Aparna Balasubramanian's selection this month is Mediterranean, perfect for spring weather. Flaounes are a traditional Easter dish made on Good Friday to break the fasting for Lent. A signature dish in Greece & Cyprus, Flaounes have a filling of Sheep's milk cheeses (that are referred to as Flaounes cheese) that are typically made by the local Cypriot shephards. Tangy and salty, the cheese makes for a perfect pairing with little nuggets of raisins embedded in the filling.
It isn't absolutely necessary of course, to hunt around for these special cheeses, sharp Cheddar, combined with mozzarella makes a great substitute. I used Ricotta Salata and a Greek 'melting' cheese called Kasseri.
Two other in the ingredients that are characteristic of Flaounes are Mastic and Mahlab.
Mastic is the resin from a Middle Eastern shrub, while Mahlab is obtained by powdering the pits of a wild cherry. It adds a rather musky aromatic flavor to the dough. There are no acceptable substitutes, Omit the ingredients if you don't have any. The original recipe calls for eggs, but I opted to make an egg-free version.
Flaounes (Cypriot Savory Easter Cheese Pies - Makes 8 pies)
Adapted from The Traveler’s Lunchbox (http://www.travelerslunchbox.com/journal/2010/4/12/finding-flaounes.html )
For the dough:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon mastic, ground in a mortar (optional)
¼ teaspoonground mahleb,
1/4 cup milk
60 grams butter, melted and cooled
About 1/4 cup (or less) lukewarm water, or as needed
Olive oil, for greasing bowl and rolling dough
For the filling :
1 cup grated Ricotta Salata
1/2 cup grated Kasseri cheese
2 tsp all-purpose flour
1/4 cup semolina (not semolina flour)
1 tbsp Greek Oregano
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper flakes (optional)
1/8 cup Chopped sour cherries
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 to 2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp flour + less than 1/8 cup milk (for sealing paste)
1/3 to 1/2 cup un-toasted sesame seeds
A little milk for brushing
Combine & whisk together the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, Mahlab & Mastic (if you have them) into the bowl of the stand mixer (Fitted with the dough hook). Whisk together the milk and melted butter in a small bowl and add it to the flour. Knead till you have a soft, smooth and elastic dough, which is just short of sticky, by adding just enough water.
Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl, turning to coat it well. Cover loosely and let the dough proof for about 1 to 2 hours, until it doubles 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. At this point you may refrigerate the dough overnight if opting to make the pies the following day.
While the dough is proofing, Get the filling ready by combining all the ingredients. Mix with a fork until its the consistency of a thick paste.
Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Lightly oil your work surface and rolling pin., and 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..
Scoop the filling out into 8 portions (~ 2.5 tablespoons each). Place each round of the dough on a large plate spread with sesame seeds Fold over the sides to make a square shape with some of the filling exposed. Using the flour and milk paste seal the corners together and press down with the tines of the fork.
Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper keeping a gap of about 4 inches (4 pies to a regular half sheet pan). Cover with plastic film and allow to proof a second time for about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Brush the surface of the pies with the milk and place the trays to bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Transfer onto a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
This recipe is being Yeastspotted.