Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Guava Bars

I love visiting the Caribbean and Latin America. I love tropical foods. There are simple ways to remind myself of some of my favorite food memories of trips to that region, and one of the easiest is to make foods or drinks using tropical fruit. Nothing brings me back like pineapple and coconut-infused Painkiller cocktails and desserts featuring guava.

Guava is also common in Brazilian cooking/baking, so with the Olympics coming up at the end of the week, there's no better time to create some delicious foods inspired by the region.

I had originally purchased a block of guava paste with the intention to make Brazilian empanadas (called pastéis) filled with tart and sweet guava paste and tangy cream cheese. It's one of my favorite combinations, and a prevalent one across Latin America. I made other plans for a Brazilian dish for the upcoming Olympic festivities, but still wanted to use that block of guava paste for something yummy.

Enter these fantastic guava bars. They are crazy easy to make, and begin with a layer of basic shortbread, topped with sliced guava paste, and then finished with an oat-crumble topping. These not-too-sweet bar style cookies are really a treat for anyone who loves Guava! And I didn't even have to fry them like I would have with the empanadas I had originally planned on making.

Crumbly and buttery with a tropical flair, these guava bars would be perfect for any occasion and can easily be made year-round because they don't require fresh seasonal fruit.

The original recipe calls for 16 ounces of guava paste, but the brand I purchased is sold in 14 ounce packages. I thinly sliced mine (didn't actually measure them at 1/4-inches like the recipe states) and had the perfect amount to top my shortbread crust.

You can typically find guava paste in the Latin foods aisle at your supermarket, and it's also available online. It's shelf-stable and does not require refrigeration.

Even if you haven't planned anything special in honor of the upcoming Rio Olympics, there is still time to whip together a small treat, such as these simple guava bars.

Guava Bars
Makes 24 small or 12 large bars
(Adapted from Serious Eats)

Shortbread Crust:
16 tablespoons (1 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups (about 10 ounces) all purpose flour

14 ounces guava paste, sliced to about 1/4-inch thick slices (I used this brand--the original recipes calls for 16 ounces, but many blocks seem to come in 14 ounce sizes, and this was the perfect amount for me so I've adjusted the recipe)
1 cup old fashioned oats
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, diced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup (about 5 ounces) all-purpose flour

Grease 13-by-9-inch baking pan with butter (I lined mine with parchment paper large enough to go up the sides for easy removal from the pan, and then cut the bars on a board instead of in the pan--I buttered the parchment). Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

For the crust: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand held mixer, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 3 minutes, then add salt and flour and beat until dough comes together. Press dough evenly into prepared pan (a bit of extra flour may help when you're pressing the dough if it's sticky. Also I use the bottom of a dry measuring cup to help flatten the dough. Just add a bit of flour to the dough or your hand to help flatten the sticky dough as needed. You could also chill it slightly before pressing it as well to firm it up a bit).

For the topping: Cover dough with slices of guava paste. In the bowl of a food processor, combine oats, butter, salt, and sugar. Pulse 10 times. Add flour and pulse until mixture resembles wet sand. Sprinkle over evenly over top of pan. Bake until top is golden, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into bars.


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