Thursday, April 24, 2014

Flaounes - Cypriot savoury Easter cheese pies - We Knead To Bake 16

The past few months have been very eventful for me and my family. We have been busy earlier and reeling in the aftermath of a special life milestone. And that has kept me away from my little space, which seems to have become five years old, however irregular I have been. Through the past year I have not paid much attention to this space. I might have even skipped updating my virtual space, to the point of abandoning, but for the bread baking group with Aparna's guidance and my family's support to keep doing it.
This month, keeping with the Easter tradition, Aparna chose flaounes.
Flaouna or Flaounes (for plural) is a special festive food, traditionally eaten by people in Cyprus during Easter. They are made and eaten as food to break the Lenten fast. Typically made on good Friday to be consumed on Easter Sunday, these are cheese filled pastries garnished with sesame seeds. The cheeses are typically those produced locally and such cheese used in flaounes baked elsewhere are known as flaouna cheese. It is difficult to find the local produce elsewhere and hence a few substitutes are made. The taste and filling are unique of every village on the island depending on the cheese; sometimes each family has their own recipe.
Some of the suggested substitutes include Kefalotyri, Kefalogravier or Kaskavali (Greek and Cypriot cheeses). However, English Cheddar, Halloumi, Parmesan, Pressato, Pecorino and French Cantal can also be used.
I do not get any of the above mentioned where I live and have only found few French cheeses being sold in the local super markets. Moreover, we are not very fond of cheeses. We suffice with the home made cottage cheese and processed cheese sold by popular brands. Also I have removed the eggs from the recipe and have not used mastic and mahleb. Thus, mine are not authentic flaounes, having been filled with very non-traditional cheese mix. I have baked them with some cheddar, paneer and have spiced the filling with chilli flakes and dried mint. Whether traditional or not, these pies were great to bake and consume.

Flaounes (Cypriot savoury Easter pies)

Adapted from The Traveller's Lunch Box

For the dough:
 2 & 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 & 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon mastic, ground in a mortar (optional) (it is a dried resin from a bush)
1/4 teaspoon ground mahleb (optional) (dried pits of a wild Mediterranean cherry)
1 egg ( substituted with 1/2 cup thin yoghurt)
1/4 cup milk
60 grams butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup (or less) lukewarm water (as required)

Oil for greasing the bowl and rolling the dough

For the filling:
1 cup grated cheddar (sharp tasting cheddar adds flavour)
1/4 cup grated mozarella cheese ( I used some processed cheese sold in small packs)
1/3 cups of crumbled paneer
2 teaspoon all purpose flour
1/4 cup semolina
1 tablespoon dry mint
1/2 teaspoon crushed chilli flakes
1/8 cup raisins (optional) ( I have not used)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 to 2 tablespoon milk

Sealing paste and garnish:
1 egg beaten (substituted with a paste made by combing 1 tablespoon flour with some milk, for sealing paste)
1/3 to 1/2 cup sesame seeds (not toasted)
A little amount of milk for brushing on top of shaped flaounes


Making the dough:
The dough can be kneaded either by hand or in a processor.
Place the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and the flavouring ingredients (if you have them on hand) in a bowl and mix.
Whisk together the egg (if using) or the yoghurt, milk and melted butter separately and then add this to the flour mix.
Knead the dough adding just sufficient water to achieve a soft, smooth and elastic dough. The dough should be just short of being sticky. Add water or flour accordingly and just as necessary. This is important to have the correct texture of the pies.
Apply oil on the inside of a bowl and place the dough in it after turning the dough over in the oil to coat well. Cover the bowl loosely and keep aside for about an hour for the dough to double in volume.
Deflate the dough when ready and place in a large container, cover loosely and refrigerate for about two hours. The dough will develop well in refrigeration, hence remember to use a large bowl.
The dough can stay in the refrigerator overnight also, in case you want to bake the pies in batches.

Making the filling:
While the dough is on the first rise, prepare the filling.
Mix the sealing paste and keep ready.
Mix the rest of the ingredients except the milk, in  a bowl by whisking with a fork.
Since the filling will have to wait for the dough to develop, keep this aside and add the milk only before using it.
The filling shall be somewhat moist and like a stiff paste rather than wet and sticky.

Shaping the flaounes and baking:
Divide the dough in 8 or 10 equal portions, depending on how big or small you want the flaounes.
Spread a little oil on the work surface and around your rolling pin.

Take a ball of dough and roll it to a 6" diameter circle. Keep the rest of the dough covered thus preventing it from drying.
Roll the dough somewhat thin so that the pies are not like thick breads, at the same time not too thin that it cannot hold the weight of the filling in the centre and tear.
Mix the milk to the filling and get it ready.
In a flat bowl or plate, spread generously the sesame seeds. Lift the rolled dough and place it on the seeds, gently pressing the dough to be coated with the sesame seeds.
Take it back to the work surface and place a generous tablespoon amount of filling in the centre.
Spread the filling by lightly pressing it, leaving about an inch thick dough exposed at the edges.
To make the traditional square shaped flaounes, bring two opposite edges over the filling, leaving the centre open. Bring the other two opposite edges in a similar fashion making a square packet with the filling showing in the middle.
Seal the edges well by pressing them down with the tines of a fork and using the paste.
For the triangular shapes bring three edges over the filling, leaving a large portion of  the filling open. Seal the edges in the same manner as above.
Place the shaped flaounes on a greased baking board or on parchment lined one. Place them about 3" apart. Allow the dough to rise for another forty minutes.
Pre heat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade.
Just before putting them in the oven, brush the dough portions with milk and bake them for about 25 minutes until they are golden brown and puffed at the centre filled portion.
Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks to come to room temperature.
These are best served warm.
The above recipe makes 8 to 10 flaounes.
I halved the recipe and made my flaounes slightly smaller to get 6 of which I shaped three each of the square and triangular ones.
The flaounes keep well in airtight containers for two days. I could not use up all the six and put the last two in the refrigerator for another day.
Just warm them for a minute before consuming.
You might want to watch this video showing the procedure slightly differently.

Please stop by Aparna's post for more details on the tradition and for checking those baked by the other members.