Dulces: Guava and Cream Cheese Pastelitos


"Welcome to Miami and the beaches." I love reading that welcome sign at Miami International Airport. The whole place screams vacation to me as I walk past the neon signs and bright T-shirts at the duty-free shops, the smell of Coppertone discernible in the air.

Granted, MIA has been under construction since my earliest memories of the place in the 1980s and some sections look like movie sets from Scarface, but it all says ¡bienvenida! to me, especially the Cuban restaurants Versailles and La Carreta.

Even if a layover is all the time I have in Miami, I have a mini-vacation when I bite into a pastelito de guayaba con queso at one of those restaurants.

Pastelitos—literally, "little pies"—are puff pastry turnovers filled with guava paste and cream cheese. Guava is a tropical fruit that's either round or oval-shaped with a pear-green, roughish skin. The interior is dotted with edible seeds and can be any color from pale yellow to watermelon pink, depending on the variety and ripeness.

Guava is eaten fresh and can be juiced, but most frequently, it's cooked into pastes, jams, jellies, and preserves. When cooked, it has an intense, exotic, tangy sweetness that blends melodiously with cream cheese. I've had pastelitos filled with sweetened cream cheese, but I prefer to enhance the tang with sour cream and lemon to really accentuate the guava.

To make it easier, I use frozen puff pastry. Have your pastelito with a cafecito, café con leche, or regular coffee if you don't have a guayabera-clad barista near.