Guava Cream Cheese Tarts (Gluten-Free )… the charmingly imperfect result of a five year obsession

I have been thinking about trying to make this for a very, very long time.   In 2007 Chris and both spent a lot of time working in Los Angeles on the opening of the amazing Noah’s Ark at the Skirball.  Chris designed and built kinetic sculptures and puppets of 46 of the animals on the ark and I adapted flood myths from around the world and trained the staff in storytelling.  There was lots of hard work and in the end a lot of celebrating because it was so very successful.  It is a permanent exhibit, and if you find yourself in LA you should go see it!

ANYWAY, at these celebrations this one particular amazing pie kept on appearing.  It was a flakey, buttery, guava cream cheese pie from Cafe Tropical in Silver Lake and it was just about the best thing I had ever tasted.  This pie has haunted me for the five and a half years since I ate so much of it in June of 2007.  I would have attempted to reproduce it sooner, but shortly after this glorious month of celebrating and pie eating I became increasingly sick and finally realized that my gluten eating days needed to come to an end.

If you eat gluten, just go buy yourself some frozen puff pastry and the ingredients listed below for the guava and cream cheese filling and make yourself little puff pastry turnovers filled with cream cheese and guava.  It will be so easy and so ridiculously good!

If you don’t bake, but do eat gluten, and you find your self in LA, go eat the guava cream cheese pie at Cafe Tropical.   If  you are in NYC or some other city with a large Latin Caribbean population, look for Guayaba Pastelito or Guayaba Quesito or Empanadas Guayaba on the menu of your local Cuban, Puerto Rican or Dominican diner.  While you are at it, get a cafe con leche.   Soon you will be fat and happy.

If you don’t eat gluten, you may find my recent obsession with trying to reproduce this pie without gluten entertaining.  I promise that in the end I will give you an easy recipe for guava and cream cheese tarts, which, while they are not what I was trying to make, are crazy delicious!

I have tried to make gluten-free puff pastry twice now.  The fist time, I made the rough pastry from gluten-free girl.  I used it to top my post thanksgiving Curried Turkey Pot Pie and I have to say that it turned out pretty good.  For my second attempt, I used a much more complicated recipe from a gluten-free blog that shall remain nameless. I tried to make a buttery, flakey guava and cream cheese turnover in the style of the Cafe Tropical pie using this complicated recipe.  Even better, I tried to do this for dinner guests.  This is where the ominous sound track should begin…

All of the butter ran away screaming from the gluten-free flour mix. I was left with a delicious creamy guava filling mostly exposed by a (verging on rock hard) crispy, gluten-free crumble, in a pool of grease.  It was horrifying.  Luckily, the dinner guests were our very good friends and former neighbors Noah and Mya.  These are people who know that I sometimes do not change out of  my bathrobe all weekend long..people who have heard me have crying jags through our shared apartment wall when my daddy died…people who know that I sometimes let multiple bags of kitchen trash pile up outside my apartment door before getting around to running them down into the big trash cans.  These people know me, and they still like me.  They ate my horrible failed turnover, crumbled onto ice-cream for desert.

Horrific Gluten-Free Pastry
It wasn’t so bad as kind of guava and cream cheese brittle sprinkled over icecream

******Here is the truth though, I get a little obsessive sometimes.  So, when my first guava turnover failed, I quickly made a batch of gluten-free empanadas filled guessed it…guava and cream cheese.  I was rushing to roll out the dough and using a lot of flour to prevent sticking so my empanadas turned out a bit dry, BUT they were very, very good dipped into the black bean soup that I served for dinner.  I recommend the guava and cream cheese mixtures listed below for filling either gluten-free empanadas or traditional empanadas.  Serve the empanadas with Brazilian Black Bean Soup and Pineapple Mint Salsa and a green salad with mango, avocado, hearts of palm, red bell pepper and green olives.

Although I liked the empanadas, they did not satisfy my desire for a buttery flakey cream cheese and guava pie.  So, the day after the dinner party I made these itty bitty sloppy cream cheese and guava tarts using a buttery, gluten-free pie crust.

The pie crust is from Gluten Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts and I really cannot believe how versatile it is.  It is good for quiche, to top pot pie, to make lofty double crust fruit pies, and pear pie glazed with sambuca, to pre-bake for a big apple butter and pear tart or for tiny sloppy tarts, like these.

These do not replicate the stunning pie from cafe tropical, but they have satisfied my obsessive longing.   They are really sloppy, but their imperfections add to their charm and they taste delicious!    They make a fitting end to my little obsessive episode.

***If you are not gluten-free, you can make the tart crusts using the old fashioned pie crust recipe that can be found by clicking here***


Gluten Free Flour Mix for the Tart Shells
  • 2 cups brown rice flour
  • 2/3 cups potato starch (NOT POTATO FLOUR)
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour

This will make a little more flour than you will need for a 12 tiny sloppy tart crusts.  You can use the extra for flouring your rolling surface.

Tiny Sloppy Gluten-Free Tart Shells
  • 2 cups plus 4 Tablespoons gluten-free flour mix (see above)
  • 4 Tablespoons sweet rice flour (also known as mochi or glutinous rice flour)
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 Tablespoons cold butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 teaspoons lemon or orange juice
Cream Cheese Filling
  • 1 8 oz block of cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of confectioners sugar
  • 1 egg
Guava Filling
  • about 6 oz of guava paste (see side obsessive rant about guava paste below!)
  • the juice of 1 lemon
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Generously butter 12 shallow muffin tins and dust them with gluten-free flour mix.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients together.
  4. Cut the butter in to the dry ingredients and use your fingers to combine until it has the consistency of course cornmeal.
  5. Whisk the eggs and juice together.
  6. Add the liquid to the flour and butter and combine into a ball.  Divide the ball into quarters and then each quarter into thirds.  You should have 12 equal lumps.  Roll each lump into a ball place them back in the mixing bowl.  Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let refrigerate for about 10 minutes.
  7. While you wait for the butter in your dough to cool off, you can make the cream cheese filling.  Combine the cream cheese, confectioners sugar using a food processor, blender or using a hand mixer.  It should become smooth and fluffy.
  8. When the dough has cooled, roll each ball  into a 3 or 4 inch circle. The dough should be a bit thicker than you would roll it for a pie crust   You can do this on a gluten-free floured surface or between two sheets of wax paper.  It does not matter at all if the circle is irregular or broken around the edges.  In fact a sort of flower shaped circle makes the next step easier!
  9. As you finish rolling lift each sloppy circle into a buttered muffin tin.  The irregular shape should allow the crust to crumple around the edges and collapse into the tin.
  10. When the 12 muffin tins are lines with crust, refrigerate them for another 10 minutes.
  11. While you wait for your crusts to cool, you can make the guava filling.  Cut the guava paste into small chunks and combine it with the lemon juice in a food processor or blender. Process it until it is totally smooth and uniform.
  12. Pre-bake the crusts for 10 minutes.  Some of them will wilt or collapse.  This is not a big deal just use a fork to gently open them up enough to fill them.  Remember that their imperfection is a part of their charm.
  13. Fill each tart with a 1 tablespoon of cream cheese filling and then one tablespoon of guava filling.
  14. Bake for another 10 minutes or until the edges of the crusts are just starting to brown.
  15. Let the tarts cool completely before lifting them out of their tins.
  16. The tarts will keep well for a few days in a cool room or the fridge.

And the next obsession is…..Guava Paste!

I was thrilled to discover that I can get guava paste in my neighborhood.  My neighborhood is Caribbean, but most of the folks here are from English and French speaking Caribbean Countries.  Jamaica and Trinidad and Haiti  are physically close to the Spanish speaking Caribbean countries but are culturally very different.  I wasn’t sure if guava paste was something that my neighbors used.  Well not only did my local grocery carry guava paste, an old Jamaican lady in line tisked at me for buying the wrong brand (she likes the one in the resealable tuppy for freshness).  So I guess that guava paste appears does appear in the cuisine of the English speaking Caribbean as well.

Guava Paste has a frightening hard jelly consistency but when you blend it with a bit of lemon juice it becomes divine.  It would be good in a Boozy Pan Sauce for Pork Chops, in place of apricot preserves in Coronation Chicken, as the base for a tropical salad dressing.  It reminds me of POG (passion, orange, guava) juice which was a big treat of my childhood in Hawaii….Maybe I should try making pork chops in a POG sauce.  That name is no good…but it would be tasty!


9 Comments Add yours

  1. Hahahahaha!

    That picture of Noah is priceless!!! So cute!


  2. p.s. Those “sloppy tarts” as you call them look like they would make excellent butter tarts!

    1. See! Great minds think alike! I am planning on making just those butter tarts on Sunday!!!!!!! They look like my favourtie butter tarts from that pie counter on Granville Island.

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