It’s that wonderful time of year again for all my fellow Greek and Cypriot Christians; Greek Easter.
To mark the occasion, us Greeks traditionally indulge in yummy Flaounes, a fragrant pastry encasing cheesy goodness. The name doesn’t do it justice at all, but trust me on this one, they’re absolutely superb.
For any devoted Great British Bake Off fans out there, you may remember them from a few years back as one of the technical challenges.
Speaking of Bake Off, this recipe is an adaptation of Paul Hollywood’s recipe for Flaounes. Although Paul’s recipe is top-notch, mine halves his dough ingredients and doubles his filling. This is because my family prefer thinner pastry and a massive amount of filling. I also add a little more mint to my filling as well as four different cheeses. Cheeseaholics anonymous here, we’re greedy and trying to bite off more than we can chew, literally.
One of the cheeses I use is flaouna cheese, a cheese made specifically for the making of flaounes (it’s a big deal back home!) I can get hold of this quite easily as I’ve got family travelling to and from Cyprus all year round pretty much. Understandably, if you don’t have this cheese accessible to you, don’t bother. Just kidding. If you do, great (you’re probably a Cypriot who lives close to a Cypriot food store or travels to Cyprus). If you don’t, go for a cheese you love and use that instead! I mean its FOUR cheeses, no one will know anyway, plus it’s a way of adding your own spin on it (winning).
This recipe yields 65 medium flaounes. That wasn’t a typing error. And yes, we get through them within days. Any remaining flaounes (fat chance) are stored in the freezer and thawed and warmed up at a later date (they freeze beautifully, you’d never know the difference!)
Of course you can halve this recipe to make a more humble amount of 30 or even quarter the recipe to get about a dozen, it depends whether you’re feeding an army or not.
Prep time: 2 hours
Total time: 5-6 hours
For the Pastry:
1.5 kg very strong flour
2 tsp mastic powder
4 tsp ground mahlepi
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp salt
14g instant yeast
120g unsalted butter, melted
900ml full fat milk, room temperature
For the Filling:
750g soft anari cheese or pecorino romano cheese
750g halloumi cheese
750g cheddar cheese
750g flaouna cheese/ kasseri cheese or other hard cheese
300g plain flour
360g fine semolina
6 tbsp dried mint
16 free range eggs
4 tsp baking powder
For the Glaze:
500g sesame seeds
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
6 egg yolks, beaten
Make the filling. Grate all the cheeses into a gigantic bowl.
In a separate medium sized bowl add flour, semolina, yeast, mint, sultanas and baking powder. Whisk to combine.
In a third bowl whisk the eggs with the milk.
Tip the dry ingredients over the grated cheeses and then pour over the liquid mixture. Give it all a good mix using your hands. Refrigerate till ready to use.
Make the pastry. In a large bowl add flour, mastic, mahlepi, caster sugar, yeast and salt (being careful the yeast and salt do not touch). Whisk to combine and make a well in the centre. Pour in the butter and 800ml of the milk and mix well using your hands, until you get a rough, soft dough. If the dough feels too dry add in the remaining 100ml of milk.
Place onto a well floured surface and knead until smooth, 10-15 minutes as it’s a lot of dough! Place back into the bowl and cover for one hour.
Meanwhile make the glaze. In a medium saucepan, combine sesame seeds, vinegar and water to bring the mixture to a boil. Drain the water and spread the sesame seeds over a clean tea towel and allow to dry.
Preheat the oven to 190°C or 170°C fan. Line a baking tray with parchment and set aside.
Taking large handfuls of dough at a time flatten on a floured surface and pass through a pasta machine from setting 1 working your way up to setting 6. Use a rolling pin to stretch out the dough a little more in height and cut into 6 inch rounds. (I used a 6 inch cake pan and it worked wonders!)
Press one side of the rounds onto the cooled sesame seeds, coating well. Take a handful of filling mixture and roll into tennis sized balls. Place in the centre of the round and brush some egg wash around the edge of the dough. Bring the dough in from 3 edges, covering the filling and leaving the top slightly exposed. Press down well on the overlapping corners to ensure it doesn’t open up in the oven. Place on the baking tray and brush the flaounes with egg wash,
Bake in the middle shelf for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Repeat until filling and dough runs out.
Serve slightly warm. Enjoy and Happy Easter! x