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Flaounes (Cypriot Easter Cheese filled Bread)

Flaounes picture

 

Flaounes pr. flah-OU-ness (singular flaouna) is a traditional Cypriot Easter cheese bread made with an aromatic yeasted phyllo dough, filled with a special Cypriot cheese, called Pafitiko, made during the Easter period especially for flaounes,  flavoured with Masticha (mastic resin), mahlepi (mahleb) and mint.

Flaounes image

In the older years, people were more faithful, so milk and eggs were not consumed during the 48 days of fasting. What could they do with the milk? Cheese was a solution. What about the eggs, since they did not have refrigerators? They had ways of preserving eggs for a long time and one method was keeping them in baskets among wheat straw, in a cool place.

Having lots of cheese and leftover eggs seemed like a great way to use them and make flaounes. This is just a thought of mine but it makes sense!

Outside Cyprus, this cheese can be substituted by a mixture of other Cypriot cheeses such as halloumi or kaskavalli or the Greek cheeses ladotyri Mytilinis, graviera, kefalograviera and some kefalotyri.

Kefalotyri is usually very salty, so don’t add too much.

The dough itself is so delicious that we always make more, in which we mix the left over pieces of grated cheese in order to make a cheese bread called “tyropita”.  The same dough is also used to make koulouria, which is a very aromatic bread.

Small flaounes (around 9 cm – 3 inches), called flaounitses or flaounoudes, are made in a triangle shape, year round with the basic dough recipe and grated halloumi, eggs and mint, as filling.  These are served as snacks or finger food at parties.

History:

It is believed that the word flaouna is reminiscent of an ancient Greek kind of bread made with nuts, called πᾰλάθη (palathi) > fláo  > flaon > flado  > fladonem > fladonis etc.

Flaounes origin of word image

This bread was offered to children , who went from house to house singing about the coming of swallows and spring.  This tradition continued during the Byzantine era and until recent years, flaouna was offered to children or even grown-ups, as a treat when they went from house to house to announce the resurrection of Christ or to wake up the people to go to church for the midnight mass on Easter Saturday.

The ancient palathi also contained some dried figs.

Source :  My translation, from the Cypriot EncyclopaediaΜεγάλη Κυπριακή Εγκυκλοπαίδεια. Επιμέλεια: Άντρου Παυλίδη, Λευκωσία (1984-1996).

Traditionally flaounes are made on Holy Thursday and it’s not an easy job. 

These cheese breads are made with a very flavourful bread dough and filled with a cheese called “Paphitiko” made, during the Easter period, of 100% goat’s and ewes’ milk, especially for flaounes.

Paphitiko tyri image

 

However, this cheese can be substituted by a mixture of other Cypriot cheeses such as halloumi or kaskavalli or the Greek cheeses ladotyri Mytilinis, graviera, kefalograviera and some kefalotyri.  Kefalotyri is usually very salty, so don’t add too much.   In some countries where these cheese are difficult to find, add only halloumi or a mixture of halloumi with mild cheddar or romano.

As the dough of flaounes is very unique and aromatic, we usually make more dough than necessary to make some “koulouria”, (bread dough in various shapes).

collage koulouri for Easter image

The preparations usually start from the previous day by making the filling.  The cheese is grated and eggs and spices and mint are add to the mixture.  The filling is covered and refrigerated overnight in order to rise.  The next morning, the filling is “awaken”.  This expression means that more eggs are added, to make the filling fluffy again.

If the filling is prepared on the same day, it should rest at room temperature, covered with a kitchen towel for a few hours to rise.

On Thursday morning, most of the female members of the family (grandmother, mother, daughter, aunts etc.,) get up from the crack to dawn to start preparing the flaounes as well as bread or “koulouria”,  as well as to dye the Easter eggs.   Tsourekia were introduced to Cypriot cuisine much later.

Each member has its role.  One rolls out the dough, another puts the dough in the sesame seeds, another adds the filling and shapes them and some one places them neatly between clean bed sheets, with a blanket on top to help them rise.

After they rise, the egg wash is added on top, they are placed in big baking trays and off they go to the bakery.

Flaounes shaped triange image

I have memories when I was young when we all used to help making them and then we had to take them to our neighbourhood’s “fourno” which was a traditional bread bakery with wood oven and we had to wait patiently for our turn to have ours baked.

 

 

Flaounes with kannavouri image

 

I have just finished the procedure of making them and I made 12 medium-sized flaounes with the quantity of flour used and there was some left to make two koulouria.

collage Flaounes image

Flaounes (Cypriot Easter Cheese filled Bread)

Preparation time: 60 minutes

Resting time:  60 minutes

Baking time: 30 minutes

Makes:  10 – 12

Ingredients:

For the dough

  • 2 kilos (4.40 lbs) bread or all-purpose flour
  • 50 grams (1.76 oz) sourdough or fresh yeast
  • 1 ½ cups of spry (or other vegetable shortening) or olive oil
  • 8 mastic resins, pounded with 1 tsp of sugar
  • 8 grams mahleb grains, pounded
  • Lukewarm milk (about 3 cups)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For Foukos (filling):

  • 1.250 grams (2.75 lbs) Pafitiko cheese
  • ½ cup fine semolina
  • 25 grams (0.90 oz) fresh yeast
  • 1 cup fresh mint, finely chopped (or 6 tbsp dried mint)
  • 10 – 12 eggs
  • 8 pounded mastic resins
  • 8 pounded mahleb grains
  • 1 cup sultana raisins
  • 1 tsp baking powder

For the egg wash:

  • 2 beaten egg yolks
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 350 grams (12.35 oz) sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Pound mastic and mahleb together adding a teaspoon of flour or sugar.
  2. Grate the cheese and mix with raisins, semolina, baking powder, mastic, mahleb and mint.   Dissolve the sourdough or yeast with 2 eggs (at room temperature) and mix with the cheese. Add the remaining eggs, one by one, mixing until the cheese have become a firm mixture.  Less or more eggs may be required depending if cheese are moist or not.  Cover with a towel or cling film and refrigerate.
  3. Next day add two more eggs and mix the mixture to become soft and fluffy and leave it for an hour to rest.
  4. In the meantime prepare the dough.  Mix flour, salt, pounded mastic and mahleb, add butter and oil and rub into the flour using your fingertips until oil and butter are absorbed and looks like bread crumbs. Make a well and pour yeast which you have previously dissolved in lukewarm milk. Add remaining lukewarm milk gradually and knead until dough thickens and does not stick on your hands. Cover with cling film and cover with a woolen cloth and leave for about an hour to rise.  The procedure can also be made in a stand mixer.
  5. Add the sesame seeds in a plate or tray.
  6. Roll out the dough and make the phyllo round, about the size of a plate. Place the dough on the sesame seeds and press the dough gently, so that sesame may stick on the dough. Reverse the dough and place a few spoonfuls of filling in the centre of the dough. Fold the sides to form either a square or triangle shape but leaving the centre uncovered.
  7. Using a fork, press the four corners (or three for triangle ones) of the dough to join. Place each flaouna on clean tablecloths or sheets and cover again with tablecloth and leave them to rise.
  8. Remove them to a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  9. Beat the eggs with the milk and some sesame seeds and brush them with the egg wash, all over, including the foukos on top.
  10. Preheat oven to 180o C /350o F and bake them for about 25 minutes, then lower the heat to 150o C / 302o F and bake until golden brown.

Note:

1) In some parts of Cyprus, especially in the region of Larnaca, sugar is added to the cheese mixture.  Also, apart from the usual spices and herbs used in the filling, some people, including my elder sister also adds some “kanaouri” (hemp seeds) in the filling.

2) Instead of sour dough, you may use fresh yeast (25 grams per kilo of flour) or dry yeast may be used (about 9 grams per kilo of flour), dissolved in lukewarm milk and a few tbsp of flour and a teaspoon of sugar).   Be careful with fresh yeast as it may not dissolve properly. Pass it from a small sieve.

3) Pound both quantities of mastic and mahleb simultaneously and use half of it in the filling and half of it in the dough.

4) As I cannot find spry in Greece or other shortening, I substitute it with  olive oil.

5)  If you have leftover dough and pieces of cheese, cut the cheese into smaller pieces and mix them with the dough and form them into a bread called Tyropita or Halloumopita.

6) If you want to make koulouria with the remaining dough take a large piece and roll with your hands to make a long cord about 3 cm in diameter and about 50 cm long. Cut it diagonally with a knife in equal parts about 7 – 8 cm each and place each piece next to the other and join them together.

Cover cheese bread or koulouria with sesame seeds and leave them to rise, (same way as flaounes) then brush them with egg wash.  Bake in a preheated oven, to 180o C / 350o F,  for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.

Easter koulouri image

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Flaounes (Cypriot Easter Cheese filled Bread)

Flaounes (Cypriot Easter Cheese filled Bread)

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Category: Bread
Cuisine: Cypriot Cuisine

Flaounes pr. flah-OU-ness (singular flaouna) is a traditional Cypriot Easter cheese bread made with an aromatic yeasted phyllo dough, filled with a special Cypriot cheese, called Pafitiko, made during the Easter period especially for flaounes,  flavoured with Masticha (mastic resin), mahlepi (mahleb) and mint.

Flaounes (Cypriot Easter Cheese filled Bread)

Ingredients

10
    For the dough
  • 2 kilos (4.40 lbs) bread or all-purpose flour
  • 50 grams (1.76 oz) sourdough or fresh yeast
  • 1 ½ cups of spry (or other vegetable shortening) or olive oil
  • 8 mastic resins, pounded with 1 tsp of sugar
  • 8 grams mahleb grains, pounded
  • Lukewarm milk (about 3 cups)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
    For Foukos (filling):
  • 1.250 grams (2.75 lbs) Pafitiko cheese
  • ½ cup fine semolina
  • 25 grams (0.90 oz) fresh yeast
  • 1 cup fresh mint, finely chopped (or 6 tbsp dried mint)
  • 10 – 12 eggs
  • 8 pounded mastic resins
  • 8 pounded mahleb grains
  • 1 cup sultana raisins
  • 1 tsp baking powder
    For the egg wash:
  • 2 beaten egg yolks
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 350 grams (12.35 oz) sesame seeds

Instructions

Prep
60 minutes
Cook
30 minutes
  1. Pound mastic and mahleb together adding a teaspoon of flour or sugar.
  2. Grate the cheese and mix with raisins, semolina, baking powder, mastic, mahleb and mint. Dissolve the sourdough or yeast with 2 eggs (at room temperature) and mix with the cheese. Add the remaining eggs, one by one, mixing until the cheese have become a firm mixture. Less or more eggs may be required depending if cheese are moist or not.  Cover with a towel or cling film and refrigerate.
  3. Next day add two more eggs and mix the mixture to become soft and fluffy and leave it for an hour to rest.
  4. In the meantime prepare the dough.  Mix flour, salt, pounded mastic and mahleb, add butter and oil and rub into the flour using your fingertips until oil and butter are absorbed and looks like bread crumbs. Make a well and pour yeast which you have previously dissolved in lukewarm milk. Add remaining lukewarm milk gradually and knead until dough thickens and does not stick on your hands. Cover with cling film and cover with a woolen cloth and leave for about an hour to rise.  The procedure can also be made in a stand mixer.
  5. Add the sesame seeds in a plate or tray.
  6. Roll out the dough and make round or square shapes, about the size of a plate. Place the dough on the sesame seeds and press the dough gently, so that sesame may stick on the dough. Reverse the dough and place a few spoonfuls of filling in the centre of the dough. Fold the sides to form either a square or triangle shape but leaving the centre uncovered.
  7. Using a fork, press the four corners (or three for triangle ones) of the dough to join. Place each flaouna on clean tablecloths or sheets and cover again with tablecloth and leave them to rise.
  8. Remove them to a baking tray lined with parchment paper and brush them with the egg wash, mixed with some sesame seeds.
  9. Preheat oven to 180o C /350o F and bake them for about 25 minutes, then lower heat to 150o C / 302o F and bake until golden brown.

Notes

1) In some parts of Cyprus, especially in the region of Larnaca, sugar is added to the cheese mixture.  Also, apart from the usual spices and herbs used in the filling, some people, incuding my elder sister also adds some "kanaouri" (hemp seeds} in the filling.  

2) Instead of fresh yeast, dry yeast may be used (about 12 grams - 0.42 oz per kilo (2.20 lbs) of flour, dissolved in lukewarm milk and a few tbsp of flour and a teaspoon of sugar).   Be careful with fresh yeast as it may not dissolve properly. Pass it from a small sieve.

3) Pound both quantities of mastic and mahleb simultaneously and use half of it in the filling and half of it in the dough.

4) As I cannot find spry in Greece or other shortening, I substitute it with  olive oil.

5)  If you have leftover dough and pieces of cheese, cut the cheese into smaller pieces and mix them with the dough and form them into a bread called Tyropita or Halloumopita.

6) If you want to make koulouria with the remaining dough take a large piece and roll with your hands to make a long cord about 3 cm in diameter and about 50 cm long. Cut it diagonally with a knife in equal parts about 7 - 8 cm each and place each piece next to the other and join them together.

Cover cheese bread or koulouria with sesame seeds and leave them to rise, (same way as flaounes) then brush them with egg wash.  Bake in a preheated oven, to 180o C / 350o F, until golden brown.

Nutrition information

https://www.kopiaste.org/2008/04/easter-flaounes/

Flaounes pin image

This and many more traditional Cypriot recipes are included in my cookbook Mint, Cinnamon & Blossom Water, Flavours of Cyprus, Kopiaste as well as in Volume 2 of my e-cookbook.

Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,

4.33/5 (6)

Please rate this

17 Responses

  1. Peter G

    More Cyprian delights! I don’t recall ever eating these but they sound really tasty with all that cheese Ivy.

  2. jj

    Never had these either, but yours looks great!

  3. Laurie Constantino

    I’ve never had these, but I sure would like to try them as they sound absolutely wonderful. Another winner, Ivy!

  4. Mike of Mike's Table

    I’ve also never been exposed to this before but wow they sure look good. It seems that nearly every “Greek” restaurant I’ve eaten at growing up has not done Greek food justice. This looks really tasty

  5. Cakelaw

    These look and sound delicious Ivy. I love learning so much about traditional Greek dishes from your blog.

  6. Emiline

    I think they look wonderful. Perfect for an Easter celebration!

  7. Rosie

    Ivy these look stunning so perfect for your Easter celebration 🙂

    Rosie x

  8. Bellini Valli

    Aglaia taught me to prepare mahleb. These breads sound so delicious I may try them when I get some of the cheese. I saw some kasseri in the shop the other day:D

  9. Ivy

    Thanks everyone for commenting.

    Val, Kaseri is not suitable for Flaounes as it is a cheese that melts.

  10. Mike Costas

    I lived on Cyprus for a few months including Easter. My dad was a Greek Cypriot and our family loved the experience. These Flaounes may look and sound good, but unless the locals did something wrong, they really didn’t taste that good. We’ll have to try this recipe and see how they turn out.

    There was actually a version filled with sweets that was really good.

    Every time we went somewhere during the Easter season, the relatives were giving us more Flaounes than we could eat … a lot of fun.

    If you want a treat … go to Cyprus. It is a beautiful island paradise and the folks are wonderful.

  11. christa

    hi, we make flaunes every easter, the recipe i have has been handed down from my mother its very similar to yours. we use peccorino cheese thats available and mix with halloumi and other cheeses. we are a big family and we all get together in one home and all help including the very young members of six years and make it a fun day we produce over 250 flaunes and get the male memebers to do the mixing of the dough and also the making, and baking. we also make a large ammount of koulouria. we wish you all a happy easter

    • Nice to meet you Christa. Pecorino would be a lovely substitue for the Cypriot cheese.
      Yes, that's how we used to make flaounes as well. All the family helping. I am really happy you are still keeping our traditions.

      • Tina

        Hi , we make flaunes every easter as well. We get together with my mum, my girls and my sister and make a big batch (250+) and share them around. We use peccorino, romano and halloumi cheese. We live in Australia so these are the best alternative cheeses. They taste delicious. Have a nice Easter.

  12. Eleni Papadakis

    please a easy recipe for flaounes

    • Eleni, this is the easy recipe for flaounes:

  13. Andrea

    Mike, Flaounes can taste quite bad if they are not made correctly. But when they are made good, they are the best food available in my opinion.

    I tend to use a mix of greek cheeses, along with Halloumi, Anari and 50-60% mild english cheddar. It’s very difficult for me to sit here and convince people to sub some greek cheese for english cheddar because Flaounes are really hard to make.

    I suggest making a small batter with some dried english mild cheddar and making a few to know for next year. They really taste great with this cheese in my opinion.

  14. Flora

    Yes Flaounes are made for Easter—what is Easter without a flaouna–but—-traditionally no baking is done on Good Friday the holiest days of the Greek Orthodox calender—in my house and my aunts homes all preparations began on Holy Wednesday for baking on Thursday

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