour into the flour and mix on the lowest speed for 3 minutes. Let rest for 1 hour.
  • Add the yeast and salt, and mix on low speed for 7 minutes. Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic film, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

Dough
Yields 5 servings

12 1/4 oz pizza flour
1/2 tsp malt syrup
6 3/4 oz skim milk
1 packet active dry yeast
1 tsp salt
pre-ferment

  • Place the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the dough hook. Stir the malt syrup into the water, pour into the flour and mix on the lowest speed for 4 minutes. Let rest for 1 hour.
  • Add the yeast and salt, and mix on low speed for 4 minutes. Add the pre-ferment, and mix for another 4 minutes.
  • Shape the dough into a log, and cut into 5 pieces. Place the pieces into a dish brushed with oil, cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rest for 2 hours in a warm place.

Assembly
Yields 5 servings

kernels from 2 corn cobs
2 eggs
black pepper, ground
10 oz Bulgarian feta
10 oz kashkaval
20 oz buffalo mozzarella
dough
5 duck eggs
2 1/2 oz butter, sliced

  • Place a pan of water at the bottom of an oven, and a pizza stone at mid-level. Heat the oven to a solid 550 F.
  • In a blender, process the corn, eggs, pepper and half of the feta. Crumble the rest of the feta, add to the mixture, and reserve. Grate the kashkaval and reserve. Drain the mozzarella, slice and reserve.
  • Place a piece of dough on a floured surface, then roll into an 8″x6″ oval using a rolling pin and transfer to a well-floured pizza peel. Cover with some of the corn and feta mixture, then sprinkle successively with torn pieces of mozzarella and grated kashkaval. Fold the borders to obtain a boat-shaped bread, as shown here:

  • Transfer the bread onto the pizza stone, and bake for 4 minutes. Form a small crater at the center with the back of a spoon, add a duck egg, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for another 3-4 minutes, until nicely colored. Take out of the oven, and let rest for 2-3 minutes. Cover with a couple slices of butter and serve immediately.

Lazy Boris Version

Can’t go to the farmers market at 6:00 am to get those duck eggs? Don’t want to get up in the middle of the night to prepare next evening’s dinner? Here are some shortcuts:

  • Making the dough is clearly the most time-consuming part of this recipe. Instead, many places sell good pizza dough, from Motorino to your corner pizza parlor.
  • You can replace the duck eggs with chicken eggs, just discard about half of their whites.
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8 thoughts on “Adjaran Khachapuri, or Death by Cheese

    • That’s right, Cheeselovingalien. The pre-ferment is meant to bring flavor, not volume. It is refrigerated for 12 hours to let the flavors fully develop, and it won’t really rise. It is then added to a traditional yeast dough.

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