The summertime heat and humidity have me thinking about tropical fruits, flavors, and places. I first discovered guava paste at a Publix market in the international foods aisle when I was living on the East Coast. Guava paste is commonly found in South American, Caribbean, and Cuban recipes, both sweet and savory. This specialty ingredient is brilliant in dark red color and shines through in recipes with sweet and bright guava flavor. It’s texture is much like a fruit roll-up, except that it comes in a dense brick or slab form instead of a thin sheet. Cooking down the guava paste to a thick jam-like consistency not only softens its texture, but also makes it easier to mix in some lemon juice to balance out the paste’s sweetness with some tang. Vallarta Market in California sells the fresh version of this. The shelf-stable version is available online.
These pastelitos de guayaba are commonly eaten with a hot cup of café con leche, or sweetened coffee with milk. You can find this popular combination in Cuban bakeries all around Miami and South Florida. In this recipe, I went ahead and added cream cheese, but if you prefer a “just fruit” version you can forgo making the cream cheese filling and just fill with the guava jam. Instead of coffee, I’ve decided to pair these flaky pastries with a chilled glass of Grace Rare Tea’s “Pure Assam,” a beautiful morning tea that will give you an A.M. perk without all those unsettling jitters.
Cuban Guava Pastries
Makes 10 pastries.
1- 8 oz. package cream cheese at room temperature
2 large lemons
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz. guava paste
1 package Pepperidge Farm puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
sugar for sprinkling
1.) Using a sharp knife, cut guava paste into 1″ chunks. Place the cut guava paste in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup of water and put on low-medium heat. As the paste begins to cook down, use the back of a spoon to smash the paste until you get a thick jam consistency. This should take 10-15 minutes. If you notice that the mixture is starting to get too hot, lower the heat and/or add 1-2 Tbsp of water. When you reach a thick, lump free jam consistency, add 1 Tbsp of lemon juice and mix in. Set aside and cool to room temperature.
2.) In a mixer with paddle attachment, mix cream cheese and sugar. Add the zest of 1 lemon, 1 Tbsp of lemon juice, and 1 tsp of vanilla extract. Place in fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.
3.) While cream cheese mixture and guava jam are cooling, roll out each puff pastry sheet into a 12″ by 15″ rectangle. Use a 3″ round dough cutter to cut out 10 rounds from each sheet. You can also just cut 9 equal squares from each sheet. If dough starts to get too soft or stretchy, place the dough into the freezer for a few minutes to chill.
4.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. On a large baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a silpat, place the 10 bottom dough rounds with at least an inch in between each round. Place a tablespoon of guava jam in the center of each round, then 2 teaspoons of the cream cheese filling. With the other 10 top dough rounds, cut an “X” in the center of each round, which will serve as the steam vent when the pastries are baking.
5.) Dab some water all around the edges of each dough bottom. This will help to “glue” the tops on. Place the vented top rounds directly on top of the filled bottom dough rounds, and seal by pressing the top edges to the bottom edges with your fingers.
6.) Make an egg wash glaze by beating egg with 1 tsp of water in a small bowl. Brush tops of pastries with egg wash and sprinkle generously with sprinkling/decorating sugar.
7.) Bake for 12-15 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.