Friday, 16 May 2014

Traditional Easter Bread From Cyprus: Flaounes

Flaounes is a traditional cheese bread made in Cyprus during Easter, with special Cypriot cheese and mint. It also happens to be this month's bread that was chosen by Aparna to bake in our ' We Knead To Bake' facebook group.
It is believed that flaouna is reminiscent of an ancient Greek kind of bread made with nuts, called palathi. According to Greek tradition, this bread was offered to children, who went from house to house singing about the swallows and spring. The tradition continued during the Byzantine era and until recent years, Flouna was offered to children and grown ups as a treat when they went from house to house to announce the resurrection of Christ or to wake-up people to go to mass church for the midnight mass on Easter Sunday. 
These savory cheese pies are 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 is not very easy to get and 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. 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 chose a combination of  cheddar cheese, cottage cheese and smoked Gouda.
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.
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.
These pies are quite heavy on eggs. If you not much of a 'eggy' person, feel free to leave them. Most of the eggs are taken out of the adapted recipe except for the one used in the dough.You can leave that out too if you don't eat eggs. Also you can use milk instead of an egg wash to brush your pies and use a paste of flour and milk to seal the pies. 
My family loves eating eggs, so I went ahead and followed the original recipe. Fresh out of the oven, the bread smelled heavenly. A bite into the bread, and a burst of fresh flavors from the crushed mint, different kind of cheese, eggs and sultanas set your taste buds singing and you are in heaven.
For me this bread spelled perfection.

Ingredients  (Recipe adapted from The Traveler's Lunchbox.)
For the dough:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp instant yeast
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
½ tsp mastic, ground in a mortar (optional)
¼ tsp ground mahleb, (optional)
1 egg
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 cup grated cheddar cheese (a somewhat sharp cheddar adds flavor)
1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup crumbled cottage cheese (fresh Indian milk cheese)
2 tsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup semolina (not semolina flour)
1 tbsp dry mint (use 1/2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint if available)
1/2 tsp crushed black pepper/ red chilli flakes (optional)
1/8 cup raisins or currants (optional)
 3/4 tsp baking powder
1 to 2 tbsp milk
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp flour + less than 1/8 cup milk (for sealing paste)
1/3 to 1/2 cup un toasted sesame seeds

A little milk for brushing (or egg wash from beaten egg above)

First make the dough. I used my food processor but you can knead by hand. Put the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, and the flavouring ingredients (if you have them) into the bowl and pulse a couple of times to mix. Whisk together the egg, milk and melted butter in a small bowl and add it to the flour. Knead, adding just enough water, till you have a soft, smooth and elastic dough which is just short of sticky. Add water/ flour as necessary to get this consistency of dough. Too much flour will spoil the texture of the pies.

Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl, turning to coat it well. Cover loosely and let the dough rise for about 1 to 2 hours, until it is double in volume. Once it has risen, deflate the dough by pressing it out and folding it a few times. Then place it in a container (the dough will rise so use a large enough container), cover loosely and refrigerate for about 2 hours. You can leave this in the fridge overnight too, if you want to make these pies in two stages.
While the dough is sitting for the first rise, make the filling.
Mix all the ingredients for the filling, except the milk (or egg if you’re using it) with a fork. If you’re not using the filling immediately, keep it aside and add the milk only when you’re ready to use the filling.
The filling should be somewhat like a stiff paste, joust moist rather than wet.
Now shape the Flaounes. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces (10 if you want slightly smaller pies). Lightly oil your work surface and rolling pin. Then roll each piece into a 5 to 6” round. The round of dough should be thinner rather than thick. If it is too thick you will have a very “bready” pie, but make sure that your round of dough is not too thin to support/ carry the weight of the filling.
Divide the filling also into 8 (or 10) portions.
Spread the sesame seeds on a largish plate and place the round of dough on it, in the centre, and press down lightly. This makes for an easy way to coat the Flaounes with sesame seeds. Nowplace the round on your working surface and put one portion of filling (about a generous tablespoon full of it) in the middle of the round of dough and spread it lightly, leaving about 1” free at the edge.
You can make triangular or square Flaounes, and I personally feel that the square ones (more traditional) were less bready and nicer to eat. For the square ones, fold the two opposite edges over the filling leaving the center exposed. Now fold over the other two edges as well so you have a square pocket with the filling showing at the center. Press down the sealed points with the tines of a fork.
For the triangular Flaounes, pull up the edges of the dough at three points and partially fold over the filling, one after the other, leaving the uncovered. Use the paste of flour and milk (or beaten egg) to seal the flaps of dough well. Press down the sealed points with the tines of a fork. It is important to seal the pies well or they will open up during the second rise/ baking. Do not pinch the flaps together like for Hamantaschen as they will come apart as they rise. I learnt this the hard way!
See this link/ video which shows this procedure

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.
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.


  1. Hi Mukta! Happy to see your post. I love baked recipes and I am glad to have the recipe been photographed step-wise, which is user friendly for me types ;) Thank you for sharing such a must-try recipe.

    1. Thanks. I would love to know how it comes out :)

  2. oh yum that looks really interesting to try out

  3. It's really delicious!! Definitely a must try!!