Guayaba y Queso Pastelitos (Cuban guava and cheese pastries)

I am by no means fluent in Spanish, but in the years since the story below I have traveled to many places in the Caribbean and southern US and I have learned enough to get by in hotels and restaurants. I like to eat to where the locals eat and that generally means “no Inglés”. I’m sure they chuckle at my pronunciations and grammar, but at least I try.

My first trip to Miami was work related. The first morning in the office a lovely lady who spoke no English was going around the office stopping at each person to ask them a question. They would give her a short answer in Spanish and she would move on to the next person. I asked one of my coworkers to explain. He smiled and said when she gets to you, just say “quisiera un cafecito, por favor”. I humored him and did just that. About 15 minutes later the same lady returned with tiny little coffee cups filled with a foam covered dark brown liquid that smelled of coffee. My buddy said try some but drink it slowly, small sips. Cuban coffee is not like anything you have ever tasted. I’ve had espresso, gallons of “American” coffee, and I’ve even tried New Orleans style Cafe au lait where they put chicory in the coffee. None of those prepared me for this. Somehow they put all of the flavor and caffeine from a gallon of coffee into a thimble sized cup. If you want to try making some, you can find directions on the Miami Beach 411 page.

I told you all of that because, well, Cuban coffee is awesome and I though the world should know. But also because what showed up in the office shortly after the cafecitos. A large tray of pastries appeared and they looked amazing. Golden brown, flaky, they begged to be eaten – little squares, rectangles and triangles of perfection. I grabbed a triangle and took a bite. I was not disappointed. It was filled with fruit and cheese, but I could not place the taste. Almost like strawberry rhubarb pie (one of my grandma’s springtime flavors that you rarely find in any restaurant). The fruit flavor I could not place was guava. My Miami friends were shocked that guava was not a fruit known to those of us raised in the Midwest. I was pleasantly surprised that guava paste (pasta de guayaba) was easier to find in Ohio than I thought it would be. It is the key ingredient in this recipe. Read the notes for tips on where to find it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of puff pastry dough (2 sheets), thawed. It’s in the frozen section of the grocery, near pie crusts and desserts.
  • 1 package of guava paste (pasta de guayaba). Anything in the 12-16 oz range will work.
  • 8 oz package of cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ Cup sugar
  • ½ Cup water

Directions:

  1. Put the puff pastry dough out on the counter about an hour before you start making these so it will thaw. I take it out of the box and separate the sheets of dough so they thaw pretty quick.
  2. Make a simple syrup by combining ½ cup water with ½ cup sugar in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Pre-heat your oven to 400° F
  1. Lightly roll out one of the sheets of puff pastry dough. This helps to knock back the puffiness a little which is what we want. Use a pizza cutter or small knife to cut the sheet into four even pieces.
  2. In a small bowl beat the eggs, then brush all four edges of each square with egg wash.
  • Cut the guava paste and cream cheese into strips. Fair warning, guava paste is some of the stickiest stuff you will ever encounter. It helps to dust it with powdered sugar to make it easier to handle.
  • Place a piece of cream cheese and a piece of guava paste in the center of each square of pastry dough. Fold the dough over to form a triangle. (in Cuban bakeries and coffee shops you can tell what is in the pastry by the shape. Guava and cheese is always a triangle). Use a fork to crimp the edges and seal the dough.
  1. Brush the top of the pastries with egg wash and use a fork to poke some vent holes in the top for the steam. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  2. Bake at 400° F for 10 minutes, then pull the tray out and brush the tops of the pastry with the simple syrup. (This will give them that lovely caramel color and sweet crunch). Bake for an additional 6-8 minutes until golden brown.

Notes:

  • So what is this guava paste anyway? The guava is a small tropical fruit that has a unique flavor. While it is well known and loved in the Caribbean and South America, it is relatively unknown to many Americans. Guava paste is a very thick jelly sold in a variety of packages like these:
  • You can now find this amazing stuff at many supermarkets in the US in the Latin/International aisle. If you can’t find it at your usual grocery many Asian/Latin grocery stores carry it. If all else fails it is readily available on Amazon and other online retailers.

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