You could say that guava is the national fruit of Cuba. We eat it morning, noon and night. There is nothing like stopping at a Cuban joint mid morning and getting a cup of Cuban coffee with a small guava pastry. I had an uncle who ate nothing else for dessert but guava paste* with cream cheese and Cuban crackers. Every single night. My personal favorite is guava shells in syrup with cream cheese but these little guava pastries are a very close second.
Unlike the guava pastries you buy from street vendors or coffee shops which have a flaky "millefeuille" type of pastry and are called pastelitos, the ones we make at home are baked in a pie like crust...with cream cheese! For some reason which I haven't been able to decipher, the kind sold in the streets are not made at home and these you can't find on the streets. Go figure
This is my mother's recipe and the one I have been making for years. It is so easy, you can make it with your eyes closed. The only drawback is you must make the dough the day before and refrigerate for 24 hrs. If you think of them at the last minute, you can't make them that day.
Tomorrow night we have a friend of my daughter's for dinner. He is studying at the Cordon Bleu to be a chef. When I asked him what he wanted for dinner, without missing a beat, he said Cuban. That is always the case when I ask and it is a wise choice. Cuban food is at its best when cooked at home; so find yourself a Cuban friend who will make it for you. The menu tomorrow? Picadillo with white rice, green banana chips and Cuban Guacamole salad. I think these guava pastries will make a great dessert.
I will prepare a full dough recipe today, use half for the guava empanadas tomorrow, and freeze the other half to make savory empanadas (with leftover picadillo) at a later date. They are great for cocktails or to bring along on a picnic.
3 cups flour
1/2 lbs. butter
1 regular cream cheese
2 egg yolks
Prepare the dough the day before. Mix everything except the guava in a food processor or with a pastry blender. The dough will look like pie dough.
Roll into a ball, wrap in Saran Wrap and refrigerate overnight. If you are saving some for a later date, divide the dough and put half in the freezer.
Bring the dough out and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Roll it out using a floured rolling pin to about 1/8 inch thick.
Cut the dough into circles, with a cookie cutter or small bowl. (I use a coffee cup). Size the circle according to how large you want your empanadas. I like a 4-inch diameter circle.
Put a small quantity of guava paste in the center of the circle (about 1/2 inch square) and fold over to make a half circle. Don't over-fill!
Seal the edges with a fork to make a scalloped edge. Pierce them once in the middle with the fork tines.
* you can find guava paste in the Latin section of most grocery stores or order online
Guava paste is a combination of guava pulp, sugar, pectin and citric acid, which is cooked slowly until exceedingly thick and rich. It comes in individually wrapped bars that are firm enough to slice. Guava paste can be found in Latin markets and some specialty gourmet stores. Slice and serve this low-fat, low-cholesterol sweet as a snack or with cheese for dessert.