A couple weeks ago we made a visit to the international market to stock up on a few things that aren’t available at the regular grocery store. Somehow a packet of guava paste made it into the cart, (okay, I put it there), and it’s been sitting on my kitchen counter ever since. I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to make with it but I decided to get creative and see what happened when I combined American pie and Salvadoran semita with Cuban pastelitos de guayaba y queso. Hilariously, I ended up using my Ecuadorian friend, Laylita’s recipe for sweet empanada dough for the crust, so this recipe is authentically Ecua-Cuba-Ameri-doran… or something like that.
If the photos haven’t already tempted you to give it a try, let me tell you, it’s everything I hoped it would be. The look of a traditional American pie with the criss-cross technique I use on Salvadoran semita, a crust that is crisp on top but crumbly and tender inside, and a filling that is sweet, rich, and full of close-your-eyes-when-you-take-a-bite-Cuban-goodness.
Before I give you the recipe down below, I just want to say that I’m not fond of the word “pay” in Spanish. Maybe because it reminds me of “payasos” (which scare me), or because it looks like how I would have spelled “pie” in Kindergarten. Anyway, I’ve spelled it “pay” because the rest of the recipe name is in Spanish. Also, if I spelled it “pie” in English then some of the native Spanish speakers might think about feet, which is just ever so slightly unappetizing. So, call it whichever you want – “Pay de Guayaba y Queso” or “Guava and Cheese Pie” … it will taste the same either way.
Pay de Guayaba y Queso
1 batch of Laylita’s Sweet Empanada Dough
8 ounces real cream cheese (not cream cheese “spread”)
14 ounces guava paste (not jelly!)
1 egg whisked (for brushing on top of the pie)
1 small handful white sugar (to sprinkle on top of the pie)
1. Follow Laylita’s direction to create the dough first. I followed the directions exactly, using 4 tablespoons of water where it says “2 to 4” and 1/4 cup of sugar where it says “1/4 to 1/2.” Separate the dough into 2 balls, flatten into large discs and refrigerate for 30 minutes as instructed.
2. On a lightly floured surface (lightly floured parchment paper works best for me), roll out one of the balls to fit in and up the sides of a 9 inch pie plate. Leave the other ball of dough refrigerated while you work.
3. Pick up the parchment paper and gently turn it over onto the pie plate. Press the dough against the sides and trim off any excess.
4. Cut the guava paste into slices about as thick as a pencil and layer them on top of the dough, overlapping when it becomes necessary.
5. Spread the cream cheese on top of the guava in an even layer.
6. Roll out the other dough ball the same as the first one and gently put it on top. Trim off the excess.
7. Use a pastry brush (or a clean, dry paper towel balled up if you don’t have a pastry brush), to gently brush the whisked egg onto the crust.
8. Take the dough scraps and form a ball. Roll the ball out and use a pizza cutter to cut strips to decorate the top in a crisscross pattern or however you like.
9. Gently brush egg on the crust again, being careful not to disturb the crisscross design.
10. Sprinkle a small handful of sugar evenly onto the crust.
11. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375 F until golden brown. (Mine took about 35 minutes.)
12. Remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing and serving.