How to make flaounas
It’s week six in the Great British Bake Off tent and time for the pastry challenges. There have been bread, cakes and biscuits but it’s pastry that has even the most competent baker’s brow beading with sweat. This week they’ll be making shortcrust pastry for frangipane tarts in the signature bake, puff pastry for vol-au-vents in the showstopper and an unusual Cypriot pastry for the technical.
It’s impossible for the bakers to prepare for the technical challenge, especially one that has been plucked from Paul’s encyclopaedic knowledge of random pastries from around the world. This week I expect none of the bakers will have heard of flaounas – I certainly hadn’t when the recipe was put before me.
On the ingredients list were two items that are pretty hard to find (thanks, Paul). Ground mahlab, the kernel from the stone of a cherry, has a fragrant taste a bit like the combination of cherries, almonds and vanilla. The other ingredient is mastic powder which apparently has a pine-like flavour. Both can be bought online or in specialist food shops.
The contestants won’t have the same issue with finding these ingredients but will they know what to do with them?
How to make flaounas
First you make the filling. Start by grating a shedload of cheese (I used pecorino and halloumi) until your arm is aching and you’re wondering if Paul chose this as an endurance, not a baking, challenge. In another bowl, mix plain flour, fast-action yeast, sultanas and semolina. Then, into a third bowl, beat eggs with milk before tipping the flour mix and the egg mix over the mountain of cheese and getting your probably-now-exhausted arm to bind it all together. The mixture is then covered and left while you get on with the next stage.
So far, so good.
While waiting for the dough to prove you have to make a sesame seed glaze for the pastry. This involves heating sesame seeds in a little white wine vinegar and water until boiling, then straining the seeds in a sieve and laying them out on a clean tea towel to dry.
For me, thank my lucky pastry-laden stars, these weird cheese squares worked. The delicious. office was divided in opinion on how they tasted – most not being able to come to terms with sultanas and cheese together in the same recipe. But it’s not down to them – it’s Mary and Paul who will be judging, and ranking, the last seven bakers.
I wonder who, if anyone, will make a perfect flaouna?