Thursday, February 12, 2009

Latin American Fruit-Cheese Turnovers (Pasteles de Guyaba y Queso)

While unfamiliar to US tastes, the Latin American combination of guava and cheese is classical. Sweetened guava paste slices are served with cheddar cheese as both a snack and a dessert in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Caribbean. The combination of the tangy preserved fruit and mellow cheese also makes a great filling in buttery crusted or puff-paste turnovers many places in South America. We make these, with popular success, at our deli in Athens, and when served as a coffee snack or dessert for Latino-themed catering, they are well received and ordered again many times.

The recipe below is for a crust made at home, though not complicated. An alternative is to buy commercial puff paste and cut it into squares, fill with guava paste and cheese, fold over into triangular turnovers, glaze them and bake them.

The recipe makes 10 large turnovers.

Guava-Cheese Turnovers: Latin American Pasteles de Guyaba y Queso

3 cups all-purpose or pastry flour
2-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (3/8 teaspoon if using unsalted butter)
2 tablespoons sugar
10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) cold butter (lard was traditional)
1 whole egg
1 egg separated
Ice and water
Granulated sugar for topping

If using a food processor, in the container fitted with a metal blade combine dry ingredients by pulsing several times. Cut butter into 1-inch chunks and add to flour mixture. Pulse briefly a number of times, until mixture resembles cornmeal but still has visible bits of butter. Remove to large mixing bowl. If making by hand, mix dry ingredients in bowl and cut in butter with a pastry knife or two table knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a large measuring cup, place whole egg plus white from second egg (putting second egg yolk in a small bowl). With a fork, beat egg and egg white until well combined, then add ice plus water to reach 2/3 cup. Stir. Make depression in flour mixture in bowl, and with a table knife, fluff flour while slowly adding about half a cup of the egg mixture. Lightly lift and combine mixture with knife, adding a little more egg mixture as necessary to moisten flour and until a ball starts to form. Do not make it overly wet. Gently knead and fold dough on a floured board about 7 to 8 times, shaping into a rough square. Place in a plastic bag and refrigerate while preparing filling.

1/4 pound mild cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 lb cream cheese or Mexican fresh white cheese, queso blanco
1/2 pound guava paste (available in long cakes or in cans in Mexican and Latino sections of supermarkets or in Latino grocery stores), or substitute guava jam or other fruit jam

Combine cheeses. Divide mixture into 10 portions. Cut guava paste into 10 pieces.

Assembly: Using a fork, beat egg yolk with 1-1/2 tablespoons water in a small bowl to make egg glaze. Set aside. Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut pastry dough into two pieces, one a little smaller than the other. Beginning with smaller piece, shape it into a square on a floured board, and roll it out into a thin square a little larger than 10 inches on a side. Turn crust over several times as you roll it, dusting more flour under it. With pastry knife trim away the edges so as to have an even 10-inch square. (Add trimmings to the unrolled dough.) Cut the square into four square pieces.

On each square place one portion of cheese mixture in an oval on one half of the pastry toward one corner (to fold crust into a triangle shape), leaving a margin of about an inch. Place a piece of guava paste (or 1 rounded tablespoon jam) into the cheese on each square. With fingers or a brush, moisten edges of pastry with egg glaze. Carefully fold pastry over filling so edges meet, forming a triangle, and press edges together gently. Place turnover on a cookie sheet which has been oiled or has baking parchment paper on it. Using a fork, seal edges together, flouring the fork between pressing into edge of the crust. When turnovers are sealed, with fingers or brush spread some egg glaze over the top. Sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar. Stick the fork into the top of each turnover and twist gently so a small steam vent is created.

Now take other piece of dough plus the scraps, and shape into a rectangle. As before, roll out evenly but this time into a large rectangle 10 inches wide and 15 inches long. Even out edges, and cut into 6 4-inch squares. Make turnovers as for the first batch. Two cookie sheets will be needed for the baking.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops are golden. Exchange upper and lower cookie pans in oven part way through baking. Let cool.


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