Cookie Monster: Guava Bars

Carrie Vasios

If every morning I could crunch through the flaky exterior of a pastelito to find the tang of cream cheese mingling with the sweet fruitiness of guava paste, I would be a happy person. And if you know that I live in San Francisco, you know that I, theoretically, should be able to do this quite easily. Mexican markets and Latin American eateries abound in this city. Or do they?

San Francisco neighborhoods are actually rather distinct, and though most people think of the Mexican-influenced Mission area when they think of San Francisco, that part of the city doesn't really extend north of Market Street. Getting between the two sides of the city isn't easy, especially if, like me, you can't drive. Then you have to rely on the bus. That would be fine. Living in New York, I liked my little commute. I got a ton of reading done. But I can't read in cars (my fault) and the bus system here is pretty bad. If it had just been that one time that someone pooped on the bus while I was on it that would be one thing, but then the old man came on without his pants. Nothing puts you off eating pastry like a surprise attack of old man parts. Just saying.

Of course anyone who's eaten in San Francisco knows that the Mission is worth trekking to, and the last time I went I remembered to bring my biggest shopping bag and set aside time to do some stocking up. I hit up a bunch of little markets, scooping up everything from dried chiles to fresh cheeses. And, of course, guava paste.

When you have multiple tins of guava paste, you realize that guava-filled pastelitos are only the beginning of the fun. Take for example, these guava bars. The base is a simple shortbread crust that's pressed into a 13- by 9-inch pan then toped with slices of sweet, fruity, oh-so-delicious guava paste. Many guava bars are topped with a second layer of shortbread, but guava paste is pretty rich. I thought that a crumbly oat topping would lighten the feeling of the bars by adding a bit of crunch. You can still easily get 24 bars out of this pan (or 12 if you're feeding ambitious eaters). They're fruity, crunchy, and totally worth the bus ride—though I'm still looking into a bike.