3.17.15 Quesitos (Puerto Rican Cheese Pastries)
We’ve returned from our adventures in Puerto Rico, and what a trip it was! We spent the first half of the trip in San Juan, exploring Old San Juan and spending a lot of time at the beach near our casita in Ocean Park. The second half of our trip was spent on the island of Vieques, located about 7 miles off the eastern coast of PR. We rented a Jeep, drove over backroads to hidden beaches, hiked, and even did some night kayaking in the island’s bioluminescent bay.
In both locations, we stayed in places we found on Airbnb that had kitchens, because I knew that being on vacation was not going to stop me from wanting to do some serious cooking. Between the farmer’s markets, fruit stands, colmados, and grocery stores, I was well stocked, and ended up making some pretty fantastic food, including cheese and guava breakfast sandwiches, black beans and rice, huevos rancheros, and black bean avocado tacos.
Of course, I didn’t cook too much; we obviously had to go out and sample the local fare as well. It was, of course, pretty fantastic. Mofongo, plantain tamales, roasted pork, fish tacos, fresh coconut juice from roadside stands - it was all delicious.
Yes, we ate a lot of awesome food on our trip, but one of my favorite things would probably have to be the quesitos. We stumbled upon this delicious treat almost by accident on our first morning in San Juan when we ventured to the local panaderia for some breakfast. I’m always a fan of bakeries, and the one we visited (Kasalta) did not disappoint. Cases and cases of pastries, breads, sandwiches, cakes and other baked goods stretched the length of the store. How was I to choose? In the end, I chose something at random, and as luck would have it, it turned out to be a quesito.
A quesito is a sweet Puerto Rican pastry which, as the name implies, is filled with cheese. And as a Wisconsinite, I am always, always down for some cheese. It’s deliciously simple - sweetened cream cheese, wrapped in a twist of pastry, with a sweet crunchy exterior. Washed down with a steaming hot cortado (espresso with milk), it was breakfast perfection. I knew immediately that I would be making some of my own quesitos when we returned home. And as you can see, I did. You probably should too.
I made the standard plain cheese quesitos I fell in love with in PR, but these would be amazing with fruit preserves added to the filling as well.
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- ¼ cup sugar, divided
- 1 1-lb package frozen puff pastry, thawed (you should have two sheets of pastry)
- 1 egg
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a bowl, combine the cream cheese and 2 Tbsp sugar until well combined. (Note: I like my quesitos a bit less sweet, but if you are a sweet tooth, you may want to add an extra Tbsp of sugar in this step)
3. Take one puff pastry sheet, and roll out on a well-floured surface until you have a 14” x 10” rectangle. Cut rectangle in half crosswise and lengthwise to form 4 equal 7” x 5” rectangles of dough. Place one eighth of the cream cheese mixture on each rectangle, about 2” in from the lower left-hand corner. Spread cream cheese mixture diagonally towards the upper left-hand corner, leaving a little space near the edges of the dough (see picture above for how this should look).
4. For each dough rectangle, fold the lower left-hand corner over the cream cheese mixture, then fold in sides and continue to wrap until filling is completely encased in pastry. Place, seam side down, on prepared baking sheet.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for the remaining pastry sheet and cheese filling.
6. Whisk together the egg and 2 Tbsp sugar until completely combined. Use a pastry brush to brush egg mixture over the tops of the rolled pastries, making sure to cover them completely.
7. Bake quesitos at 400 degrees until puffed, dark golden, and shiny, about 15-20 minutes. Serve warm.