I’m flexing my baking muscles now that I’ve reached Day Six of my Advent Cookie Challenge.
Innovative flavor combinations, unusual ingredients and lengthy techniques are par for the course in The New York Times’ kitchens, but rare in my kitchen. Transforming The New York Times‘ 24 un-simple cookie recipes into gluten-free, dairy-free, low-sugar versions is pushing me out of my kitchen comfort zone, one cookie at a time.
Day Six wasn’t as troubling as I’d expected, given that I’d have to use non-dairy cream cheese in these cookies. The problem was finding guava paste, an ingredient I’d never cooked with. I found it in the third supermarket I tried, buried on a bottom shelf in the international aisle.
I haven’t tasted guava since my father brought home a bottle of guava jelly when I was a child. It’s an unusual flavor, soft and fruity, yet with a slight smoky flavor. It pairs well with cream cheese, which permeates the dough in these cookies.
Trader Joe’s now sells non-dairy cream cheese, so that wasn’t as difficult an ingredient to procure as it would have been a few years ago. The time-consuming effort in making these cookies is rolling out the dough and cutting it into small rectangles, then forming the cookies around chunks of guava paste. Drop cookies are more my style, but the NYT isn’t cooperating.
This cookie dough is very soft and difficult to work with. I kept putting mine back into the fridge, then into the freezer, because it warmed up so quickly as I rolled it out. I always roll gluten-free dough between sheets of plastic wrap because gluten-free dough sticks to everything else, including the counter, the rolling pin, your hands, etc.
But the end result was worth the effort. Who knew guava and cream cheese is a great cookie combination? These cookies are not low sugar, as there’s lots of refined sugar in guava paste. But they are delicious! A spectacular cookie!
The original recipe by Genevieve Ko is rather exacting, promising 50 cookies if you cut up your rectangles just right. I made about 35 cookies, but used only half the 12-ounce bar of guava paste, which is very sweet and sugary. If I make these cookies for a party, I’ll double the cookie dough.
Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Guava and Cream Cheese Twists
Guava melts into these dairy-free cream-cheese cookies, creating a sweet, slightly savory, crisp cookie twist.
- 1/2 cup non-dairy butter, at room temperature
- 4 ounces non-dairy cream cheese, softened
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 large egg, separated
- 1 cup gluten-free flour mix
- 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 12 ounces (one package, generally) guava paste
- decorative sugar (optional)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, cream cheese and sugar until creamy.
Stir in sugar and salt, then add the egg yolk.
Gently mix in the flour until incorporated.
Divide the dough in half, and form into 1" thick rectangles.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
When ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cut the guava paste into rectangles, 1" long by 1/2" wide.
Roll half of the dough between sheets of plastic wrap into a rectangle about 15" by 6" by 1/8" thick.
Cut the dough into 2 1/2" by 1 1/2" rectangles.
Place a rectangle of guava paste on an angle in the center of a rectangle of dough, and bring the opposite corners over the guava paste, and pinch the corners of the dough together.
Place the cookies on a prepared baking sheet.
If you wish, brush each cookie with reserved egg white, and sprinkle with decorating sugar.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-14 minutes.
Cool the cookies on the baking sheets on a wire rack.
While the first batch is baking, repeat with the second half of the dough.
These cookies are best the first day, but will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days
Look for guava paste in the international aisle in any large supermarket. It's made with guava puree, sugar and some citric acid to preserve its color and flavor.