Flaounes pr. flah-OU-ness (singular flaouna) is a traditional Cypriot Easter cheese filled bread.
They are 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 (mahlab) and mint.
What cheese can I use to make flaounes?
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!
What cheese can I substitute Paphitiko cheese?
In Greece, 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.
Outside Cyprus you can substitute Paphitiko cheese with haloumi and/or pecorino and/or mild cheddar and/or romano.
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.
These are served as snacks or finger food at parties.
History of Flaounes:
It is believed that the word flaouna / flaounes is reminiscent of an ancient Greek kind of bread made with nuts, called πᾰλάθη (palathi) > fláo > flaon > flado > fladonem > fladonis etc.
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 Encyclopaedia: Μεγάλη Κυπριακή Εγκυκλοπαίδεια. Επιμέλεια: Άντρου Παυλίδη, Λευκωσία (1984-1996).
When can I make Flaounes?
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.
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).
The preparations usually start from the previous day by making the filling.
The cheese is grated and eggs, yeast, 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”, as we say in Cyprus.
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 of 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.
I have memories when I was young when we all used to help making them.
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.
Note: The amount of dough used in the recipe makes 12 medium-sized flaounes and two koulouria.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pound both quantities of mastic and mahlab simultaneously and use half of it in the filling and half of it in the dough.
- As I cannot find spry in Greece or other shortening, I substitute it with olive oil.
- 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.
- 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.
- Flaounes can be stored in the freezer wrapped with cling film and aluminium foil for a few months. Thaw them and reheat and they are just as good as the fresh ones.
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 - 10 mastic resins, pounded with 1 tsp of sugar
- 8 - 10 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
- 2 tbsp hemp seeds (optional)
- 1 tsp baking powder
For the egg wash:
- 2 beaten egg yolks
- 4 tbsp milk
- 350 grams (12.35 oz) sesame seeds
- Pound mastic and mahleb together adding a teaspoon of flour or sugar.
- 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.
- Next day add two more eggs and mix the mixture to become soft and fluffy and leave it for an hour to rest.
- In the meantime prepare the dough. Mix flour, salt, pounded mastic and mahlab, 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.
- Add the sesame seeds in a plate or tray.
- 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.
- 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.
- Remove them to a baking tray lined with parchment paper and brush them with the egg wash, mixed with some sesame seeds.
- 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.
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.
7) Flaounes can be stored in the freezer wrapped with cling film and aluminium foil for a few months. Thaw them and reheat and they are just as good as the fresh ones.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 881Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 21gCholesterol: 222mgSodium: 1139mgCarbohydrates: 125gFiber: 11gSugar: 20gProtein: 34g
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.
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Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,