Guava and Cream Cheese Mini Empanadas

Sometimes you make something so simple that even you are surprised how tasty it is. This is the case of these little morsels. I made them for a party I catered which I made several mini desserts. It was a Fiesta themed party so I made these Pastelitas with sweetened cream cheese and guava paste. The flaky dough is something that comes together really quickly in a food processor or even in a large bowl if you don’t have one. They turn out flaky and the tang of the guava with the sweetened cream cheese pair really well together. I’m lucky that I live near some Hispanic markets and guava paste is readily available. If you have a Chinese grocery store too most often you can find the guava paste as well. I had some leftover dough so I also played around and made another version with fig jam and bleu cheese crumbles.


Empanada Dough

8 oz. unsalted butter, room temp

4 oz. cream cheese, room temp

1/4 Cup heavy cream

1 1/2 Cups + 2 Tbsp. all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

In a food processor place the butter, cream cheese and cream and pulse to combine. Add in the flour and salter and process until it just comes together into a ball. Dump the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and cut into two equal pieces. Wrap each into a flat disc and chill for at least 30 minutes. While the dough is chilling; prepare the filling as below.

Working with one piece at a time, roll out to approx. 1/8 inch thick onto a lightly floured board. Cut into circles using a 3 1/2 inch fluted cutter. One one side place a small amount of cream cheese and top with a small amount of guava paste onto top; using a finger dipped in water to smush the paste down slightly into the cream cheese. Dip a finger into water run around the opposite edge of the pastry to help secure the edge when folded over. Fold over the pastry and crimp with a work dipped in flour. Pierce the top with a floured fork and brush with egg wash. Assemble a tray full then chill for 30 minutes before baking. Note: you can assemble these and freeze in a ziplock bag unbaked and bake off as desired.


8 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

3/4 tsp. vanilla

In a small bowl place the cream cheese and microwave a few seconds until soft. Mix in the sugar and vanilla and combine. Place in a pastry bag if desired for assembly.


7 oz. store bought Guava paste

2-3 tsp. water

Cut the guava paste into small cubes and place in a small bowl with the water and microwave about 10 seconds at a time and still until smooth. Let cool and place in a pastry bag for assembly.

Egg wash

one egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water.


Bake the pastries in a 375° F preheated oven until very light golden brown. Let cool and then dust with powdered sugar.

FYI- here’s a picture of my fig, chopped walnut, and bleu cheese version. Just combine a dark fig jam with some finely chopped walnuts and top with some blue cheese. Fold over and crimp in the same manner; brushing with egg wash and chill, then bake.






Pink Pearl Apple Tart with Frangipane


I just love this time of year with all the various type of apples.  Is it just me, or are you also surprised each year on how many kind of apple varieties seem to pop up into the super market? I had heard about this particular variety last year so I went on a hunt this year. And by a hunt, I’m not kidding… Unfortunately I found out by some weird cruel joke that this little rouge gem has a short harvest life. Life can be so mean sometimes! None the less, my hauty tauty shi shi (high end super market) here in the Phoenix Valley (AJ’s) carried them. I finally got smart and called the produce department first to check. Yatzee! I snagged them and quickly wrapped them in a Debbie Meyer green bag to preserve their precious life!!!

Side note: If you don’t know about Debbie Meyer green bags– you need to buy them- they extend any produce for DAYsssssss. Anyway, I digress…back to the apples. The “pink pearl” is the apple that I swear has been kissed by God. It’s beauty is so unique. Some are light pink inside and some are down right fuchsia color. Are they not the coolest thing?! Can you tell I’m totally geeked out about them? They taste amazing too; they are kind of a cross between a Granny Smith and a Gala; tart but a little sweet at the same time.  They are crisp and hold their texture when used in baking.  The outside of the skin is thin and has a yellowy green color.

Pink Pearl Apple Tart with Frangipane

You will need a sheet a puff pastry. *Try to find the type that is all butter. I like Dufour brand.

Note: The typical brand you find in the grocer that is Pepperidg***** is NOT all butter. I sadly found this out when I was in pastry school years ago. I never knew. Just an FYI.

4-5 Sweet-tart apples, peeled, and sliced thin


Frangipane Filling

1/4 C unsalted butter (room temp)

1/4 C granulated sugar

pinch salt

1 egg (room temp)

1/2 Cup blanched almond flour

1/4 tsp. pure almond extract


*Egg wash for baking (one egg whisked with a fork)

*powdered sugar for serving

In a medium bowl: cream the butter, sugar, and salt together until smooth. Note: [A hand mixer is best]. Add the egg and beat until combined. Stir in the almond flour and extract and then beat just until combined. Note: If you over beat the mixture can separate. If you like your frangipane a little more smooth you can use the food processor just make sure to not over process or it can separate.

Thaw the puff pastry. Unfold and pinch any folds together with your fingers or gently roll with a rolling pin to smooth out creases. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the puff pastry onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Score a 1 inch border around the perimeter of the puff, but don’t go all the way through the pastry. Spread the frangipane filling evenly onto the pastry but stay within the border. Shingle the apples tightly nestled on top of the filling and then sprinkle generously with granulated sugar. Brush the border with egg wash. Place the entire assembled tart on the sheet pan in the freezer for 10 minutes to chill prior to baking. (Puff pastry always needs to be very cold when it goes into the oven to ensure you get that great rise). Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until border is golden brown. Allow to cool slightly. Serve with a sprinkling of confectioners sugar. Note: the tart is best served the day it is made as the filling tends to soften the pastry.


Walnut & Pistachio Baklava

walnut pistachio baklava

When I lived in San Francisco we used to frequent the most amazing Greek restaurant called Mykonos. It has just the right amount of atmosphere; it’s cozy, non pretentious, and has great authentic affordable Greek food.  They have THE best moussaka I’ve ever had and great baklava. The husband and I always ordered the same exact thing every single time; a family platter that had an assortment of traditional food and it came with coffee and baklava at the end of the meal. We almost never ate the baklava in the restaurant because we always left too full and with leftovers to boot. I would save it for the next day and when I did- I savored it with a good cup of coffee or tea. I always looked forward to that baklava and promised myself that eventually I would take a crack at making my own. Baklava is not hard to make- just a bit time consuming and tedious, but there is something relaxing and almost meditative that happens while you build each layer of love.

At first glance you will be scared when it comes out of the oven, as it looks dry and somewhat of an experimental science project gone wrong, but have no fear. Once you pour over the unctuous sweet syrup is when the magic truly happens. It is not a dessert to make when you are in a rush but rather a treat to build while you have the kitchen to yourself, it’s quiet and you can enjoy the process. You must also reserve some constraint as the whole mass must bathe languidly in that syrup for 6-8 hours or overnight to soak up the sweet love before you can bust into it, so plan accordingly.

I must have researched and read a million recipes before coming up with this combination. Some recipes call for all walnuts while others call for a combination of almonds, walnuts, and pistachios or even all pistachios- it’s really what you prefer just make sure you have a total weight of one pound of nuts.



Baklava 1

Baklava 3





yield: one 9×13 inch pan (about 24 pieces depending how small you cut them)


one (1 lb.) package of filo dough- thawed in the fridge overnight

1 lb. of nuts (I chose 50% walnuts/50% pistachios) [mixture to equal about 4 cups onced chopped if you don’t have a scale]

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

2-3 sticks unsalted butter, melted

For Syrup

1  1/2 Cup sugar

1/2 Cup honey (I used orange blossom)

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 piece orange rind- minus the pith (approx. 1 inch wide by 2 inch long)

3/4 Cup water

1. Make the syrup first and then allow it to cool in the pan to room temperature. Remove the filo dough from the fridge and allow it to come to room temp (in the box) for 1-2 hours.

2. To make the syrup: place all the contents in a saucepan (2-3 quart size is best) and bring to a boil over medium high heat stirring just initially until the sugar is dissolved, then decrease the heat to medium low and boil for 4 minutes (without stirring). Remove from the heat and let cool. Once cool, remove the orange rind.

3. Place the nuts in a food processor and pulse until nuts are fine, but do not grind to a powder. I pulsed my pistachios and walnuts separately as they are different sizes and this ensures they do not get too small. Place both nuts in a bowl and add the spices and mix to combine.

4. Prepare the filo by placing 2 sheets of plastic wrap side by side and overlapping slightly on the counter top. Carefully lay out the sheets of filo onto the plastic wrap and cut the stack to size to fit your pan. All brands are different- (My filo came in one huge stack that measured 13 x 18 inches so I simply cut it into two stacks each stack measuring 9 x 13) then place another sheet of plastic wrap big enough to cover on top of the filo, followed by a damp tea towel or kitchen towel. Keep the filo dough covered this way as you are working with it to ensure it does not dry out as the dough can easily tear. You may need to check your tea towel and re wet it and squeeze out again to maintain a damp towel.

5. Brush the sides and bottom of a 9×13 inch pan with melted butter. Carefully pick up one sheet of filo dough and place it on the bottom of the pan and brush with melted butter. Continue in this manner; brushing EACH and EVERY sheet carefully with melted butter (I used a silicone brush) until you have built a stack of 10. Sprinkle a generous 3/4 Cup of nut mixture over the stack. Start another stack (this time a stack of 5 layers) (ALWAYS brushing EACH  layer with melted butter as you “stack”), then sprinkle 3/4 Cup of nut mixture. Continue this 5 layer stack followed by nut sprinkle until you have used all the nuts, then build a final and top layer of 10 sheets or a minimum of 5-7 if your package does not allow a final layer of 10. Make sure to brush the final top layer with melted butter. Preheat the oven to 325° F.

6. Take a sharp pointed knife and cut 3 vertical lines so you visually have 4 equal portioned vertical rows through the entire built layer spacing your rows about 1.5 inches apart (see the above picture). Now cut diagonal rows through the entire stacked layers (to form diamond shapes) and place the baklava in a 325° F oven and bake for 45-50 minutes or until it is light golden brown.

7. Remove the baklava and allow to sit for 5 minutes then pour the cooled syrup over the baklava. You will hear it hiss and crack a bit (that’s normal). Allow to sit a room temperature to soak up the syrup. Once room temp, cover lightly with plastic wrap and let sit for 6-8 hours or overnight to ensure the baklava soaks up the syrup. Enjoy at room temperature or warm slightly if you wish by zapping in the microwave.


Apple Turnovers

I know you want something easy. Nothing too fussy. Nothing too hard to pull together on a weekend. Sure, I get it. A good low maintenance recipe. A good reason , err– excuse to eat pie (sort of) for breakfast. I gotcha. More grown up than a pop tart. Something to throw into the hand of a 13 year old zooming out the door who doesn’t eat breakfast but complains he’s hungry. A grumpy husband perhaps who “doesn’t do breakfast”. Uh huh- you know the type. Enter stage left…duh duh duh the turnover. Your answer to something you can hold in your hand and shove (yep, conveniently it has a starter corner) into your–dare I say it–“Pie hole”. Sorry…I had to go there. Your welcome.

apple turnover filling

turnovers assembled

apple currant turnovers 2

apple currant turnovers

apple currant turnover

Apple Turnovers

yield: 4 turnovers

1/2 package of ready made puff pastry; thawed in the refrigerator

2 Golden Delicious apples

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 1/2 Tbsp. dried currants (optional)

1/3 Cup sugar + 2 Tbsp.

1/2 tsp. apple pie spice

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 1/2 tsp. cornstarch

2 1/2 tsp. water

egg wash: 1 egg mixed with 1 tsp. water

coarse white sugar or sugar in the raw (Demerara sugar)

1. Peel and chop the apples into about 1/2 inch pieces. Immediately toss the apples with the lemon juice to coat evenly. Stir in the (optional) currants. Add the sugar and spice and combine well. Mix together  the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and set aside.

2. In a skillet melt the butter and add the apple mixture. Cook over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes until apples soften. Stir in the vanilla and then add the cornstarch mixture and heat until filling bubbles and thickens, cooking for about 1-2 minutes. Remove the filling to a bowl and chill to allow the mixture to cool.

3. Unfold the puff pastry and sprinkle both sides lightly with flour. Using a rolling pill smooth out the fold lines and roll the pastry lightly into about an 11 inch square. Cut the puff pastry into 4 equal squares. Looking at each individual square of pastry brush the left inside and lower edges of each of the squares lightly with egg wash; being careful not to get the edges too wet.  Place about 3-4 tablespoons of the apple filling to the middle of each square. Fold down the top left corner edge of pastry to meet the opposite lower right corner to meet the corners together to form a triangle, and press lightly with your finger to seal. Take a fork dipped in flour and press/seal the edges of the triangle together. Place the turnovers onto a parchment lined baking sheet and brush each turnover with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Pierce the top of each turnover with a fork twice. Chill the turnovers directly on the tray for 30-40 minutes.

Note: you may fill & assemble each turnover and freeze unbaked. To bake off in a 425° F oven from frozen state; just bake a bit longer.

Note: you most likely will have about 3 Tbsp. of the filling leftover; you can save it and use to stir into oatmeal or yogurt later in the week.

4. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

5. Bake turnovers for 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Cool the sheet over a wire rack until turnovers are cool enough to handle. Best served warm.

Pastel Easter Eclairs with Chocolate Pastry Cream

When I was a little girl I LOVED Easter. Not necessarily for the reasons you make think of.

Sure there were chocolate bunnies, pretty pastel baskets filled with funny green plastic grass and jelly beans. What’s a kid not to love?

One of the other reasons I loved Easter was looking at all the beautiful hats on the ladies in church. When you are short, legs dangling and all in your shiny white shoes, seated in a pew with the masses, you can’t see much up front but the tops of all the heads in front of you… and you start to notice things.

Hats, and LOTS of them. A field of pretty pastel madness. Plastic flowers, check. Ribbons flowing, check. Bright pink lipstick, check. Nothing was too tacky. Even the ladies who were a bit shy would channel their serious inner diva.

Easter was when you pulled out all the stops. Hats, gloves, pins. White patent leather. Ugh, okay white patent leather we can do without.  I would glance over to the left, and then to the right– and if I was lucky and had an aisle view–I’d rubber neck sideways down the aisle to gaze at all the hats. Now, my Mother used to bring life savers candies to church with her and she slipped me those when I started to get a little antsy to keep my quiet. Let’s just say she went through a lot of lifesavers in her day, (this explains A LOT for sweettooth) but on Easter day-nary a lifesaver was peeled off.  I was entranced, fascinated if you will–with all the pastel madness going on. Easter was made for pastel. Anything. I am still mad for pastels and calling out that 7 yr. old little girl to help dress up my eclairs. Happy Easter~

Easter Eclairs v

Easter Eclairs 4

eclair collage

eclair piping bag

eclairs tray piped

eclair deco square

Pastel Easter Eclairs

yield: 11-12 eclairs

Chocolate Pastry Cream

1  1/4 C whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla bean paste

3 egg yolks

1/4 C sugar

2 Tbsp.  flour

2 Tbsp. corn starch

1 Tbsp. soft butter

2 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

In a medium bowl place the egg yolks and sugar and whisk vigorously to combine.  In a small bowl combine the flour and corn starch; stir into the egg & sugar mixture to combine. In a sauce pan bring together the milk and vanilla bean paste to a boil. Kill the heat.  Remove the milk from the heat and slowly temper in about half of the milk a little at a time to your egg yolk mixture; whisking continuously to ensure the yolks don’t burn. Return the mixture to the rest of the milk in the pan, and on low-medium heat,  whisk the mixture vigorously until the cream thickens; keep whisking and cook it for about one minute. Kill the heat and transfer it to a bowl. Whisk in the soft butter.  Stir in the chopped chocolate and stir to combine. If you think you may have any lumps you can pass it through a sieve. Skipping this step would make many a pastry chef cringe, but I’m a whisking maniac and am pretty fast so I skip this step. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and chill until cold.

Variation: White Chocolate Pastry Cream; add 3 oz. melted white chocolate after transferring to bowl; whisk to combine.

Pâte a Choux Pastry

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

3/4  teaspoon granulated white sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla powder (optional)

pinch of nutmeg (optional)

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/2 cup  water

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 egg beaten (for egg wash)

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Prepare a sheet tray with baking (parchment) paper. Draw lines with pencil for desired length you want. Turn paper over.  In a small bowl combine the flour, sugar, vanilla powder, nutmeg and salt. Place the butter and water in a saucepan on medium high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and with a wooden spoon add the flour mixture (all at once) and stir to combine. Return to heat and stir vigorously until the dough comes away from sides of the pan and forms a smooth ball (about 2 minutes). Transfer the dough to an electric mixer and beat on low-speed for 1 minute. Once the dough is lukewarm, start beating in the eggs and continue to mix until a thick smooth paste forms.

2. Place the dough in a pastry bag(making sure no air bubbles) fitted with a large round tip (Ateco 806 or 808-I like the 808). Pipe strips of dough using a 45 degree angle, to desired length (I like 3 inches). Leave at least 2 inches in between.  Use a finger dipped in water to tap down any points of dough. (You don’t want any peaks of dough as they will burn). Brush with egg wash. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce oven to 350° F and continue to bake for about 25 more minutes or until golden brown and when insides are not wet. Remove the tray from the oven and pierce the ends of each eclair puff with a toothpick (this ensures the eclairs don’t delfate). Return the tray to the oven and turn off oven and prop open oven door slightly and leave eclairs in oven to dry for about 10-15 mins. Note: if insides are not done the insides will turn a weird grayish color. After the drying time remove tray and allow eclairs to cool on a wire rack.

Tip: If you are not serving right away do not fill with filling as they will turn soft. You may “recrisp” your shells in an oven at 325 degrees for a few minutes the next day or so if you want to wait to fill and serve. Just store your shells in a ziplock bag.

How to fill eclairs:

Using a sharp tip of a knife, drill 2 small holes on underside of eclair shells. Fit a piping bag with a small star tip and stick into each hole. Pipe the pastry cream into the holes. Stop when you  feel resistance. Note: you can also split the shells horizontallly and pipe the cream in; (I just prefer this way so that is how I do it). If you are not comfortable with this method then by all means you can split the shells and pipe the pastry cream.

How to glaze:

Once the eclairs are filled; dip the top into the glaze and then turn the eclair  vertical to let the glaze “run” down the eclair; wipe glaze off with your finger to avoid running off off the end. Decorate as desired. To speed up drying time you can place in the fridge to chill.

White Chocolate Glaze

3 oz. white chocolate chopped very fine

1.5 oz. heavy cream

gel paste food colors (to generate pastel colors) Note: YOU CANNOT USE LIQUID FOOD COLORS AS THE GLAZE WILL SEIZE.

Place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Heat the cream to just a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir well to combine.  If you still have tiny bits of unmelted chocolate place in the microwave and heat at 10 second intervals, stir until melted. Portion out small amounts of ganache and add just a toothpick prick amount at a time of gel color at a time to tint; stir well to combine. To achieve a color that is a bit more opaque you can add a tsp. of confectioners sugar and stir well. You may have to dip the eclairs 2-3 times if you want more of an opaque look.

Chocolate Glaze Option

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate (chopped fine)

4 Tbsp. unsalted soft butter

Place chocolate in a small heat proof bowl and microwave until melted. Stir in the soft butter until smooth.