Easter cheese breads - "Tiropites" and Easter cheese pies - "Flaounes"
The flaounes – cheese pies and tiropites - cheese breads are made only once a year, the days just before Easter. In Cyprus and Greece, the celebration of Easter is the biggest celebration of the year, Christ is sacrificed and resurrected and He is the hope of the world, the Orthodox Church fasts for 50 days and at Easter the resurrection is celebrated and that, as we all know, is with a lot of food that day. At first is the egg-lemon soup at midnight after the church and in the morning the cheese pies flaounes and cheese breads to be followed by lamb barbecued over an open charcoal fire for lunch. The cheese used is made from the first milk produced after the winter period from goats and sheep. Mrs. Amalia got up at four o'clock on Saturday morning to prepare and kneed, sometimes because of her anxiety she did not sleep at all, anxiety to achieve her long awaited flaounes and cheese breads! In the morning she would go to church for the first resurrection and later on she would take her breads to the baker in the town to bake her breads. For sure she did not use only 1 kg flour as in the recipe. Rather she would use 4 to 5 kilos! The flaounes and cheese breads were famous in the whole family and beyond!!
This recipe makes two round breads and 8 medium size cheese pies.
The dough is made with sour dough (easy starter). It is very easy to make your own sour dough.
Mix 1 cup of flour with 1/2 cup of luke warm water, add one spoon honey (this is optional), whisk until combined, add more water if necessary, the mixture should be like chewing gum when you pull it. Cover your bowl with cling film and 2 thick kitchen towels or a blanket.
Repeat this procedure for 5 days or so, depending also on the weather, if is it warm outside it takes less days. Your sour dough is ready when it smells sour and the surface is all bubbles. The sour dough can be stored in a container in the fridge. At least 2 days before using it in the recipe to be taken out of the fridge and then it needs to be fed, which means to add flour and water, mix with a fork and leave it for at least 12 hours covered with cling film to become bubbly again, feed the sour dough at least 3 times before using it.
You need 300 gr sour dough for 700 gr flour.
for the dough
350-400 gr sour dough
450 gr village flour
450 gr farina flour
2 teaspoons machlep powder
4 eggs - lightly beaten
180 gr spry (solid vegetable fat)
250 ml full milk
160 gr sugar
for the cheese breads
350-400 gr cheese
eggs for brushing
for the cheese pies
600-750 gr cheese
80-90 gr sour dough
125 gr raisins
1 teaspoon resin powder
1-2 teaspoons baking powder
egg for brushing
Two to three days in advance the cheese needs to be grated, take half the cheese and grate it fine, place the grated cheese in a large bowl, preferably a glass one and refrigerate. Every day turn the cheese around in the bowl by hand. In this way the cheese will dry and will absorb more eggs in the mixture.
Cut the rest of the cheese in pieces approx. 3x1x1 cm and place them also in the fridge.
The afternoon before the baking starts, take the grated cheese out of the fridge to get it to room temperature, add 1 egg per 100 gr cheese. Add the resin powder (1 teaspoon per 500 gr cheese), the sour dough dissolved in some beaten egg. Mix by hand. Beat 1 extra egg and pour it over the mixture so that it covers the mixture, cover and put aside for the whole night.
The next morning add the dry mint, the raisins and the baking powder, mix careful by hand and if the mixture feels too dry simply add more egg. It should be lumpy. Cover and set aside.
On the same day soak the pieces of cheese in some water or milk and chop finely the washed fresh mint. Set both aside.
Melt the spry with the sugar and a little milk in a small saucepan on low heat, leave it to cool down until the mixture is lukewarm.
Dissolve the sourdough in a little lukewarm milk in your mixer bowl. Add both flours and salt in the mixer bowl, add spry-sugar mixture and the mechlep. Then add also the lightly beaten eggs.
Knead with the mixer dough hook for 10 to 15 minutes, on slow speed, while kneading add little by little some milk or some flour so that the dough becomes smooth and soft. Dough should not stick on your hands, though it should not be too thick. Test the dough as follows: take a small piece of dough and stretch it between your fingers, pull the dough so it is thin and light comes though it but it does not break. Through the long kneading the gluten in the flour make the dough elastic. Cover the dough with a piece of cling film that has been slightly oiled. Cover your bowl with a blanket or some thick kitchen towels and let it rest on a warm draft-free spot in your kitchen for an hour or so.
Take more or less half of the dough and cut in 8 even pieces, roll the pieces out with a rolling pin about 1/2 cm thick and 25-30 diameter, place on floured dish or worktop.
Place the sesame in a clean tea-towel and take it by the 4 corners and soak the sesame in this way in water. Squeeze out most of the water and spread the tea-towel with the sesame in a large oven dish.
The rolled out pieces of dough, take them one by one and place the dough top side down in the sesame, press lightly. Now one side is completely covered with sesame, with this side down place it on your counter, do all pieces in the same way.
Divide the cheese mixture over the pieces of dough.
Each one fold first the bottom and top sides onto the mixture and then the sides. Press the corners with a fork, place the cheese pie in a floured oven dish, leave some space between them, they will rise.
Cover with oiled cling film and a blanket or towels and set aside somewhere warm to rise.
For the cheese breads, drain the pieces of cheese and carefully dry them with a clean towel. Take the rest of the dough and divide in 2, 3 or 4 equal pieces, flatten by hand.
Divide the pieces of cheese over the breads, sprinkle with plenty of fresh mint.
Form the breads, place them in a large oven dish with some flour, cover the breads with oiled cling film and set aside to rise. 4 to 8 hours or even overnight.
In order for the cheese pies and breads to rise, that all depends on the surrounding temperature, on colder days it takes much longer to rise. Placing the breads in a closed oven or even a slightly warm oven speeds up the procedure, but in my experience, they become nicer if you give the breads the time they need to rise.
Pre-heat the oven on 200 degrees Celsius.
Place a small bowl with some water on the bottom of your oven, this will create some damp in the oven.
Brush the cheese pies with some beaten egg, and then bake them for 30-40 minutes. Place on clean tea-towels in clean oven dishes.
Once the cheese pies are ready baked then proceed by brushing the breads with some beaten egg and sprinkle them with sesame seeds.
The bread is baked as follows, 15 minutes on 200 degrees and then 20-25 minutes on 175 degrees, the bread is ready when they sound hollow when you tap on them. When a food temperature meter is stuck in the side of the bread it should read 200 degrees. Place them on clean tea-towels in clean oven dishes.