Sunday, 4 May 2014

Flaounes (Cypriot Savoury Easter Cheese Pies)

With Easter round the corner we have a lot of breads for Easter. So also in We Knead To Bake #16: Aparna set us baking Flaounes (Cypriot Savoury Easter Cheese Pies)!

Her write up with the Flaounes is as below,

“Flaounes are savoury cheese pies baked for Greek Orthodox Easter, traditionally made on Good Friday, and are part of the fast-breaking meal after Lent when meat and cheese are not eaten. The cheese that is traditionally used in these pies is called “Flaounes” cheese which is cheese that is produced locally by Cypriot shepherds, and very difficult to find outside the country.

Flaounes cheese can be substituted with a combination of Cheddar or similar hard cheeses and a softer, milder one like Halloumi. The cheese filling tends to be salty so choose one cheese which is quite salty.

Some of the cheeses suggested as substitutes for Flaounes cheese are Cypriot/ Greek cheeses like Kefalotyri, Kefalogravier or Kaskavali. Other cheeses include Halloumi, English Cheddar, Italian cheeses like Parmesan, Romanelo or Pressato (mild), Pecorino (salty) or French Cantal cheese.”

Apparently Mahleb and Mastic are used as flavouring agents in making of Flaounes. Mahleb is made by powdering the dried pits of a wild Mediterranean cherry. Mastic is the dried resin of a kind of shrub. Both these spices are quite common in Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine, there’s no real substitute for the flavours.

 As in European cuisine these pies are quite heavy on eggs as in Aprana’s case as we don’t like the “eggy” flavour I have followed Aparna’s method to make these Flaounes. You can leave that out too if you don’t use eggs. For those of you who like eggs, eggs are used in the bread dough as well to bind the filling.  Also Black pepper or chilli flakes are not traditionally used in these Easter pies but I added them. We could actually do with more that what Aparna has added also remember to grate your cheese coarse rather than fine.
I used processed cheese, mozerarella and paneer. I have hardly changed the wording from Aparna’s so if it sounds like her you know why!

Flaounes (Cypriot Savoury Easter Cheese Pies)

For the dough:
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp active yeast
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp mastic, ground in a mortar (optional)
  • ¼ tsp ground mahleb, (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 60gm butter, melted and cooled
  • About 1/4 cup (or less) lukewarm water, or as needed
  • Oil, for greasing bowl and rolling dough

For the filling:
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (a somewhat sharp cheddar adds flavour)
  • 1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup crumbled paneer (fresh Indian milk cheese)
  • 2 tsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup semolina (not semolina flour)
  • 1 tbsp dry mint (use 1/2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint if available)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed black pepper/ red chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1/8 cup raisins or currants (optional)
  •  3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 to 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 egg, beaten OR 1 tbsp flour + less than 1/8 cup milk (for sealing paste) 
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup untoasted sesame seeds

  • A little milk for brushing (or egg wash from beaten egg above)

First make the dough:
  •  In half of the lukewarm water dissolve the sugar and sprinkle the yeast. Mix well and set aside till the yeast proofs.
  • Put the flour, salt, and the flavouring ingredients (if you have them) into a bowl and mix well.
  •  Whisk together the egg, milk and melted butter in a small bowl and add it to the flour.
  • Knead, adding the yeast mixture, 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 large 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 let us make the filling:
  • It’s very simple just 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. Else 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, just moist rather than wet.

To 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 thin enough to support the weight of the filling. But making it t too thick you will have a very “bready” pie.
  • 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 centre, and press down lightly. This makes for an easy way to coat the Flaounes with sesame seeds.
  • place the round on your working surface and put one portion of filling which is about a generous tablespoon full  in the middle of the round of dough and spread it lightly, leaving about 1” free at the edge.
  • The Flaounes can be triangular or square Flaounes I made the square ones as Aparna said they are more traditional.
  • For the square ones, fold the two opposite edges over the filling leaving the centre exposed. Now fold over the other two edges as well so you have a square pocket with the filling showing at the centre.
  • 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. Do not pinch the flaps together like for Hamantaschen as they will come apart as they rise.
  • Place the shaped pies on a greased 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.


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