Flaounes are traditional Easter breads which have been served in Cyprus for generations. These breads are filled with a mixture of traditional cheeses and eggs for a rich treat which is served when the Lenten fast is broken. In Cyprus, flaounes are readily available at bakeries during the Easter season, and many households make up batches and distribute them to friends. It is not uncommon to see families carrying large trays of these traditional treats down the street on Easter Sunday. Flaounes are also enjoyed year round in some areas.
These breads are traditionally made in the form of modestly sized buns. The base dough is usually a milk bread, which is wrapped around a filling made from grated cheeses and eggs. Typically a soft farmer's cheese like haloumi is included along with hard mizithra and kefalotiri, a sort of Greek Parmesan. Some cooks also use feta. Flaounes are also traditionally flavored with ground mahlab, a spice made from the seeds of the bitter cherry, which is usually mixed in with the crust. Once the buns are formed, bakers brush them with egg and dust them with poppy or sesame seeds.
These classic inclusions in Cypriot cuisine are traditionally made on Good Friday so that they are ready on Eastern Sunday. In many communities, Christians attend a midnight service on the night before Easter, and after the service they celebrate with feasts which include foods which were forbidden during Lent, including eggs, dairy, and meat. Flaounes are also offered to guests as a breakfast food, and they are traditionally exchanged as gifts of friendship and goodwill, along with traditional red eggs.
To make flaounes, mix a batch of dough for milk bread using your favorite recipe. Milk bread is a very basic bread recipe which traditionally includes white flour, yeast, scalded milk, salt, eggs, and sugar. For flaounes, add mahlab and mastic to the bread dough. While the dough rests and rises, mix a filling with cheese, eggs, salt, pepper, and mint. Some cooks like to add raisins, along with mahlab and a dash of sugar.
When the dough has risen, break it up into buns and roll the buns out into flat circles. Spoon filling into the middle of each circle, and then fold the dough up to make a neat little dumpling. Brush the flaounes with egg and seeds before baking until they are golden brown. Once flaounes are completely cooled, they freeze rather well, so you can make a big batch and save some for later.