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December 14, 2008

Guava paste (Recipe: guava souffle with custard sauce)

Guava souffle

Guest post and photos by Peter in Brazil, chef and co-owner of Pousada do Capão

In any small town here in Minas Gerais, there is plenty of animated discussion around who makes the best goiabada, or guava paste.

Here in São Gonçalo, Dona Geralda wins my vote. Her alchemy turns humble guavas and sugar into red gold -– stirring, stirring, patiently stirring over the fire. My absolute favorite is goiabada cascão, guava paste with toothsome chunks of the slow-cooked candied peel suspended throughout. I always have a nice big hunk in my pantry.

Dona geralda

Goiabada is eaten as is or used to fill any number of cookies, tarts, cakes. It is used in thumbprint-type cookies, sandwich cookies, and just about any other cookie you can imagine that might be made with jam. Goiabinha is a guava newton (like a fig newton). Rocambole de goiaba is a jellyroll made with thin sheets of sponge cake. Little tart shells (tarteletes) and turnovers (pasteis) are filled with cubes of guava paste and Serro cheese.

Native to Mexico, Central and northern South America, and parts of northern Africa, guava is cultivated today throughout the tropics, thanks once again to Spanish and Portuguese traders. The fragrant fruits are round or pear-shaped, 2 to 4 inches long; the green outer skin has a pebbly texture that turns yellow as the fruit ripens. The flesh can be yellow or red, but red is preferred, as it gives the finished guava paste its beautiful deep color.

A few generations back, São Gonçalo was famous for its sweets, and a group of local women is trying desperately to rebuild that regional reputation. With several small grants, the group has been able to set up shop in a restored period house and begin producing for sale many of the traditional spoon sweets which are the mainstay of the dessert table in Minas Gerais.

Goiabada in the making

At the Casa dos Doces (the Sweet House) not only guavas, but citrus rinds and other tropical fruits are cut in pieces, or grated or pureed, and strained and simmered with caramel, or brown or white sugars, in gorgeous antique copper pans over wood-burning stoves.

Guavapaste

The guava paste is poured into rectangular molds and left to firm up, portioned, wrapped in banana leaves (and plastic wrap). Time will tell if the group will be able to accept the task of making the best guava paste together.

Commercially produced guava paste is easy to find in any Latino market, or in the Goya section of almost any supermarket. And if I hadn’t ever experienced the real artisanal stuff here, I would have been perfectly content with the store-bought, which is often served in slices as a simple dessert with a semi-soft cheese.

Try mini-cocktail sandwiches -– small cornmeal scones or pão de queijo, stuffed with prosciutto or Serrano ham, guava paste, and a sliver of sharp cheddar or Manchego cheese. Or melt it with a bit of guava nectar as a topping for cheesecake. Chiquérrimo!

Guava souffle with custard sauce

Whip guava paste into an exotic, tropical soufflé for a smashing finale to a holiday meal. Make the custard ahead and allow time for it to chill. Serves 6-8; can be doubled.

Ingredients

1/2 pound guava paste
1/2 cup guava nectar
1 Tbsp cachaça or light rum (optional)
4 egg whites, at room temperature
Butter to grease the baking dish
Sugar to dust the baking dish

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a small saucepan, melt guava paste with guava nectar (and optional rum) over low heat, stirring to eliminate big lumps. It doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth –- a few bits add character to the soufflé. Add a little water as necessary to obtain a thick puree. Cool.

Grease a 6 x 10 x 2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with butter and dust lightly with sugar. Beat the whites to stiff peaks and fold in the cooled guava puree. Mound the mixture into the dish and bake until puffed and just beginning to color on the tips of the soufflé. Serve hot with cool custard sauce (recipe follows).

Custard sauce

4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup hot milk
1 tsp vanilla

Have ready a small metal bowl and a strainer. Put the vanilla in the bowl. Beat the yolks and sugar with a wire whisk in a small saucepan until smooth. Add the hot milk, stirring well and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the custard begins to thicken and coats the spoon, being careful not to boil. Pour the custard through the strainer into the bowl, and stir. Cool and refrigerate.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Blue cheese souffle
Bolo de fuba

Comments

That's fascinating! My knowledge of Brazilian cooking is mostly from references in the books of Jorge Amado -- I've only tasted guava paste once (in Mexico).

Great photos! This is definitely an ingredient I've never tried. Fascinating.

I love guayaba paste served simply with cheese but this custard is fascinating...though I won't be using a pot that size in the courtyard.

What fun to get the inside story! I need to get my hands on some guava paste!

Wow! This is a whole new world for me!
I am in love with the giant pan, my pans now have size envy. :)

I am so glad you photographed a person standing with the pan or I would never have believed its size! Can't wait to come down and try it.
Ted

Mae - I love Amado - in fact one of my daughters is nick-named Gabriela cravo e canela. It's obviously time to give goiabada a second try.

Kalyn and T. W. Barritt - Thanks. It was hard to get a shot of the goiabada that didn't look like a hunk of raw meat, but Lydia is a wiz with Photoshop. I think it really won't be hard for you to find goiabada locally and experiment.

Joan Nova - I too love the simplicity of serving it with cheese, but I had to do something with the leftover yolks!!

Natasha - Almost every woman has a pan like that handed down from mother to daughter. It one of the most treasured possessions. Remember - it's not the size of the pan, but how you stir the goiabada.

Ted - We're waiting. Dona Geralda is pretty proud to have become an overnight food blog idol. Nothing shy about her.

I am so glad you brought the virtues of guava paste to my attention. I would love to experiment with this new (to me anyway) ingredient, and this souffle with custard sauce sounds like the perfect place to start!

I love guava paste. I eat it all the time but I've never heard of a guava souffle! Awesome!

Ah, I haven't thought about guava paste in years! My dad was from Jamaica, and it was a special treat when I was a kid when he would bring pack from Toronto in a pie shaped tin. Yum.. I never knew anyone to make something else with it, this sounds fascinating.

This is awesome - I've actually never had Brazilian food. One of the things I love about your blog is that I'm constantly learning new, interesting things about food!

Sandie - it is also good (and perhaps more authentic)with a sauce made of heavy cream and melted cream cheese or requeijao.

EB - have you ever tried quince paste? membrillo? that's pretty delicious too, but I like the tropical twist to the guava.

Erin - Glad to spark some childhood memories! I love it when that happens.

Maris - It's really fun to be part of Lydia's blog. I love trying to share new things with her community. Thanks

A big chunk of guava paste wrapped in buttered toast reminds me of breakfasts with my grandparents long ago......

I've only had store bought guava paste (and loved it), so I could only imagine how the real deal tastes. I've also not really known what I was doing with it, so I really love the idea of a guava souffle--this sounds like a fantastic dessert!

That's awesome... I've souffled pretty much everything but I've never even seen a guava-flavored recipe before.

Blair - I may just do that for breakfast right now! I remember my grandparents serving cheesecake with melted guava paste as the fruit glaze. Memories...

Mike - there is no comparison but as they say "what you don't know can't hurt you". The souffle is good and it is wicked simple.

Hey Jude - That makes me happy - it is so hard to be original these days. Thanks

hey, is turnover the best translation for Pastel? I've looked high and low and can't seem to find a decent translation... and with pastel, obviously i mean the feira variety.

xoxo from Sao Paulo.

That is making my mouth water - your description too!

This is a good idea i think its a new taste if we had a guava cakes ever the sweetest cake ever. :)

vee

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