A Christmas pie was once personally baked for every member of the family, with the largest going to the eldest. One special, rather large pie was also baked, which contained the most eggs. Traditionally, this would be placed in the middle of the table, and a candle would be lit on top of it, which was believed to signify the abundance and wealth of the family. The woman who had kneaded the dough would pray while doing so, and also imprint a small cross of dough into the pies about to be baked. A Christmas pie absolutely had to be in the shape of a crescent moon. Traditionally, this celestial body and egg symbolized fertility, a good harvest, and abundance.
This pie came to be baked in Guria at other times too, including when a mother would visit her newly-married daughter’s family, or when a godchild would visit his or her godparent. For such occasions, the pies might be baked in different shapes. To show special respect and gratitude, a whole boiled egg would be put into the pie; the more eggs, the more respect being shown.
Preparations for Gurian pie would begin a few days in advance, with the person making it placing boiled, shelled eggs into a basket or wrapping them into a cloth, then putting them in the fireplace, sometimes hanging them over the middle of the fire so that the eggs would be smoked and make the filling even more delicious. Today, instead of being smoked, the eggs are braised in oil on a pan, or dried well in an oven. What distinguishes Gurian pies from khachapuri baked with a combination of cheese and dough, beside its shape, is the eggs. The dough for Gurian pie must be soft and mild, and should be kneaded with an equal mixture of milk and water.
0.5 l water and milk;
1 tbsp yeast;
1 kg bread flour;
1 g oil or butter;
1 tsp sugar;
1 tsp salt;
1 kg Imeretian cheese;
10 boiled eggs;
3 eggs to be placed on top; and
3 tbsp matsoni.
Heat up the water/milk, stir in the salt and sugar, and dissolve the yeast.
Put half of the flour into a bowl and make an indentation. Add the yeast water/milk and oil, then make a ball from the soft, kneaded dough. Cover it, and put it in a warm place for two hours. To make the dough rise, mix in the second half of the flour and knead it well with oily hands. Take the dough to a work surface covered in flour, and divide it into five equal pieces. Cover it with kitchen roll and leave it in a warm place for 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, crumble the cheese, and Cut a boiled egg in half. Flatten the balls of dough to a thickness of 4-5 millimeters. Then, put some cheese onto one side of each ball and arrange the cut egg pieces in the middle. Fold the other half of the dough over the top and close it by cutting the edges with your fingers.
Cover a baking tray with flour and arrange the crescent-moon-shaped pies on it. Make small crosses in the dough and place them onto the pies, then smear matsoni beaten into the egg yolk on top of them. Place them in the oven and bake at a high temperature. The pies will be ready in 20-25 minutes.
In Guria, traditionally, another kind of khachapuri has also been made, baked only on a ketsi (clay pot) known as brinjula. Instead of bread flour, it would be kneaded with ground rice, which is where the name comes from (“rice” is “brinji” in Georgian). Today, brinjula is also made with bread flour and baked in an oven, and is easy to make.
Add half a teaspoon of baking soda, lukewarm water from a matsoni jar, a small amount of salt, and two eggs to 400 grams of matsoni and beat together well. Then, mix in the flour until you get what is basically pancake batter, which you should then divide into pieces of equal thickness in oiled molds. Spread the eggs mixed into the crumbled cheese over the top and bake in the oven. Once the tops turn brown, the brinjula is ready.