Flaounas | A Cypriot Easter Traditional Sweet & Savoury Cheese-filled Pastry for the Whole Family!

 

Tradition, tradition, tradition, is a word you will come across many times in this blog since tradition is part of our Greek culture, life and mentality. Flaounas in not an exception, on the contrary is one of the strongest, Greek Orthodox Easter food traditions that goes from generation to generation, where families and generations gather to create while children and grandchildren can’t wait to taste!

Although many of my childhood food memories come from my yiayia – my grandmother that is – flaounas is a memory that is associate with my mom and this is the recipe that I will be sharing with you today, her traditional flaounas.

When I started writing the post, my family came accross my mind and I realized that traditions, sometimes demand explanations and one explanation I would like to do here, is why the whole family is needed for the making of flaounas. And the reason is no other than, many helpful hands are needed for the implementation of this complex Easter custom. Traditional flaounas demand Cypriot traditional, village, white-clay ovens where we make hot with lots of woods that become charcoals – as time pass – from the night before and is hot enough the morning around 5:00am to cook the first flaounas and last nearly all day long. And why so many hands are needed for this small savory incredibly tasty treat and tradition?
We need hands for grating endless quantities of traditional regional – Pafitiko – cheese, hands for mixing all those ingredients with tones of eggs, raisins and aromas from Cyprus, the Mediterranean and the middle east… Hands for opening the ‘zymari’ – dough-  and make the ‘phylo’  – ply –  that will be filled with that delicious savory filling of cheese and eggs and aromas – the flaouna filling – then ‘sealed’ in a special way in that unique shape, add sesame seeds on top and be placed – in a linear order –  in the ‘lamarinas’ – huge stainless steel baking trays –  ready to be put in the oven and baked carefully enough not to burn them on top but be cooked in the inside, a procedure that will begin from the night before (great Tuesday or Great Wednesday) and finished around the afternoon of the next day…!!!!

REVISED edition for 2018*


Scared enough to avoid doing this Cypriot traditional Easter savory? Well don’t be since Paul Hollywood manage to make flaounas at the ‘British Bake off 2015’ with amateur bakers for just under 2½ hours and if they made, it so can we! The idea is to cook the flaounas in our home oven, grate the cheese in the mixer, perhaps watch a video of how they make the dough and the shape of a flaouna and fill them and get a couple of friends or relatives in the kitchen with you to help a bit in the process.

 

Hope you enjoy making the flaounas. ‘KALO PASHA’ everybody… xx

 

Ingredients for the Dough & Filling

CYPRIOT | TRADITIONAL | EASTER

INGREDIENTS FOR THE DOUGH

500g all purpose flour
2 free range, eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon ground Mahlab*
1 teaspoon ground Mastic*
1 teaspoon of sugar
125ml vegetable oil
1 sachet, dry yeast
a pinch of salt
80ml luke warm milk, for kneading the dough
60ml warm water

INGREDIENTS FOR THE FILLING

500g Flaouna Cheese
or  
250g haloumi cheese &  250g Pecorino or Ladotyri cheese
1/4 cup semolina
2 free-range, eggs, beaten
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground, mahlab*
1 tsp ground, mastic*
1 tsp chopped fresh mint
120g raisins
1 free-range egg, beaten for egg wash
1/2 cups sesame seeds for toping

 

Flaounas | A Cypriot Easter Traditional Sweet & Savoury Cheese-filled Pastry

PREPARATION TIME: FROM NIGHT BEFORE  |  COOKING TIME: 45-55 MINUTES  |  FOR 12 FLAOUNAS

DIRECTIONS:

THE FILLING:

In order to have the best texture for your flaounas, prepare the filling from the night before.
Use a thick blanket to keep it very warm, in order to rise double in size by the next day.
We add the mint and sultana the next day.
The flaouna-filling is done, by first, grating the cheese, as fine as you possible, in a large plastic bowl or wooden kneading through and by adding all ingredients, except the mint and sultanas.
Add the beaten eggs, the raisins, the mint, the mastic*, mahlab* and the semolina and mix thoroughly all together with bare, clean hands. The next day, prepare the dough and assemble the filling with the rest of the ingredients.


THE DOUGH:

In a large bowl mix the flour, mastic powder, mehlep powder and salt together and add the vegetable oil and mould the mixture.
In the meantime, dissolve the yeast with 1/2 cup of warm milk and 1/2 tablespoon of sugar in a small bowl. Then cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about 15 minutes until light foam has formed on top.
Meanwhile, warm the remaining milk with the remaining sugar at low heat and place it in a large bowl.
Beat the eggs and add them to the milk. Keep this mixture warm until the yeast mixture has risen.
Once the yeast mixture has risen, add it to the flour mixture. Start adding the remaining milk mixture slowly while mixing the dough with your hands.
Start moulding the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic. This will take about 10 to 15 minutes. Place the dough in a bowl, cover the bowl with a blanket and let the dough rise for about 2 hours in a warm place. (This is the reason why many people make the dough from the night before too)
When the dough rises, punch it down with your fists to become smaller.


THE ASSEMBLY:

Use a big area/table to assembly the flaounas.
Get the filling mixture out of the fridge and set aside. Add the baking powder and mix thoroughly and set aside.
Flour your surface and roll the dough. Then cut it into 12 even pieces {about 5cm each} and roll them into small {tennis} balls.
Wash & dry the sesame seeds and sprinkle them on a clear surface next to the flour surface.
Use a roller pin and roll into a circle and then make a small square pie of about 10 x 15cm and ½ cm tick.
Throw the outside side of your pie on the sesame.
While lying there, fill the centre of the small pie with a big soup spoon of flaouna filling, leaving about 3-4cm distance {around the filling} to the end of the pie.
Now, using each side, close the flaouna into a square shape and press the sides lightly with a fork so as they don’t open and leave a small opening in the centre of the falouna so you can see the mixture in it.
Using a brush, egg-wash the top of the flaouna with the whisked eggs.
Before you continue to the second flaouna assembly, preheat oven at 200c and repeat the process of filling and assembly with the rest of the flaounas.
Use a shallow baking tray, Cypriots use “lamarinas,” and place the flaounes in rows.
Place them in the oven and bake for about 30-45 minutes until golden brown.
Because the Flaounas rise, use a cake pin to test the inside that is well cooked and not sticky.

 

 

GLOSSARY:

This incredibly difficult and strictly traditional Cypriot recipe has a glossary from Greek to English both in the ingredients and in the props and I will try to transfer them to you with the best possible way:

  1. FLAOUNA CHEESE: Traditional Easter Cheese for flaounas from Pafos, a region in Cyprus. If you don’t live in Cyprus you can replace the cheese with Pekorino cheese (Italian cheese) or Ladotyri Mytillinis (Greek cheese from the island of Lesvos) 
  2. LAMARINAS: Huge stainless steel oven bake trays, special to bake huge quantities of good. In Cyprus or Greece we use it for Flaounas, Roast meat or roast potatoes, and most of the time is used in fire wood ovens or professional bakeries!
  3. Mehlepi: Mahleb or Mahlab is an aromatic spice made from the seeds of a species of cherry, Prunus mahaleb. The cherry stones are cracked to extract the seed kernel, which is about 5 mm diameter, soft and chewy on extraction. Wikipedia
  4. Mastiha: Mastic (Greek: Μαστίχα) is a resin obtained from the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus). In pharmacies and nature shops, it is called “Arabic gum” (not to be confused with gum arabic) and “Yemen gum”. In Greece, it is known as the “tears of Chios,” being traditionally produced on that Greek island, and, like other natural resins, is produced in “tears” or droplets. Originally a sap, mastic is sun-dried into pieces of brittle, translucent resin. When chewed, the resin softens and becomes a bright white and opaque gum. The flavor is bitter at first, but after some chewing, it releases a refreshing, slightly pine or cedar-like flavor. Wikipedia

 

 

 

“Paul Hollywood manage to make ‘flaounas’ at the ‘British Bake off 2015’ with amateur bakers for just under 2½ hours”