Cyprus Easter Cheese Bread, (“Flaounes”) play an incredibly important role in Cypriot cuisine. Since I was a little girl I remember my mom’s best friend and my mom getting together once a year to make heaps of “flaounes”. I remember the labour of love that would go into making “flaounes”. How the preparations started the night before, and how baking would start early in the morning. How the dough would be wrapped in baby blankets to keep it warm. It wasn’t just my household though. Much the same occurs in all Cypriot households that make “flaounes”. It’s an annual tradition that often brings together families for a day of baking, still to this day.
This year I sort of (OK, totally) broke the “make-it-with-family” rule. I made them on my own, with just my pug Ernie as company, but I think because I wanted to see if I could truly say I actually knew how to make them on my own and also to show that you can make “flaounes” by yourself, (no large Cypriot family required, though – of course – it is nice.)
Which brings to me to the actual recipe I made. Last year I published a very traditional “flaounes” recipe with halloumi and “flaouna” cheese. This year I am publishing a more modern version inspired by all those who make “flaounes” outside of Cyprus. If you have ever tried to make “flaounes” outside of Cyprus, one of your biggest obstacles might be finding the “flaouna” and halloumi cheese. This “flaouna” recipe uses different types of cheese.
I grew up with “flaounes” made from non-traditional Cypriot cheeses. And, I have to say, I actually prefer the more inter-nationalised version. My personal opinion is that the traditional “flaounes” are a little dry and don’t have as much flavour as the “flaouna” recipe below. This recipe has a lot of flavour, and isn’t dry on the inside. There are also a lot of steps, but, as I discovered, it’s not as difficult as I made it out to be.
Maybe it is because traditionally you do make “flaounes” with family, so when I was preparing to make “flaounes” on my own, I was a bit nervous. I wanted the “flaounes” to be delicious and good and so I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to create perfect “flaounes”. Silly billy. I even borrowed my aunt’s mixer (because it makes total sense that someone who cooks all the time doesn’t own one, right?!?) for the purposes of kneading the dough. (…But I actually seriously recommend having a mixer for this recipe, it makes kneading the dough ridiculously easy.)
The “flaounes” turned out really great. The funny thing is that I couldn’t actually find one of the cheeses that we use to make “flaounes” in Canada in Cyprus, so I substituted the substitute so to speak. I was a bit worried about this, but actually the taste was just the way I remembered it so the substitution worked out. I did have to go to Debenhams in Cyprus to buy the cheeses though, as the pecorino romano cheese was a bit tricky to find.
Also, I love my “flaounes” raisin heavy, so if you don’t like raisins, then just add less or none at all. Also, make sure to store your “flaounes” in an air-tight container after they cool and put any extras in the freezer. They freeze well and it means you can enjoy “flaounes” for breakfast in the middle of the summer too.
That’s it for Easter baking 2014. Don’t forget, that if you are interested in a “tsoureki” recipe, “tsourerki” french toast or traditional “flaounes”, or would like to make “eliopittes” with the extra dough that this recipe will leave you with, those recipes are on the website too. It’s my birthday on Monday, so I hope to see you early next week with a yummy cake recipe!
For the filling:
3 cups (226 grams) finely grated kefalotyri cheese
2.5 cups (226 grams) parmigiano reggiano cheese
4 cups (396 grams) pecorino romano cheese
2 tablespoons ground dry mint
3/8 tablespoons ground mastic powder
1/2 tablespoons ground mehlep powder
10 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup of raisins
For the dough:
7.5 cups All Purpose Flour
7.5 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1/4 tablespoons of salt
1/2 tablespoons of ground mastic powder
1/2 tablespoons of ground mehlep powder
2 small eggs
2 cups of milk
1 & 3/4 tablespoons of dry yeast
1/6 cup of white sugar
2 eggs for egg wash
(Note that this recipe will leave you with extra dough. I always make extra dough when making “flaounes” so that I can also make a few “eliopittes”. To be exact, I had enough dough leftover to make 4 “eliopittes”. I used this “eliopitta” recipe and divided the filling recipe by 3 to use up the leftover dough.)
1. Prepare the filling the night before. In a large bowl mix together the cheeses, mint, mastic powder, mehlep powder and half of the baking powder with your hands.
2. Add 3 eggs at a time, mixing the cheese mixture with your hands until it becomes medium-soft. You may only need 9 eggs, see the pictures above and below for reference.
3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest over night at room temperature.
4. In the morning, add the remaining baking powder, raisins and mix well with your hands. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel.
5. Prepare the dough. Mix together the flour, mastic powder, mehlep powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the vegetable shortening and rub the shortening into the flour mixture with your fingers.
6. Dilute the yeast with 1/2 cup of warm milk and 1/2 tablespoon of sugar in a small bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 15 minutes until a light foam has formed on top.
7. In the meantime, warm the remaining milk with remaining sugar over the stove at low heat. Place in a large bowl.
8. Beat the eggs and add them to the milk. Keep this mixture warm until the yeast mixture has risen.
9. 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. If the flour mixture needs more water, have some warm water at hand and add a little warm water if necessary. (I added about 3 tablespoons of warm water.)
10. Start needing the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic. (You may use an electric mixer with a dough hook.) This will take about 10 to 15 minutes.
11. 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.
12. When the dough has risen, punch it down with your fists.
13. Cut a piece of dough the size of a small lemon. Roll it into a circle approximately 20 cm in diameter. Place a small plate over the circle and trace around it with a knife forming a flat, circular piece of dough.
14. Rinse about 1 cup of sesame seeds. Place the wet sesame seeds in a plate.
15. Place the circular piece of dough onto the sesame seeds so that one side is covered with sesame seeds.
16. Place a handful of the cheese mixture (about one cup) into the middle of the circle. Take a brush, and brush egg wash around the edge of the circular piece of dough.
17. Fold the sides of the circle to form an open triangle as shown in the pictures. Ensure that there is a small opening on top. Lightly press the corner edges down with the prongs of a fork to secure the cheese inside.
18. Place on baking paper on a pan. Prepare all the “flaounes” the same way. Once a pan is full, cover the same with a kitchen towel and let the “flaounes” rise again for about 1 hour. Do the same with each full pan.
19. Preheat the oven to 160C. Lightly brush the top of each “flaouna” with egg wash and bake for 45 minutes. Pour yourself a glass of lemonade and enjoy – it has been a long day!