Flaounes are savoury cheese pies baked for Greek Orthodox Easter, traditionally made on Good Friday, and are part of the fast-breaking meal after Lent when meat and cheese are not eaten. The cheese that is traditionally used in these pies is called “Flaounes” cheese which is cheese that is produced locally by Cypriot shepherds, and very difficult to find outside the country.
Flaounes cheese can be substituted with a combination of Cheddar or similar hard cheeses and a softer, milder one like Halloumi. The cheese filling tends to be salty so choose one cheese which is quite salty.
Some of the cheeses suggested as substitutes for Flaounes cheese are Cypriot/ Greek cheeses like Kefalotyri, Kefalogravier or Kaskavali. Other cheeses include Halloumi, English Cheddar, Italian cheeses likeParmesan, Romanelo or Pressato (mild), Pecorino (salty) or French Cantal cheese.
If any of these are available (and affordable) in your part of the world use them, otherwise find a combination of cheeses that will work for you.. I used a variety of Italian cheese with parmesan in my Flaounes.
There are a couple of ingredients used in Flaounes which are typical of these Cypriot Cheese Pies and they are Mahleb and Mastic. Mahleb is made by powdering the dried pits of a wild Mediterranean cherry. Mastic is the dried resin of a kind of shrub. Both these spices are quite common in Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine, and if you cannot find them, then just leave them out as there’s no real substitute for the flavours.
Black pepper or chilli flakes are not traditionally used in these Easter pies but I dded them because the filling tasted too bland to me. So leave that out if you want. Also remember to grate your cheese coarse rather than fine.
For the dough:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp instant yeast
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon powder ( optional)
½ tsp mastic, ground in a mortar (optional)
¼ tsp ground mahleb, (optional)
1/4 cup milk
60gm butter, melted and cooled
About 1/4 cup (or less) lukewarm water, or as needed
Oil, for greasing bowl and rolling dough
For the filling :
1 and 1/4 cup grated cheese ( I used Italian cheese and Parmesan )
2 tbsps all-purpose flour
2 tbsps semolina
1 tbsp dry mint (use 1/2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint if available)
1/2 tsp crushed black pepper/ red chilli flakes (optional)
1/4 cup raisins or currants ( you can add more if you like)
2 or 3 eggs
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp flour + less than 1/8 cup milk (for sealing paste)
1/2 cup un-toasted sesame seeds
A little milk for brushing (or egg wash from beaten egg above)
1. Whisk together the egg, butter and milk.
2. Add cinnamon, yeast, salt, sugar, mastik, mahleb to the flour and mix well.
3. Add the beaten egg mixture to the flour taken in a bigger bowl.
4. Add kneading enough water until you have a soft , smooth and elastic dough.
5. Place it in a well oiled bowl turning it once to coat the oil.
6.Cover and leave it to rise for a couple of hours until double in size.
7. Once risen, remove it on a working table.
8. Deflate it and knead it well pressing and folding a few times.Cover it loosely and refrigerate it again for 2 hours or even overnight if you want to work on it the next day.
While the dough is sitting for the first rise, make the filling.
Mix all the ingredients for the filling, except baking powder. If you’re not using the filling immediately, keep it aside and add the baking powder only when you’re ready to use it.
The filling should be somewhat like a stiff paste, just moist rather than wet..
How to make the Flaounes:
1.Divide the dough into 9 equal pieces.( make 10 if you want small size pies). Oil the working surface and rolling pin. Roll each piece into 5 " or 6" rounds ( do not use flour to roll them) They should be a bit thicker and not very thin so that they hold the filling.
2. Spread the sesame seeds in a plate and place the rolled piece on them to coat the bottom side of it.
3. Spoon the filling in the middle (about a generous spoonful ) leaving 1 inch edges free to be folded and sealed as shown in the picture Brush the sealing mixture on the edge, fold them as shown in the pictures below leaving a little gap in the middle part. Press down the sealed points with the tines of a fork.You can make triagular or square flaounes.
4.Place the shaped pies on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet, leaving 2 to 3” between them, and let them rise for about 40 minutes. Just before baking them, brush the sides.
5. Place the shaped pies on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet, leaving 2 to 3” between them, and let them rise for about 40 minutes. Just before baking them, brush the sides (dough part) with milk (or beaten egg) and bake the Flaounes at 190C (375F) for 25 to 30 minutes till they’re done, golden and the cheese filling is puffed up.
9. Let them cool on a rack. Serve them warm or at room temperature. This recipe makes 8 or 10 Flaounes, about the size of one’s palm. These pies keep for two days at room temperature in an airtight container. You can freeze the extras to eat later.
Note: The rising time may be a little longer in winter and in cold places.
Flaounes (Cypriot Savoury Easter Cheese Pies)
Adapted from The Traveler’s Lunchbox (http://www.travelerslunchbox.com/journal/2010/4/12/finding-flaounes.html )
Baked for Aparna's event - We knead to Bake # 16