Sunday, April 27, 2014

Flaounes (Cypriot Savory Easter Cheese Pies) ~ We Knead to Bake #16

Aparna chose Flaounes, a cheesy, savory Easter pies from Cyprus for this month's  We Knead to bake project.  I opted for a egg less version, substituting eggs for yogurt and milk.

Flaounes (pronounced "fla-OO-nez") are savory cheese pies baked for Greek Orthodox Easter, and traditionally made on Good Friday and are part of the fast-breaking meal after Lent when meat and cheese are not eaten. They are eaten at breakfast and also exchanged as gifts of friendship and goodwill. Flaounes are also made in semi-sweet and sweet variations.

There are a couple of ingredients that go into the filling that are typically Cypriot/ Greek and they are “mehelepi” and “mastiki. Mehelepi (mahleb/ mahlab) is the ground dried pits of a wild Mediterranean cherry. Mastiki (mastic) is the dried resin from a kind of shrub. Both of these spices are quite common in Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine and they really have no good substitutes so if you can't find either, just leave them out.

Flaounes can be shaped into triangles or squares, and just make sure that you press down the flaps well while folding the dough over the filling, or these pies will open up when they bake. Do take a look at this video where Paul Hollywood and Toni Buxtonmake Flaounes to get a good idea on how they’re shaped.

For the dough:
All purpose flour - 2 1/2 cups
Instant yeast - 3/4 tsp
Sugar - 1 1/2 tsp
Powdered mastic - 1/2 tsp (leave it out if you don't have it)
Ground mahleb - 1/4 tsp (leave it out if you don't have it)
Milk - 1/4 cup
Yogurt - 1/4 cup (replace 1 egg if you like)
Melted butter - 3 to 4 tbsp, 60gm
Luke warm water - 1/4 cup (more or less as needed)
Oil - for greasing the bowl and rolling the dough

For the filling:
Grated cheddar cheese - 1 cup (a somewhat sharp cheddar adds flavor)
Grated pepper jack cheese - 1/4 cup
Crumbled paneer - 1/3 cup (fresh Indian milk cheese)
Semolina / Rava - 1/4 cup (not semolina flour)
Dried Greek oregano - 1 Tbsp
Dried jalapeno pepper - 1/2 tsp (soak in 1 tsp milk for 10 minutes)
Turkish apricots - 1/8 cup, chopped
Baking powder - 3/4 tsp

1 tsp flour + less than 1/8 cup milk (for sealing paste)
Un-toasted sesame seeds - 1/3 to 1/2 cup
Milk for brushing

  1. First make the dough. I used my food processor but you can knead by hand. Put the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, and the flavoring ingredients (if you have them) into the bowl and pulse a couple of times to mix.
  2. Whisk together the yogurt, milk and melted butter in a small bowl and add it to the flour. Knead, adding just enough water, till you have a soft, smooth and elastic dough which is just short of sticky. Add water/ flour as necessary to get this consistency of dough. Too much flour will spoil the texture of the pies.
  3. Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl, turning to coat it well. Cover loosely and let the dough rise for about 1 to 2 hours, until it is double in volume. 
  4. Once it has risen, deflate the dough by pressing it out and folding it a few times. Then place it in a container (the dough will rise so use a large enough container), cover loosely and refrigerate for about 2 hours. You can leave this in the fridge overnight too, if you want to make these pies in two stages. 
  5. While the dough is sitting for the first rise, make the filling. Mix all the ingredients for the filling, except the milk (or egg if you’re using it) with a fork. If you’re not using the filling immediately, keep it aside and add the milk only when you’re ready to use the filling.  The filling should be somewhat like a stiff paste, joust moist rather than wet.
  6. Now shape the Flaounes. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces (10 if you want slightly smaller pies). Lightly oil your work surface and rolling pin. Then roll each piece into a 5 to 6” round. The round of dough should be thinner rather than thick. If it is too thick you will have a very “bready” pie, but make sure that your round of dough is not too thin to support/ carry the weight of the filling.
  7. Divide the filling also into 8 (or 10) portions. Spread the sesame seeds on a large plate and place the round of dough on it, in the center, and press down lightly. This makes for an easy way to coat the Flaounes with sesame seeds. Now place the round on your working surface and put one portion of filling (about a generous tablespoon full of it) in the middle of the round of dough and spread it lightly, leaving about 1” free at the edge.
  8. You can make triangular or square Flaounes, and I personally feel that the square ones (more traditional) were less bready and nicer to eat. For the square ones, fold the two opposite edges over the filling leaving the center exposed. Now fold over the other two edges as well so you have a square pocket with the filling showing at the center. Press down the sealed points with the tines of a fork.
  9. For the triangular Flaounes, pull up the edges of the dough at three points and partially fold over the filling, one after the other, leaving the uncovered. Use the paste of flour and milk (or beaten egg) to seal the flaps of dough well. Press down the sealed points with the tines of a fork. It is important to seal the pies well or they will open up during the second rise/ baking. 
  10. Place the shaped pies on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet, leaving 2 to 3” between them, and let them rise for about 40 minutes. Just before baking them, brush the sides (dough part) with milk (or beaten egg) and bake the Flaounes at 190C (375F) for 25 to 30 minutes till they’re done, golden and the cheese filling is puffed up.
  11. Let them cool on a rack. Serve them warm or at room temperature. This recipe makes 8 or 10 Flaounes, about the size of one’s palm. These pies keep for two days at room temperature in an airtight container. You can freeze the extras to eat later.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mangai Pachadi ~ Raw Mango in Jaggery Syrup

அனைவருக்கும் இனிய தமிழ் புத்தாண்டு நல்வாழ்த்துக்கள்
Wish You All A Very Happy Tamil New Year

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4 people

Raw Mango - 1 large, sliced into big chunks with skin
Jaggery - 1 1/2 cups, powdered
Fresh or Dried Neem Flower - 1 tbsp
Red chili - 2, broken
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Rice flour - 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Salt - a pinch
Oil - 2 tsp

  1. Place the cut mango, neem flower, turmeric powder and salt in a large skillet and add water just until immersed. Cook until half tender.
  2. Meanwhile, melt jaggery with 1/2 cup water.  Strain to remove impurities.
  3. Add the jaggery syrup to the mango mixture and cook for about 10 minutes.
  4. Combine rice flour in cold water and make a thick paste.  Add it to the mango mixture and mix well. Let it boil for a minute and switch off the stove.  This makes the pachadi to become thick and sauce like consistency.  
  5. Adjust the thickness consistency according to your preference.
  6. Heat oil in a small skillet and splutter mustard seeds. Turn of the heat and add the broken red chilies. 
  7. Pour over the pachadi and mix well.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Japanese Melon Pan ~ We Knead to Bake #15

Due to sickness and travel, I was not able to post last month's We Knead to Bake project on time. But better late than never.  Finally found time to bake these yummy and crunchy cookie dough covered bread.  Thanks Aparna for choosing this bread.

Recipe adapted from:
Video link:

For the bread dough:
All Purpose Flour - 1 3/4 cup (plus extra as required)
Milk Powder - 2 TBSP
Instant Yeast - 1 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Warm water - 1/3 cup
Yogurt - 1/4 cup
Sugar - 1 TBSP
Butter - 2 TBSP (25gm), at room temperature

For the cookie dough:
All Purpose flour - 1 1/3 cup
baking powder - 3/4 tsp
A large pinch of salt
Butter - 4 TBSP (60gm), at room temperature
Castor sugar - 1/4 cup (increase to 1/3 cup for sweeter dough)
Large egg - 1
Vanilla extract - 1/2 tsp
Lemon zest - 1 tsp (I used lime zest)
Granulated sugar for dusting

  • Whisk together the flour, powdered milk, yeast, and salt in the bowl (or the bowl of your machine if using one). In a smaller bowl, beat the egg and cold water together with a fork till well blended. Add this to the flour mixture in the bowl.
  • Knead (on low speed in the machine) till it all come together as a dough and then (on medium speed) until you have a somewhat stiff dough. Add the sugar and knead well.
  • Now add the butter and knead (first at slow speed and then on medium) until the butter is completely incorporated into the dough and the dough becomes smooth and elastic. The dough should well-kneaded to develop the gluten.
  • Shape the dough into a round, and place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let it rise till double in volume (about an hour or so).
  • During this time make the cookie dough. In a bowl, cream the soft butter and sugar till fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat till combined. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and add this to the bowl. Also add the lemon zest. Beat together until just combined.
  • Shape the dough into a cylinder (this will make the dough easy to divide and flatten out later), and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate the dough until required.
  • Now go back to the bread dough. Once it has doubled in volume, place it on a lightly floured work surface. Lightly grease your baking sheet or line it with parchment. Deflate the dough gently and divide it into 8 equal portions.
  • Shape each portion into a smooth ball like for bread rolls. Work with one portion and keep the others covered so they don’t dry out.
  • Unwrap the cookie dough. It should be reasonably firm now and easy to work with. Slice the cylinder of cookie dough into 8 equal portions. Use two pieces of plastic sheets or cling film to flatten the cookie dough. Place one slice/ round of cookie dough on a piece of plastic sheet/ cling film. Cover with another piece, and using a flat bottomed pan, press down on the dough to flatten it, until it is reasonably thin but not very much so.
  • Carefully take on ball of bread dough (it will have puffed up a little so don’t deflate it), and place the circle of cookie dough on top of it. Gently press the cookie dough edge to the bread dough ball so that it covers the top and sides of the ball, but leaves the bottom open. Gently, holding the covered bread dough by the underside, press it into some castor sugar. 
  • Then using a scraper, or the blunt side of a knife, mark the top of the cookie dough side of the bread roll with a cross hatch/ diamond pattern. The pattern should be deep enough (otherwise it will disappear when the bread rises and bakes) without cutting through the cookie dough layer into the bread.
  • Place this on the greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat this with the remaining cookie dough and bread dough balls. Let them rise for an hour.
  • Bake them at 180C (350F) for about 25 minutes, until the tops of the Melon Pan just start turning brown. If you let them brown too much, the underside of the bread will burn. Transfer to a wire rack to cool thoroughly.
  • This recipe makes 8 medium to largish Melon Pan. Melon Pan are best eaten the day they are made. However warming them slightly before serving the next day is also fine.