Round Flaounes / Φλαούνες Στρογγυλές

Flaounes / Φλαούνες are also known in the Karava district as Fesouthkia / Φεσουδκια. Every Greek Cypriot family traditionally makes them to be eaten on Easter Sunday after midnight mass which ends the 48 day fast.
Flaouna cheese is preferred when making these traditional savoury pastries; it is usually only produced before and during the Easter period and can be used on its own or mixed with other cheeses such as halloumi, kefalotyri, mild cheddar or pecorino.
Flaounes are just as important in Cyprus at Easter as the Tsoureki is in Greece and mince pies are in the UK at Christmas.
Every family has its own recipe and shapes them differently; I have shaped mine into rounds and they look very beautiful.
This recipe is for a small amount of flaounes so double the quantity if you want to make more. Any leftover dough can be used to make koulourakia.

Ingredients (makes 5 large or 8 small round flaounes):

For the pastry:
450g strong or plain flour
4g dried fast action yeast
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
¼ tsp ground mahlepi
¼ tsp ground mastic
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
2oz butter, melted
250ml lukewarm milk or water

For the filling:
450g Flaouna cheese or halloumi and mild Cheddar (a mixture of any two or all three)
2-3 tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves or 1 tbsp dry mint
1 tsp dried fast action yeast
2-3 tbsp sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground mahlepi
½ tsp ground mastic gum
Few drops of vanilla extract
3 tbsp fine semolina
3 tbsp self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
75g sultanas or raisins, washed, drained and placed on a tea towel
3 large eggs, room temperature

For the glaze:
1 egg beaten with 2 tbsp milk
Sesame seeds

Grate all the cheeses and mix in the semolina, then spread the grated cheeses onto a tray and allow to dry for a few hours in the fridge or outside, stirring from time to time – you do not need to prepare the night before.
Place all the ingredients for the filling in a large bowl, apart from the eggs, and mix lightly and gently with your hands.
Whisk the eggs and then gradually pour them into the cheese while mixing with your hand; the mixture must hold its shape, not spread when you form it into a ball in the palm of your hand and must not stick to your hands – you may need to add a little more flour. Cover the cheese mixture and allow it to rest for a couple of hours.
To make the dough, sift flour into a large bowl with the yeast, sugar, salt, cinnamon, mahlepi and mastic. Add the butter and rub in until you get fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the flour and start pouring the warm milk or water and mix with your hands to form a firm but soft dough. I use a mixer with a dough hook attached and work it until smooth. Knead on a floured board for a few minutes until smooth and elastic, cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in size.
Punch down the dough and divide into four pieces. Roll out 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. You can roll the discs in sesame seeds if you like.
Divide cheese into 7 equal portions and shape into balls. Place one ball in the centre of each disc and with a small, sharp knife, slash the discs in 4 places from the outside towards the filling and bring the edges of the pastry inwards to make a round shape, then press the pastry to seal.
Brush pastries gently all over with the beaten egg and milk and then sprinkle them lightly with sesame seeds.
Place Flaounes on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 170c / 325f / gas 3.
Bake for 25-30minutes or until the filling has puffed up and the pastry is golden brown; check them after 15 minutes and move the tray around so they cook evenly – do not overcook. Remove from the oven, place on a rack and cover with tea towel to keep them soft.
Serve warm or cold, or cool completely and then freeze them.

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