THESE aromatic muffins from the beautiful island of Cyprus are extremely easy to make and illustrate the merging of various traditions. Cyprus, off the coast of Syria, has an age-old Greek heritage. Under English domination for about 100 years, until 1960, Cyprus is now an independent country, struggling to overcome its problems with Turkey, which has occupied the northern part of the island since 1974.
The foods of Cyprus are wisely spiced, mixing the best of the Eastern and Western traditions. These small savory cakes are probably based on an old recipe for cheese bread made with haloumi, the traditional and versatile cheese of Cyprus. The cheese bread evolved into muffins, no doubt inspired by the English tradition. My friend Niki Bahariou, an excellent Cypriot cook, introduced me to haloumotes and gave me her recipe, explaining that she and her friends like to serve them warm with afternoon tea.
You can also serve them at room temperature. They’re perfect for brunch and for children’s parties. Although I prefer the muffins, you can bake haloumotes in a regular cake pan as one long loaf.
Sift the flour together with the baking powder and mahlep or mahlep and mastic into a medium bowl. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the oil and eggs until foamy. Beat in the milk, cheeses, mint and white pepper. Add the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to incorporate. You will have a stiff batter.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling each cup only two-thirds full.
Let cool in the tins for about 10 minutes on a rack, then unmold. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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