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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.