A True Culinary Adventure: Guava and Cheese Pastry

GuavaCheesePastry.TheCubanReuben.comA few weeks ago, my friend and editor of The Nosher, Shannon, came to visit. We planned to spend some time together visiting, cooking, and bridging the gaps within our relationship that had developed via email and online correspondence. It was so nice to meet Shannon in person, and we quickly realized we had lots in common.

When Shannon asked me what she could bring to our gathering, I suggested she stop at my all-time favorite bakery, Porto’s, to pick up my #1 treat: Guava and Cheese Pastries, which Porto’s accurately calls, “Refugiados,” or “Refugees.” I’ve explained in the past that I think this is the perfect name for these strudels, because one bite of these babies transports any Cuban-native right back to their motherland!  But for my culinary adventure with Shannon, I had big plans for this batch.

GuavaandCheesePastries.TheCubanReuben.com

This pastry works great regular-sized or in the 2-bite variety.

Since I no longer live particularly close to this bakery, I decided that under Shannon’s watchful eye, I would attempt to duplicate the guava and cheese magic at home. Fear not, loyal Porto’s fans… I still plan to buy them when I’m in the area, but for the 95% of the time that I am not, I thought it’d be a good idea for me to learn to make them myself. The good news? They’re SUPER simple to make! The bad news? They’re SUPER simple to make!

Taste Test. TheCubanReuben.com

Evidence of our official taste test. Can you tell which is which?

Although I love to cook, I’ve never believed baking to be my strength in the kitchen. Sure, I can hold my own with a few cakes and breads, but a baker I am not (at least, not yet). Shannon, on the other hand, has proven herself to be a baking maven, and I was so thankful she were here during my big experiment. She suggested alternative tips and tricks to help me master this dish, and in the end, our official taste-testers had a very difficult time telling the difference between the original and the home-made version.

JennyShannon.TheCubanReuben.com

Shannon gets close for an official kitchen selfie.

To Shannon, I am thrilled that our mutual love of food and blogging brought us together, and am immensely thankful for the opportunity to be a contributor to The Nosher. You’re welcome to visit anytime!

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*I do hear from time to time that some of the more authentically Cuban ingredients I use are sometimes hard to find. If you have a hard time finding guava paste at your local international market, know that it is easy to find online. Here’s a link to a Kosher variety.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Guava and Cheese Pastry
 
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Cuban
Serves: 6
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Guava and cheese are the stars of the classic Cuban breakfast pastry.
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbs. powdered sugar
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1 tsp. water
  • 1 box of frozen puff pastry dough, thawed
  • 1 8oz bar of cream cheese
  • 1 package of guava paste
  • 1 Tbs. coarse sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Create an egg wash by combining the whisked egg and the water in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Sprinkle powdered sugar on flat surface, and lay out puff pastry dough on top.
  4. Cut dough into 12 equal squares, and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  5. In the middle of 6 of the squares, add 1 heaping Tbs. of guava paste and top with 1 heaping Tbs. of cream cheese (Note: The amount of filling depends on personal taste). Brush the perimeter of these squares with egg wash.
  6. On the other 6 squares, score the top with 3-4 lines, lengthwise, careful not to slice all the way to the top and bottom of the square. Top the the previous 6 squares. Press edges to seal.
  7. (Optional: You can now add an extra horizontal score on each end of the dough to add in extra puffing).
  8. Brush the top dough with egg wash, sprinkle with coarse sugar, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and fully puffed.
  9. Let stand on baking sheet for 3 minutes, and then cool on wire rack.
Notes
note: To make mini-pastries, cut each of the 6 squares in 4, and fill accordingly. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until puffed and golden.

 

Perfecto para Purim: Guava and Cheese Hamantaschen

If you live anywhere near southern California, then you know that the best bakery in town is Porto’s. This family-owned Cuban bakery specializes in everything from decadent confections and savory sandwiches, to picadillo-stuffed potato balls (my husband’s favorite) and the moistest, most egg-y challah this side of the Mississippi.Yes, you read that right. The best challah in town can be found at the Cuban bakery. No matter the time of day, there are always long lines filled with people aching to get their pastry fix. Sure, Porto’s carries the classic pastries familiar to their clientele, but if you want to get something authentic to their Cuban baking traditions, there is one obvious choice: The Refugiado (or Refugee), a delicately flaky strudel, filled with pungent guava and creamy cheese.

Porto's Guava and Cheese Refugiados

Porto’s Guava and Cheese Refugiados

I’m pretty sure that my family alone kept Porto’s in business for a good many years, as any life event worth celebrating featured these desserts, which is where I derived my theory on its peculiar name. Guava and cheese is a classically Cuban combination, and one eyes-closed  bite of a Refugiado transports any Cuban native to their motherland.  Essentially, It’s a taste of home, and it’s one that I desperately wanted to replicate in my new hamantaschen recipe.

Guava and Cheese Hamantaschen

Guava and Cheese Hamantaschen

My husband and I have been known to hop the Purim carnivals in town, searching for the perfect hamantaschen, so there was a little bit of pressure for me to find just the right recipe. After scouring my stash of cookbooks, and wading through my favorite blogs, I tested 3 different recipes for hamantaschen, but none of them came up to snuff.  I tackled my filling problem relatively quickly. My first batch used guava preserves, which didn’t hold up to the heat, and unceremoniously pooled from the dough. Then, I tried the heartier guava paste, and that seemed to do the trick, but I was still off on the dough. One batch, the dough was too soft, the next, too dry, and so on. Witnessing my flour-fueled displays of frustration (and tasting all three reject batches), my husband finally offered a suggestion: Get in touch with Marci.

Marci is a long-time family friend, who met my mother-in-law through their temple Sisterhood. She was also an official witness at my wedding, and signed the ketubah, which is currently proudly displayed in our living room.  According to my husband, nobody makes better hamantaschen than Marci, and it made sense to me to go straight to the source. When we connected, Marci explained that not even my mother-in-law had this recipe! Which, of course, explains why it was so absent from my combined family cookbook. As soon as Marci generously shared her winning dough recipe, I went to work, and wouldn’t you know it…my husband was right.

Preparing my hamantaschen.

Preparing my hamantaschen.

I mixed, rolled, cut, and folded this dough with ease, and it baked into perfect little guava and cheese hamantaschen! As a bonus, the recipe makes a ridiculous amount of dough, and I have a bunch left in my fridge, so I can play around with other filling options, soon.

The three-step folding of a hamantaschen

The three-step folding of a hamantaschen

 

 

 

Guava Paste

Even the container of guava paste shows an image of the classic pairing with cheese in its serving suggestion.

More hamantaschen

Even more hamantaschen

In case you were curious, here's a batch of the rejects.

In case you were curious, here’s a batch of the rejects.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Guava and Cheese Hamantaschen
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Cuban and Jewish
Serves: 72
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Cultures combine in this delicate Purim treat.
Ingredients
For the dough:
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ orange, juiced and zested
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 4½ cups flour
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
For the filling:
  • Guava paste
  • Cream cheese
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and the oil. Add eggs, and mix well.
  2. Add the juice and zest of ½ an orange, as well as the vanilla extract.
  3. In another bowl, sift together the salt, flour and baking powder, then add to the bowl with the wet ingredients, mixing only until everything is well combined.
  4. Split the dough into four sections, and wrap each section with plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Take one of the four sections of dough from the refrigerator, and on a lightly floured surface, roll to ¼-inch thick. Cut discs using a 2½-inch cookie cutter, and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  7. Fill each disc with ½ tsp. of cream cheese and ½ tsp. guava paste.
  8. To mold the hamantaschen, fold over the three sides, creating a pinwheel look, interweaving the sides over each other. Slightly pinch the edges of each triangle.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes.
  10. Cool completely, and serve or store in an airtight container.
Notes
***Note: This recipe makes a very large batch, and can easily be halved or quartered.