(Cypriot Easter pastries)
Φλαουνες /Flaounes are also known as Φεσουδκια/ Fesouthkia and every Greek Cypriot family make them traditionally to celebrate the end of Lent and to be eaten on Easter Sunday after midnight mass which finishes the 48 days fast. These savoury cheese pastries are prepared near the end of lent usually on Holy Thursday before Good Friday and the pastry’s contain some of the ingredients that are forbidden during Orthodox lent, milk, cheese, eggs etc. The cheese they use is called (Flaouna cheese) and you can only get it at Easter time but you can substitute this with Halloumi, Graviera and Kefalodyri and mild Cheddar cheese, or make you own flaouna cheese. I personally love mixing deferent cheeses, I think flaounes taste better ! The other two important ingredients are masticha (mastic gum) is the resin from a small evergreen tree from Χίο/Chio and Mahlepi (the kernle of black dried cherry stones) this gives the pies their unique characteristics smell and flavour. Every family have the own recipe and also shape them definitely, and is probably the only difficult thing to achieve, for me too. ‘Flaounes’ are just as important in Cyprus at Easter, as the Tsoureki is in Greece and mince pies are in England at Christmas. Mince pies are very sweet and celebrate the birth of Christ whereas ‘Flaounes’, are savoury and express the sad occasion of the death of Christ.
Και του χρόνου! Till Next Year! As they say in Greece and Cyprus. Wishing you all
Καλόν Πάσχα 🐥🐣
For the pastry
900g (2 lb) strong or plain flour
1 sachet dried fast yeast
1/2tsp ground mahlepi
1/2 ground mastic
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
100g (4oz)butter, melted
450ml lukewarm milk or water approx
For the cheese filling you need
900g (2.lb) Cypriot special cheese (for flaounes) or alternatively you could use halloumi cheese
450g (1lb) mild white Cheddar cheese
225g or Kefalotyre , Graviera, Pecorino
3-4 tbsp,chopped fresh mint leaves or 2 tsp.dry mint
2 tsp. dried fast yeast
2-3 tbsp. sugar, optional
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground mahlepi
1/2 tsp ground mastic gum
2-3tsp. of vanilla extract
75g (3oz) fine semolina( not course)
3 tbsp self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
75g -100g (3-4oz)golden sultanas or raisins, washed and drained
4-5 eggs, room temperature, whisked
For the glaze
1 egg, beaten with 2 tbsp. milk
100g (4 oz.) sesame seeds
Grate all the cheese and let it dry overnight in the fridge or few hours outside.
The filling could be made few hours before you are ready to bake them, It gives time for the flavours to develop.
Place all the ingredients for the filling in a large bow (apart from the eggs. Mix lightly and gently with your hands. Whisk the eggs and then gradually pour them in the cheese, mixing them with your hands, the mixture must hold its shape and not spread when you form it into a ball and must not stick to your hands, and you may not need all the eggs or you may need more. Cover and allow the filling to rest for few hours, ideally prepare it first thing in the morning and bake them at lunch time or afternoon.
Make the dough, sift flours into a large bowl with the yeast, sugar salt, baking powder cinnamon, mahlepi and mastic. Add the butter and mix until you get fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the flour and start pouring the warm milk or water,mix with your hands to form a firm but soft dough, i use a mixer with a dough hook attach and work it until smooth. Knead on a flour board for few minutes until smooth and elastic, cover with a cloth or cling proof paper and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in size.
Punch down the dough and divide into four pieces and roll one piece at a time to 10cm (¼ inch) thickness. Cut circles using a saucer 18×18 (7 inch) or any size you require, roll the circles again. My mum use to cut the dough into small balls and roll each one individually, the choice is yours. You could roll the discs in sesame seeds if you like. My grandmother Argyra, my dads mum,from Argaki Cyprus apparently she use to make one very large flaouna the size of a bread, then slice it like a cake! They were the best, and she never added sugar. Anyway let’s get back my recipe!
*I always bake one Flaouna first to test it, if the cheese spreads too much then I add more Semolina and a little more self raising flour. *
Take a generous portion of the cheese mixture (the size of a golf ball), or large 3 spoonful, place the ball in the centre of each disc, fold the edges inwards to make a square or triangle, making sure the cheese filling exposed on the top,and the opening is not too big. Add more cheese if needed on top(so they do not go flat when baking, don’t forget cheese melts) Press the corners of the pastry with the back of a fork to seal the pastry. Brush pastries gently all over with the beaten egg and milk glaze and then sprinkle lightly with sesame seeds.
Place Flaounes on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, and leave them to rest 15 minutes, then bake them in the preheated oven at 180c – 350of or Gas Mark 4 for 25-30minutes or until cheese filling is puffed and pastry is golden brown, check it after 20 minutes and move the tray around so they cook evenly, (do not overcook) Remove from the oven, place on a tray and cover with another tea towel to keep them soft.
Serve warm or cold, or cool them completely, then freeze them.
*N B Do not over cooked the pastries, as they become very dry, Good Luck! *
Any leftover dough , shape into Koulourakia or make into Thaktila.