West Toast

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It’s so crazy to think about how much of your life can change in one year. 1 year. Last Thanksgiving I spent the entire night working as a cocktail waitress at a thankless job. It was by far the WORST job I have ever had. Luckily, I only stuck around for a month.

At last week’s Thanksgiving, I spent it with some truly awesome friends. We had a delicious meal and plenty of libations. Being away from your family during the holidays is oftentimes hard, but when you have amazing friends, it’s not that bad at all.

My contribution to our Friendsgiving/Thanksgiving meal are these mini Guava and Cream Cheese Tartlets (Pop Tart knockoffs), but they’re soooo good. The filling was inspired by this AMAZING Cuban bakery in LA that I used to frequent, called Porto’s. Their Pastelitos de Guayaba (Guava Pastries) are a reason in itself to visit if you’re ever in LA.

The guava filling can be made at home, but I was a bit lazy this time around, and just visited my local Latin American food market and purchased this GOYA Guava Paste package. For $3 it’s a steal. And it’s so good, guys.

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Guava Cream Cheese Tarlets 
(Pastelitos de Guayaba)
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

INGREDIENTS
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg (plus 1 egg for egg wash)
2 tablespoons milk

METHOD
Using a food processor, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt, working the butter in till the mixture holds together when you press it with your fingers. The mixture will be just a tad bit lumpy, with specks of butter still visible. Transfer the dough to a large bowl and add the egg and milk, mixing till everything is cohesive.

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Split the dough in half. Shape each half into a rough 3″ x 5″ rectangle, smoothing the edges. If making the dough ahead of time, you can refrigerate for up to 2 days; allowing the dough to rest for 15 minutes at room temperature before rolling out.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Place the first half of the dough on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8″ thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9″ x 12″.

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Trim off the edges; save the scraps and set them aside, along with the 9″ x 12″ rectangle of dough.

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Proceed by rolling out the other half of the dough, and cut it as you did with the first half.

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Place a rectangle slice of the guava paste and cream cheese onto the center of each marked rectangle.

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Lightly beat the last egg, and brush the outer corners of the surface of each pastry dough. Place the second sheet of dough atop the first, using the tines of a fork to press firmly around each pocket, sealing the dough on all sides.

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If you have dough scraps, press them together into a ball, then re-roll them out. Repeat the rolling and cutting of the dough according to the size of the dough and fill them if you’re able to.

Gently transfer the tarts to a lightly greased or parchment-lined sheet tray. Lightly brush the tops of each tarlet, and then place into your oven.

Bake the tartlets for 15 to 23 minutes, or till they’re a light golden brown.

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On a Roll

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The signature component to a Cemita (a torta/sandwich native to the Pueblo region of Mexico) is its sesame seed bun. Much similar to the Brioche, the Cemita roll is soft, with hint of sweet on the inside and has a nice hard outer crust. I love using this bread for burgers, pulled pork sandwiches, too. But of course, it’s best utilized with this awesome Cemita recipe here.

Cemita Rolls
Yields 2-4 rolls
Recipe adapted from The Homesick Texan

INGREDIENTS
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dry active yeast
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon milk
1 Tablespoon water
1 cup sesame seeds

METHOD
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, sugar and yeast. In a separate bowl, whisk together the salt, eggs and oil. In a small saucepan, warm up the buttermilk over low heat until it’s just-warm…don’t let it boil! Slowly stir the buttermilk and egg mixture into the flour mixture till the liquid is just incorporated. Allow the mixture to rest for about 15 minutes.

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After the dough has rested, knead the dough on a lightly floured countertop till smooth.
(Note: the dough will be sticky. In this case, rub your hands with extra flour to keep from getting dough stuck on your fingers.)

Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise for about 1- to 1-1/2-hour or until the dough has doubled in size. Once rested, divide the dough into two or four equal-sized balls. Again, cover the rolled out balls and allow to rest for an additional 15 minutes. unnamed-9
Flatten each dough ball into a disc and place onto a sheet tray. Cover the sheet tray with a damp towel and allow the rolls to proof for a final half-hour. While the dough rolls are proofing, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. When the dough is done proofing, stir the milk and water in a small bowl and brush the tops of each roll and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake the rolls until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
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Roll Out!

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This is a great beginner’s recipe for making bread. I haven’t made baguettes since my Breads and Pastries class in culinary school, so this was a great refresher course. I made this bread specifically for this recipe. 

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Vietnamese-style French Baguette
Recipe adapted from Vietnam Online
Yields 4 small baguettes

INGREDIENTS
4 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons and 2 teaspoons melted butter
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 Tablespoons softened butter
extra flour for coating

METHOD
Dissolve the sugar and 3/4 cup of the lukewarm water, add the yeast and dissolve.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, melted butter and salt. Add the sugar water yeast mixture and beat slowly with an electric mixer. Add the rest of the lukewarm water gradually if the mixture is still dry. Beat and mix well until the dough has a smooth surface.

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Butter a large bowl and place the dough there, cover with a damp towel and allow to sit for about an hour or until the dough doubles in size. Once doubled, beat the dough slightly and knead well. Divide the dough into 4 equal-sized portions. Slightly deflate the dough to even out the flour and roll back into mini baguettes.

Place the rolls onto a sheet tray. Preheat the oven to 212°F. Allow the rolls to proof in the oven for 30 minutes, turning off the heat after 10 minutes. (You can spray a little water onto the rolls to give the bread some moisture.)

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After proofing, the rolls should be doubled in size. Remove from the oven and preheat the temperature to 375°F. Using a sharp razor, make a vertical slash onto the top of each roll. Smooth a tiny bit of water on the surface of the bread and dust with flour. Use the leftover butter to fill in each slash.

Bake the rolls for about 15-20 minutes until the bread turn light yellow and toothpicks come out clean. Remove and set aside to slightly cool.