Friday, May 2, 2014

Flaounes Savory Easter Cheese Bread

I am glad I am part of the Baking Group We Knead to Bake. Like a small child waiting for something new, every month I wait eagerly which bread the group is baking. It's exciting every month to try to bake a new bread with fellow baking group members. This month we baked Savory Flaounes (pronounced "fla-OO-nez"). I was apprehensive will I be able to bake this bread due to other time commitments.  This bread is baked specifically during Easter time.

Flaounes (Cypriot Savoury Easter Cheese Pies)
Please refer to Aparna's blog for step by step pictorial steps on how to make this bread. This video is a helpful resource to learn shaping the bread.
Bread baking is indeed therapeutic, and I managed to bake this month bread too and felt accomplished baking this new bread! I did not have the all the Greek ingredients, but it tasted well even without those.It is soft, chewy, with of paneer, cheese, and mint.  I added  cumin, paprika to bring the flavors of the filling.

It is worth a try to bake this bread once if you are a fan of baking.

(Adapted from The Traveler’s Lunchbox and My Diverse Kitchen)
For the dough
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 cup whole whet flour and 2 cup APF)
3/4 tsp instant yeast
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 egg (I did not use)
½ tsp mastic, ground in a mortar (optional) - I did not use
¼ tsp ground mahleb, (optional) - I did not use
1/4 cup milk
5 Tablespoon (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)
 1/2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 tsp crushed black pepper/ red chilli flakes (optional)
1/4 Cumin powder
1/4 tsp Red Chili flakes
1/8 cup raisins or currants (optional)- I did not add
 3/4 tsp baking powder
1 to 2 tbsp milk

For sealing paste - 1 tbsp flour + less than 1/8 cup milk
For Coating :1/3 to 1/2 cup untoasted sesame seeds
A little milk for brushing

1. For the dough, I used my hand mixer but you can knead by hand. Put the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, and the flavouring ingredients (if you have them) into the bowl and pulse a couple of times to mix. Whisk together the 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.Stir in the yeast, salt and sugar.  Knead for at least 5 minutes until it has a smooth and elastic feel. Put the dough into a large bowl, and leave in a warm place for an hour to rise.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. Spread the sesame seeds on a largish 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.

6. 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.

7. Place a generous tablespoon of filling into the centre of each pastry disc, spreading it slightly. Pull dough up at 3 points to make a triangle, or 4 points to make a square. You should still be able to see the filling in the middle.

8. 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 (filled pocket cookies) as they will come apart as they rise.

9. 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 190 C (375F) for 25 to 30 minutes(mine were done in 18 minutes) till they’re done, golden and the cheese filling is puffed up.

10. 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.