Today, I’m visiting Cyprus! That pretty little piece of Europe chillin in the Mediterranean Sea. Mediterranean cuisine is almost always delicious in my experience, and these cheesy pastries are no exception! As Cyprus is a tiny island off the coast of Turkey….I knew next to nothing about it. But I’ve learned that Cyprus has a lot of Greek and Turkish influences, and Greek and Turkish are the two official languages of Cyprus! And also in my research, I discovered that I in fact HAVE heard of Flaounes before, thanks to the Great British Baking Show! (Surprise, surprise!) The contestants had to make these for a technical challenge once. They are pretty unique, and I haven’t really seen anything like them in all my research or (somewhat limited) life experience. But I’m glad I decided to try them! Cuz they goooood!
So Flaounes are little pastries made of a weird cheesy filling (good-weird) wrapped in dough that’s been coated in sesame seeds. They’re typically made in large batches and eaten around Easter time. One recipe I found, the poster talked about remembering how their whole family would get together and create an assembly line, and everyone would help make these, and then they would take them to a local bakery to be baked. (That’s a thing you can do in Cyprus??) I probably disgraced this recipe and it’s cultural traditions, as I made these by myself, and it’s not anywhere near Easter. Sorry Cyprus!
One of the specific ingredients needed to make Flaounes is Halloumi cheese. Luckily, I was able to find some at the trusty middle eastern grocery store near by, for a good few pretty pennies, but…worth it. Can we just talk about Halloumi cheese for a second?? If you don’t know what Halloumi cheese is (I didn’t), it’s a softish, curd-like cheese made from goats milk, and has a very high melting temperature, and can be grilled, and is SOO GOOOOOD. True Halloumi cheese seems to have to come from Cyprus, or maybe surrounding areas, and while some places in Canada and US make Halloumi cheese, it has to be called “Halloumi-style” cheese. Luckily the stuff I found was actually from Cyprus. I don’t know what Halloumi typically is like, but this stuff had a bit of mint in it, which sounds weird, but was delicious! I got way more than I needed, and had extra (oh darn), so I fried it in a pan a few times and just snacked on it cuz YUMMM. I’ve learned that you can find Halloumi or Halloumi style cheese quite easily in Australia, and I’m wondering why America is not more on board with this fantastic stuff??
The dough again called for Mastic and Mahlepi (two spices commonly found in this region of Europe), but since I only had Mahlepi, I left the Mastic out. I also halved the recipe, because I didn’t want a mass amount of these things, as my roommate is lactose intolerant and I count on her to help me eat the things I make. I also used toasted sesame seeds that I had on hand from a Korean store, because any sesame seeds I could find at the grocery store were tiny containers and very expensive, so I decided to make do with what I had.
These Flaounes had a wonderful savoury flavor. They were pretty salty, from all the cheese, but the raisins added a nice balance of sweetness, and the mint was a nice touch as well! I ate them for breakfast and as a snack.
Here are some pictures of the process!
I wrapped them in two ways, folding the dough three times, and folding it four times around the filling. I’d seen pictures of them both ways and decided to give them both a shot.
The four sided ones didn’t stay folded up too well, but the three sided ones stayed nicely!
If you can find Halloumi cheese anywhere in your location, I’d definitely recommend trying these!
Current events time! as of the beginning of October, 2017:
-This past weekend, a man who claimed to be a Turkish navy officer, arrived at Cyprus in a yacht with his wife, seeking asylum in Cyprus. Unofficial reports say that they were probably fleeing arrest, as the Turkish govt has been arresting people who are sympathizers of the Gulen movement, a movement that is very critical of the Turkish govt. A little more on this here.
-A well used Bristish airline, Monarch Airlines, just collapsed, leaving thousands of people stranded in their locations. Their collapse is going to be a blow for Cyprus tourism, as it has brought hundreds of thousands of tourists to Cyprus over the years, and seems to have been one of the most used airlines to Cyprus. It appears that there wasn’t much warning, and people were suddenly out of a ticket, even if previously booked. Monarch couldn’t really keep up with the competition, and the decreasing value of the pound took a toll as well. (I dont have one source of this, I used a few. You can Google search it and find many articles about this.)
-And here are some general fun facts about Cyprus!: 1. The whole city of Paphos is a UNESCO world heritage site, due to it’s super old history, as it’s been inhabited since neolithic times! 2. The famed Halloumi cheese dates back to Medieval Byzantine times. All the more reason to try the fantastic stuff. 3. Cyprus is actually divided, the northern part is ruled by the Turks, and the southern part is independant, though the whole nation is part of the EU. 4. Greek, Turkish and English are all commonly spoken in Cyprus. source 1 source 2
Recipe time!! I halved my recipe, but I will post the full one as I found it. So you can do your own path if you want to make more or less! Recipe source: HERE
For the filling:
- 1 pound + 2 ounces pecorino romano cheese
- 9 ounces halloumi cheese
- 2½ ounces plain flour
- 3¼ ounces fine semolina
- 1 packet active dry instant yeast
- 6 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped, or 2 teaspoons dried mint
- 2/3 cup golden raisins
- 4 large eggs
- 4 tbsp milk
- 1 tsp baking powder
For the dough:
- 5 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus extra for flouring
- 1 teaspoon finely ground mastic powder
- 2 teaspoons finely ground mahlepi, also known as mahleb
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 packet dry active yeast
- 4 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 cups full-fat milk
For the topping:
- 2 cups sesame seeds
- dash of white wine vinegar
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
For the filling, grate the pecorino romana and halloumi into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, semolina, yeast, dried mint and golden raisins together. Beat the eggs and milk together in a medium bowl.
Pour the flour mixture over the cheese and then pour over the egg mixture. Mix together, then cover, and set aside while you make the dough.
For the dough, whisk together the flour, mastic powder and mahlepi in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Make a well in the center and add the butter and a cup and a half of the milk. Combine the ingredients to form a soft dough. Gradually add the remaining milk, though you may not need it all.
Place the dough on a floured surface and knead until smooth. Place back in the bowl, cover, and let it rest for 1 hour.
For the glaze, place the sesame seeds, vinegar and enough water to cover in a small saucepan and bring to boil. Drain well and spread the seeds over a clean kitchen towel to dry.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line three baking trays with non-stick baking parchment.
Divide the dough into large pieces and roll out on a lightly floured work surface until about ⅛ inch thick. Using a small plate as a template, cut into 12 rounds, 6 inches in diameter.
Firmly press one side of the dough rounds into the sesame seeds to coat.
To finish the filling, add the baking powder to the filling mixture and divide the filling into 12. Place one portion of filling into the center of each dough circle and fold in 3 sides to make a rounded triangle shape, leaving a gap in center with the filling exposed.
Place the flaounes on the baking trays, brush the tops with the beaten eggs and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 15 minutes more, or until golden brown and puffed up. Serve warm or at room temperature. Flaounes also freeze well. Place the completely cooled flaounes in freezer bags in the freezer, just reheat them in a preheated 350 degree oven. You may have to cut the flaounes in half about 10 minutes into reheating and return them to the oven to ensure that the center warms all the way through.