In order to create, you need time. So is the case with cooking, or more precisely, with recipe creation. Just over a year, ago I had started down a path of altering a recipe to add a more Latin flair to it. While it did not take me a year of experimenting to fine tune the recipe, it did take me a year to return to the concept. This weekend I found the time and inclination to advance the recipe and I am ready to share it—both versions of it.
Why two versions?
The recipe that I was working on was inspired by my father’s love of guava and cream cheese. A favorite dessert of many Cubans, I remember my father would buy Goya’s® guava paste and cream cheese and slice each item to create a guava-cream cheese sandwich—with the cream cheese serving as the “bread” of the sandwich. Despite our shared love of food, there were a number of dishes that my father would either prepare or order out that did not appeal to me at all. Guava and cream cheese was one such food item. Maybe because the way he prepared the guava and cream cheese seemed so crude and unappetizing to me.
When I first read through the recipe for the Greek cheese puffs, Bourekakia, I knew with a few simple substitutions, I would have a vehicle for guava and cream cheese. Instead of the course, oversized pieces of guava pasta with cream cheese that my father would devour, I would prepare small, bite-size puffs of phyllo filled with bits of guava with cream cheese.
However, I remained indecisive over how the filling was to be assembled. My first thought was to cream the guava paste with the cream cheese. Because the paste was so dense, it takes about five minutes on high speed on a mixer to fully break the guava down and incorporate the guava in the cream cheese. My second thought was to cream the cream cheese with all the ingredients but for the guava paste. The guava paste would be cut in little ¼” cubes and placed on top the cream cheese mixture in the phyllo dough. The only way to determine which filling composition worked best was to prepare the appetizer both ways.
Since my favorite taste tester for this particular recipe was out of town this weekend, I turned to my sister and my 8-year-old niece to assist in this decision. My niece Sophie liked both version, but lacked the discriminating palate required to tell me which version she preferred. My sister, Sam, on the other liked both but was able to pick up the subtleties between the two fillings. The one that featured the cube of guava resting atop the cream cheese mixture had a more intense guava taste than the version that had everything blended together. Both were fine but it all depends on what I was trying to achieve with the recipe.
So I present both versions of Guava-Cheese Puffs. (Sam also suggested “puffs” over “pillows”—my original name for them. She said puffs sounded more appetizing.)
8 oz guava paste (I used the Goya paste that comes in a circular, flat can)
4 oz cream cheese or Neufchâtel
2 tablespoon of heavy cream
2 egg yolks
Dash of nutmeg
12 strips of phyllo dough
½ lb sweet butter, melted
Sprinkle of cinnamon on top of puffs (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350⁰F
- (Option A, all ingredients blended)
a. Combine the cream cheese, guava paste, heavy cream and egg yolks in mixing bowl on high until all ingredients are fully incorporated—about five minutes.(Option B, all but guava blended in the mixture)
a. Combine the cream cheese, heavy cream and egg yolks in mixing bowl on high until all ingredients are fully incorporated—about two minutes
- Dice the guava paste into roughly ¼ inch cubes.
- Remove the phyllo dough from its wrapping and place the phyllo on top of a kitchen towel with a plastic wrap atop of the towel. Cover with kitchen towel, misting the towel with water following each time the phyllo is uncovered.
- Brush the phyllo with the melted butter and fold in half crosswise.
- Cut folded phyllo in 4 sections.
- (Option A, all ingredients blended)
a. Put ¼ teaspoon of the mixture in the top third of the phyllo strip section.
b. Fold the strip over, covering the filling.
(Option B, all but guava blended in the mixture)
Put ½ teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture in the top third of the phyllo strip.
Lay a cube of guava paste atop the cream cheese mixture
Fold the strip over, covering the filling.
8. Dab melted butter with a pastry brush on the completed puff.
9. Place the puffs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
10. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
11. Sprinkle with cinnamon when out of the oven.
12. These puffs can be made in advance and frozen before baking. Place in a 350⁰F oven while still frozen and bake for about 25 minutes.
The recipe yields 48 puffs.