British-Cypriot chef Loulla Astin based in Manchester has shared with Parikiaki newspaper her recipe to make delicious ‘Flaounes’, Cyprus’ famous Easter pastries.
You can find her on YouTube by clicking here.
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 a few hours outside.
The filling could be made a 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 a few hours, ideally prepare it first thing in the morning and bake them at lunchtime 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 (Loulla uses a mixer with a dough hook attached and works 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. (Loulla says: “My mum used 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 dad’s mum, from Argaki Cyprus, apparently used to make one very large flaouna the size of a bread, then sliced it like a cake!”)
*Loulla always bakes one Flaouna first to test it, if the cheese spreads too much then she adds 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 spoonfuls, 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.
Notes from Loulla:
Do not overcook the pastries, as they become very dry.
Any leftover dough, shape into Koulourakia or make into Thaktila.