Goat Cheese Panna Cotta with Guava Sauce

guava-obsession

My love affair with guava continues this week. In pastries, cocktails, cheesecakes, bars, and baked with brie- guava is my jam. Guava and goat cheese panna cotta are like little pastelitos de guayaba con queso without the puff pastry and a little extra ‘je ne sais quoi‘. The goat cheese adds a richer, creamy texture without overpowering the palate, and the bright guava flavor cuts through the tang and shines in your mouth.

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Panna cotta is an easy and practically fool-proof dessert that can be made ahead of time, which is great especially if you’re entertaining. Cream, sugar, and gelatin is all you need to make this classic Italian dessert although my variation uses goat cheese, vanilla bean, and tropical guava. In less than 20 minutes I had six adorable individual desserts ready to pop into the fridge and become silky satin.

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Like Cuban flan, panna cotta is versatile, simple, and it just so happens to be gluten-free (if that matters to you).  Panna cotta’s simplicity allows you to add flavors and get creative with ingredients like coffee, almonds, rosewater, fresh berries, liqueurs, and pretty much any combination you can think of.

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Guava and Goat Cheese Panna Cotta

  • 1 package unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups half and half (1 pint container)
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 4 oz softened goat cheese
  • 1 vanilla bean

Guava Sauce

  • 2 cans guava nectar (or juice) mine were 9 oz each
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • Juice of a lemon wedge

Allow the goat cheese to soften at room temperature. Mix the packet of unflavored gelatin with ¼ cup cold water and allow the gelatin to soften for around 5 minutes or so. Heat the sugar and half and half in a sauce pan over medium heat making sure to stir occasionally. While the milk is steaming, scrape the vanilla bean. I scraped mine on top of the softening gelatin just because I didn’t want to wash another dish. When the milk is steaming and all of the sugar has dissolved turn off the heat and whisk in the softened goat cheese until smooth. Add in the gelatin and vanilla bean. My gelatin turned into a small puck in the ramekin yet quickly dissolved into the goat cheese panna cotta.

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I had enough of the goat cheese panna cotta mixture to fill six individual cups. I allowed them to cool at room temperature for 30 minutes before placing them in my fridge (mainly because my fridge is too tiny and it would have heated up its contents too quickly). If you are blessed with a large fridge pop those suckers in when they’re done and cover them with plastic wrap around an hour later.

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While the goat cheese panna cotta are cooling down and setting start the guava sauce. Mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with around ¼ cup of guava nectar and whisked until smooth and set aside. Heat the remaining guava nectar with 2 tablespoons of sugar until it was just simmering. Add the cornstarch guava mix and simmer 5 minutes or so longer until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon. Remove from the heat and squeeze in the juice of a fresh lemon wedge.

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This made around 2 cups of the guava sauce, although you likely only need a ½ cup or so for this recipe. Pour the guava sauce into smaller individual ramekins to cool and set faster. Once the goat cheese panna cotta has set pour the guava sauce on top. You can allow the guava sauce to set on top or garnish before serving.

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**The guava sauce tasted just like Conchita Guava Marmelade. If you want to take a short cut just spoon this marmalade on top of your goat cheese panna cotta.

 

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Cuban Flan

 ariel-view

Cuban flan or crème caramel is creamy, sweet, and silky smooth simple baked custard. I love flan- not only is it easy to make, but it looks beautiful on a serving dish and always impresses guests. Flan, like many other Cuban staples, can be found readily all over Miami- but not all flans are made equal my friends.

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The hardest part of making flan is mastering the sweet amber caramelized sugar that pools on the plate and drips down the sides of the decadent Cuban flan. I prefer my caramel to be light amber, not too light, but still crystal clear. A darker caramel gives a bitter nutty flavor to the flan and overpowers the soft custard dessert.

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After making this recipe countless times, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly while making the caramelized sugar. I tried my best to walk you through the steps to caramelized sugar perfection below, but practice makes perfect. Flan is perfect for dinner parties, potlucks, and large or small gatherings. Flan can be made a few days in advance, looks stunning when served, and is crazy easy to make!

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Cuban Flan or Crème Caramel 

1 can evaporated milk
1 can condensed milk
5 eggs OR 4 eggs and ½ cup softened cream cheese
½ cup milk
1 cup sugar divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
 
Allow the eggs (and cream cheese if you choose to add some) to get to room temperature. I am convinced room temperature eggs make for a better flan, but go ahead and use them straight out of the fridge if you insist. Make the caramelized sugar coating for the flan first since it needs to cool before you can pour in the custard mixture.

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Add a ½ cup of the white sugar into the flanera. I have never made flan in anything but a flanera (easily found at any grocery store in Miami- likely not so easy to find elsewhere). I have seen that people make flan in all sorts of containers, but I swear by the flanera since the lid and locks allow the flan to also steam on the inside of the device. Put the sugar on low to medium heat and have a spoon handy to stir.

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Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT try to taste the sugar as it is caramelizing. The sugar will be molten hot and will surely burn your tongue and your skin if you touch it. Little sections of the sugar will start to caramelize faster- gently stir the sugar so it doesn’t burn and mixes evenly. The caramelized sugar should be completely clear when it is done. The sugar will be a little cloudy as it melts, and it is not finished until it is crystal clear and a lovely rich amber hue. This part is easy to mess up and burn the caramel. You can still technically use it, but it might not taste as great as a perfectly done caramel. Once the sugar is done caramelizing, hold the flanera with an oven mitt and gently rotate the hot caramel around making sure to coat the sides well. Allow this to cool for 30 minutes or so.

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Now preheat the oven to 350. Before I got the KitchenAid (which I am thoroughly obsessed with) I used to simply toss all of the flan ingredients into a blender until well mixed. I have whisked the ingredients together, but now I just use the KitchenAid with the whisk attachment and let that baby run for a few minutes. You can literally dump all of the ingredients into a blender, bowl, or KitchenAid. Blend well making sure there are no yellow wisps of the egg yolk or unblended egg whites in the mix. Now place the flanera in a larger 13 x 9 pan and pour the custard mixture into the flanera. You can hear the hardened caramelized sugar cracking as the cool liquid is poured in. Fear not- that is just fine. Now place the flanera lid on and lock in place.

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Place the pan and flanera in the middle of the oven and pour water into the pan half way to make a Bain Marie or water bath. You can choose to add the water earlier, but it is difficult to hold the sloshing water bath and gently place it in the oven. Bake for one hour. You can carefully remove the flanera lid and jiggle to see if the custard has set. There should be some soft jiggle, but not a liquid center.

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Remember as the flan is cooling with the lid on it will continue to cook through and become more firm. Allow the flan to cool on the countertop until you can handle the flanera with bare hands. Place the flan in the fridge overnight. I have tried to serve this dessert within 6 hours of making it, and it was simply not cold enough. Make this dessert a day or two in advance!

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Before serving run a knife or spatula along the edges to separate it from the dish- normally as the dessert cools it will contract and separate from the sides, but it is always okay to err on the side of caution. Place a plate or your desired serving dish over the flan and invert. You will likely hear the flan separate from the bottom with a gurgling noise. Lift the dish carefully and scrape out some of the delicious caramel and pour all over on top. Pause to ooh and aah over the beautiful flan you have just made, slice, and enjoy!

    daisy-flan

**Note: Flan de queso is made with cream cheese, and it is denser and a lighter cream color than the traditional flan. I usually only use eggs in my flan, but if I have some cream cheese handy I will allow it to soften and add a half a cup and one less egg for a softer texture. Do NOT use whipped cream cheese- just trust me on this one!

 

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Guava Bread Pudding

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Guava bread pudding combines my two loves, bread and sweet gooey guava, and when combined they produce the most fabulous of Cuban flavors. Bread pudding is a classic comfort food: a savory dish or sweet dessert made of day-old bread and eggs with unlimited variations.

Guava bread pudding is a treat I have always thought about making, and this time I had a Cuban medianoche loaf of sweet egg bread and half a French loaf on hand. Honestly, if you are going out and buying special bread for your bread pudding then you just aren’t doing it right. Bread pudding should be made with bread that’s too stale for a sandwich and something extra you have on hand. Bread pudding is a classic comfort food and shouldn’t be fussy, so exact measurements aren’t even really necessary here either.

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I was right about to make this recipe with loads of milk when it dawned on me that evaporated milk would add some sweetness so I could go lighter on the sugar. The recipe I was looking at for guidance called for 2 cups of milk which sound like an awful lot, and I wanted to save some milk for my coffee later. Using evaporated milk for the guava bread pudding was a great call. The evaporated milk and dash of cinnamon filled the air with a warm delicious scent reminiscent of rice pudding or arroz con leche. The cinnamon softens the sweet tang of guava and ties the dish together.

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 I added little globs of whipped cream cheese to the bread pudding and gently stirred the ingredients right before popping it in the oven. Cream cheese and guava go together like eggs and bacon, and if you haven’t had the two together, you’re missing out my friend.

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Guava Bread Pudding

4 cups diced bread
1 can Carnation 2% Low-fat Evaporated Milk (12 oz)
¼ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
Pinch of salt
Dash of cinnamon
½ cup diced guava paste (a cheese knife works best here!)
¼ cup whipped cream cheese

I used 2 cups medianoche bread diced, and 2 cups of diced french bread because that is what I had laying around the house. I added the cup of sugar and eggs to my KitchenAid Mixer and beat until incorporated on medium. Next I added the dash of salt, vanilla, cinnamon, milk, and evaporated milk. The kitchen smelled like a heavenly batch of fresh arroz con leche (at this moment I realized I needed to make arroz con leche asap for the site!).

4-eggs Kitchenaid

I beat the ingredients until there were no more yellow wisps of yolk swirling about. I made sure to grease the dish for the bread pudding very well. The little cubes of diced guava paste looked like sugary bombs that would make cleaning this dish a nightmare later, so plenty of butter for greasing was in order here.

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Toss in the diced bread cubes and pour the milk and egg mixture on top. Mix in the guava paste and dab little globs of the whipped cream cheese into the mixture. Allow the bread pudding to sit and soak for 15 minutes; stir once more and press down gently to even out the top before popping in the oven. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until set and firm. Remove from the oven and use a spatula along the edges to separate the gooey guava from the pan. Top with aluminum foil and allow the bread pudding to come to room temperature before serving.

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Guava bread pudding can be served hot or cold. I prefer mine piping hot with cool whipped cream and vanilla sauce on top. I spooned some of the easy brown sugar vanilla sauce onto the dessert plate, topped with the bread pudding, added a dollop of fresh whipped cream, and I garnished with extra crumbles of brown sugar but cinnamon would work here too. The bread pudding was sweet and decadent with pockets of guava oozing out onto the plate. If you don’t feel like making the vanilla sauce a scoop of vanilla ice cream would work perfectly with the guava bread pudding.

Spread-the-vanilla-sauce Guava-Bread-pudding

Easy Brown Sugar Vanilla Sauce

1/3 cup mix of light and dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
Dash of cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter
1 dash salt
1 cup whole milk added in thirds
2 teaspoons vanilla stirred in

Heat a small saucepan on low heat. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour to the warm pan and whisk till mixed. Allow the sugar mixture to ‘toast’ in the pan, the cinnamon will smell like fall. Add the melted butter to pan and whisk in.

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Let the mixture bubble for a moment before slowly whisking in the milk in thirds until totally combined. Heat the sauce until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Whisk in the vanilla and pour into a sauce dish or bowl for serving. Enjoy!

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