In a country where sugar has historically represented both the agricultural and industrial goals, desserts are found everywhere. Generally they are very simple, made mainly with fruit and sugar.
Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, African and Caribbean cuisines. It differs from other Latin American cuisines and has almost nothing in common with Mexican cuisine. Cuban recipes tend to share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. A small, but noteworthy, Chinese influence can be accounted for, mainly in the Havana area.
The fact that most Cuban desserts are extremely sweet (usually fruits and sugar are in equal quantities) has inspired the custom of eating them along with salted or cream cheese to help offset the sweetness.
The use of the lime and rum flavor in these cookies makes their taste distinctly Cuban. Brings back memories from a past vacation we spent in Cuba.
Cuban Sugar Cookies w/ Guava & Lime
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon & salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter & sugar with a mixer until light. Beat in lime zest & egg followed by lime juice & rum. Gradually beat in the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you work, until it comes together.
Divide dough into three portions, wrapping 2 in plastic wrap & place in refrigerator while you are working on the first piece.
Place the first piece on a lightly floured surface & roll out to 1/3-inch thickness. Using a lightly floured 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles of the dough. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
Cut pieces of guava paste into dime-sized circles or squares ( depending on what shape your guava paste comes in), making each approximately 1/4-inch thick. Lightly press one piece into the top of each cookie.
Bake for 13-16 minutes, until cookies are light gold at the edges. Cool on the baking sheet for 4-5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. If you wish you can dust the cookies with powdered sugar.
- As an alternate idea, assemble them similar to a 'linzer' cookie. Roll half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness; cut with a circular (more decorative) cookie cutter. Repeat with remaining dough but cut small circles in the center of these.
- On top of each plain cookie, place one with a hole in it. Press a guava 'circle' in the hole & sprinkle with a few chopped pistachios if you wish.
- I used this method for the blog picture. Same cookie just a bit fancier.
For most of us our taste in desserts has evolved from our childhood days. I really don’t recall my mother ever making the classic rice krispie treats — you know the one — chewy, crunchy, marshmallowy! Since she was someone who loved to bake and cook, desserts were the ‘norm’. My dad loved meat, potatoes and sweets, which was all fine being a hard working farmer. It all balanced out, but for us kids, inheriting that love of sweets hasn’t always been a good thing. Nevertheless, like I mentioned, our tastes do evolve.
Quite a few years back, I made a version of rice krispie bars which were called ‘sinless snack bars’. They not only used rice krispies and marshmallows but some more ‘healthy’ ingredients such as flax and pumpkin seeds along with some dried cranberries.
We all know, it wouldn’t be summer without having cheesecake so I’m thinking why not incorporate these two favorites into one. Then take it just a step further and top it with a tropical flavor. I think, this version bridges the gap between a nostalgic childhood treat to an adult indulgence. You be the judge!
Tropical Rice Crispy Cheesecakes
Rice Krispie Base
Line a 9 X 9-inch square pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides. Lightly butter foil & a wooden spoon. In a large bowl, combine rice krispies, flax flakes, pumpkin seeds,flax seeds & salt. In a large pot, melt butter; add marshmallows & stir with wooden spoon until marshmallows have completely melted. Stir in vanilla then add rice krispie mixture & QUICKLY combine well.
Transfer mixture to the prepared pan; press into an even layer while warm. Let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes until firm.
MAKE GUAVA GLAZE AT THIS TIME then continue with cheesecake layer.
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine gelatin with 2 Tbsp water; set aside to soften, about 5 minutes. Beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed with a hand mixer until completely smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of bowl. Add sour cream, sugar, lemon juice & vanilla. Beat until smooth, about 1 minute.
Microwave the gelatin in 10 second increments, stirring as needed, until it dissolves, 30-50 seconds. Pour the gelatin into cream cheese mixture; beat on medium-high speed until incorporated, about 30 seconds.
Pour the cream cheese mixture over the cooled rice krispie layer. Spread out evenly with an offset spatula. Spoon small amounts of guava glaze to be swirled in a random pattern onto cheesecake batter. With the tip of a knife, swirl glaze to form a pretty pattern. Sprinkle with chopped pistachio nuts.
Wrap the pan loosely with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight until set. Remove from refrigerator & cut into squares.
In a small saucepan, combine guava paste & water. Place over low heat only until warm to the touch. Transfer the mixture to a food processor & pulse until smooth. Stir in fresh lemon juice.
- Don't hesitate to make these in any shape you choose.
Today, March 28th, is my mother’s birth date. As we honor her beautiful memory, I’m sure each of my siblings will reflect on special times we shared with her. Forty-one years after her passing, I’m still doing many things in her likeness. Baking was a shared passion for my mother and I. We liked nothing better than to bake something together. After I moved from ‘home’ and would return for a visit, instead of having a coffee and visit we would get busy and bake something while we talked. Such great memories!
In honor of her fabulous kitchen skills, I decided to make some Guava Cream Rolls. If I have a little extra time when I grocery shop, I like to scan the import isles to see if there is something unique I can use in my baking. One of the items that caught my attention was guava paste. Also known as ‘guayabate’ or ‘goiabada’, guava paste is a very thick puree of the guava fruit cooked with sugar and often with added pectin.
Guava is very popular in Cuba, the Caribbean and Spain. This thick paste has a sweet, floral taste like a combination of pear and strawberry. It is often paired with cheese as an appetizer or in the filling of baked goods as well as in savory dishes.
For these rolls, I used a combination of sweet guava paste with savory cream cheese which gave this dessert a very distinct and tropical flavor.
Guava Cream Rolls
In a small bowl, dissolve yeast & 1 tsp sugar in lukewarm milk. Let stand for 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate. In a large bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar, melted butter, sour cream & egg. Add yeast mixture, stirring to combine.
In another bowl, combine flour & salt. Add flour mixture, 1 cup at a time, combining with wet mixture. Once all flour has been added, knead dough for about 2 minutes until smooth & elastic consistency, Place dough in a greased bowl & cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about an hour. While the dough is rising, beat together guava paste & softened cream cheese to make filling. Line a 10-inch spring form pan with parchment paper; set aside.
Punch the risen dough down & transfer to a floured surface then divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Divide each of them again into 4 parts, so to have 8 pieces of dough altogether.
Roll each piece of dough out into a roughly rectangular shape with a thickness of 1/4-inch. Spread guava/cream cheese over each piece. Place one piece of rectangular dough over another one & start to roll a cylinder. Do the same with the rest of the dough; you will end up with 4 cylinder rolls altogether.
Cut each roll into three pieces. Slice both ends of the roll ( about 1 1/2-inch long piece from each end) & put these 2 pieces aside. Cut the middle part of each roll into 4 triangles. In the middle of spring form pan, arrange the cut ends of the rolls around each other to form a circle, placing the cut sides down. Arrange the cut triangles to completely surround the middle circle.
Cover pan with a tea towel & allow to rise in a warm place for about 30-40 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat egg with water to make egg wash & carefully brush the top of rolls when they have risen enough. Bake rolls for 30-40 minutes or until baked & golden in color. Remove from oven & brush immediately with melted butter. Remove spring form pan & cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before serving.