My Quesitos are pastries that are the result of years of recipe development. I toiled many hours in the kitchen to get them just right. Because the filling is quite simple to make, the issue was mainly with the dough. I was just never happy with them.
But, as always, perseverance paid off, and the result of many tears and thrown sheet pans is this flaky, creamy Puerto Rican pastry, which are best enjoyed with coffee. My daughter can sniff quesitos being baked from another part of the house. I actually have it on film. They truly are a pastry you need to know about. And, with the holiday season upon us, making these for your guests is a must.
What are Quesitos?
Translated, quesitos means little cheese. They are a popular pastry in Puerto Rico- made from puff pastry dough which is wrapped around a sweetened cream cheese filling. The pastries are baked and brushed with a simple sugar glaze.
I first had quesitos when I visited Puerto Rico to meet my then-fiancè’s (now-hubby’s) family. Addiction soon followed and every morning we made our way to Las Villas Panaderia to pick up a dozen. Because of my obsession- and the fact that I didn’t live anywhere near a Puerto Rican bakery- I set out to recreate the perfect quesito.
Since I didn’t want to use a pre-made puff pastry, it took me 3 years to get it just right. Of course, Hector was more than okay with my years of trial and error. After all, he was the one who ate my failures. The day I took a bite out of a quesito from “The Batch”, I ’bout fell out. It transported me back to Hector’s hometown,Parcelas Falú, and Las Villas.
It is finished.
Now, thanks to my struggle and neurosis- you can experience a little bit of heaven. So, let’s get to it.
How do I make Quesitos?
For starters, you’ll need a one-pound batch of my Puff Pastry dough. If you don’t have time to make a batch, just use a store bought version that’s been thawed out. You will also need an eight-ounce package of cream cheese, some granulated sugar, egg wash, and light corn syrup.
Now, tell me that’s not a simple list of ingredients.
First, prep the cream cheese and the egg wash.
Begin by getting the easy stuff out of the way.
At first, I was hell-bent on making a whipped, sweetened cream cheese filling. Like an idiot, it took me 4 or 5 batches of exploded quesitos to realize that wasn’t going to work. Whipping the cream cheese with the sugar caused it to become too runny. When hit with the high baking temperature, that runny cream cheese ran some more…right out of the puff pastry wrapping. That was a very troubling time in my life.
Now, instead of whipping the cream cheese, I cut it into 1/2″ batons. Slice the brick of cream cheese-lengthwise- into six batons of equal width. Lay these batons on their sides and cut them in half lengthwise to give you 1/2″ thick batons that are about 5″ long.
Egg washes give baked breads and pastries a glossy, golden exterior when brushed on.
To make the egg wash, whisk together the yolk of a large egg and a tablespoon of cold water. Whisk until no clumps of yolk remain, then set the egg wash aside.
You can prepare your egg wash a couple of days in advance. Store it in a mason jar, or another similar container, in the refrigerator.
How to cut your puff pastry dough for quesitos
The extent of the labor of making quesitos take place in the rolling and forming of the quesitos. Flour your countertop and use a heavy rolling pin to roll your puff pastry dough into a 24″ wide x 15″ long rectangle. Use a pastry cutter to cut the dough into 12 equal rectangle- each approximately 4″ wide by 7″ long.
Trim off any excess jagged pieces of dough. In the image above, you’ll notice the right edges are wider than the other rectangles. I trimmed those off before rolling. If you leave those on, you’ll have excess dough in your quesitos, which will not bake at the same rate as the others. This will leave you with pastries that are gummy. Don’t worry so much about trimming off the short sides of the rectangles- since we’re going to fold those in later, you won’t see them.
What are Quesitos filled with?
After you trim the dough, place a baton of cream cheese on one side of the puff pastry. Since we’re rolling up the dough, you don’t want to put it in the middle of the dough. Doing so will make the quesitos bake up unevenly. After you’ve positioned your sticks of cream cheese, spoon granulated sugar alongside the cream cheese- on the side facing the interior of the puff pastry. Doing this will keep the sugar in the quesito and not on the outside- away from where we’re rolling.
After you’ve added the sugar, use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of egg wash onto the short sides (or the “top” and “bottom”) of the rectangle.
Fold the ends over the cream cheese. This encapsulates the cream cheese in the dough, which prevents that dreaded explosion that mocked me all of those batches ago.
Once you’ve folded over the short edges, brush a little more egg wash over the long edge opposite the side where the cream cheese is. I wait to do this until after I’ve folded over the short edges because it creates a better seal.
Beginning on the side with the cream cheese stick, roll the dough to the egg-washed side to create a cigar-shaped pastry. Rock the quesitos a little once you land on the egg-washed flap. This will seal it tightly.
How long do I bake Quesitos?
Brush the tops and sides of each quesito with a thin layer of egg wash.
After brushing the quesitos with the egg wash, poke vents into the tops of the quesitos with the tines of a fork. Just poke once, not all over. I emphasize doing this after the egg wash because egg washes have a tendency to make the layers of puff pastry stick together. It’s not all that serious, but I really enjoy the flakiness of quesitos; so, I do all I can to avoid anything that may inhibit that.
Pop the quesitos into your preheated oven and bake them for 15-20 minutes. They should be a deep golden color and should look dry, not glossy.
How to make the glaze for Quesitos
A simple sugar glaze made from corn syrup (you can sub in honey for this), sugar, and water top the quesitos after baking.
Prepare the sugar glaze while the quesitos are baking. This glaze is brushed onto the baked and slightly cooled quesitos.
In a saucepan, stir together the light corn syrup, granulated sugar, and water until the sugar is dissolved.
Bring this mixture up to a boil and allow it to cook for 1 minute before removing it from the stove. Let it cool.
I know, right?!? SO easy.
You can make the glaze a couple of days in advance, but keep it refrigerated to prevent mold from growing in it. You may need to reconstitute it with a little hot water if it grows too thick while it sits, too. Just add a tablespoon of hot water and whisk it in if the glaze becomes too thick. The syrup should be thick, but not as thick as the light corn syrup it’s made with. When your brush is lifted from it, the syrup should run off fluidly, but the latter drips should fall reluctantly from the brush.
I hope that made sense. I broke out all of my Walt Whitman writing right there.
Once the pastries have finished baking, allow them to cool for 5 minutes on the sheet pan. Carefully transfer them to a cooling rack and allow them cool until warm.
Brush one or two layers of the sugar glaze onto each quesito. I go for a double-coat because…why? Oh, I don’t know! Because I pay taxes? Because I’m entitled to a little joy somewhere? That’s why!
Once your quesitos have been bathed in sugary-glory, feel free to enjoy them.
With milk? Yes.
With coffee? Hell-to-the-YES!!! Coffee is theeee best way to enjoy these quesitos.
What other fillings go into Quesitos?
Can I freeze Quesitos?
Once you feel confident in baking these quesitos, think about adding other fillings along with the cream cheese. Batons of guava paste, a piped tube of nutella, grated semi-sweet chocolate, or fresh strawberries are all good ideas.
Now, while I have baked and frozen quesitos in the past, I don’t recommend it. They just don’t taste the same. They also aren’t that great when frozen, then baked. Something about the way the cream cheese changes after freezing didn’t set well with me. All of these facts, coupled with the wisdom that these quesitos are so easy to assemble and bake the evening before I want to serve them, means I make them fairly close to serving. If you have a group of guests to bake them for, do so the evening before you plan to serve them.
Enjoy your quesitos within 2 days of baking. No need to refrigerate them, just keep them wrapped or packaged in an air-tight container.
My three years of failures have culminated in these gems. So I do hope you’ll give the recipe a go. Let’s not allow my tears and curses to have been in vain. Share and pin this recipe for easy finding!
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Quesitos (Puerto Rican Cheese-Filled Pastries)
- rolling pin
- pastry brush
- pasta or pizza cutter
- sheet pan
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- 1- 1 1/4 pound puff pastry dough (or 17.3 ounce package of frozen and thawed puff pastry sheets)
- 8 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1/2" wide x 5" long batons *see tip in post
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup cold water
- Preheat an oven to 400°F. Line a sheet pan with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and set aside.
- Prepare the Egg Wash: in a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and water until no clumps of yolk remain, then set aside.
- Place a baton of cream cheese on one side of the puff pastry, then spoon a 1/2 teaspoon of the granulated sugar alongside the cream cheese- on the side facing the interior of the puff pastry.
- After adding the sugar, use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of egg wash onto the short sides (or the "top" and "bottom") of the rectangle.Fold the ends over the cream cheese to encapsulated it in the dough.
- Brush a little more egg wash over the long edge opposite the side where the cream cheese is. Beginning on the side with the cream cheese stick, roll the dough to the egg-washed side to create a cigar-shaped pastry. Rock the quesitos a little once you land on the egg-washed flap to seal it completely.
- Transfer the quesitos to the sheet pan and brush the tops and sides of each quesito with a thin layer of egg wash.Poke vents into the tops of the quesitos with the tines of a fork after brushing.
- Bake the quesitos in your preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until they are a deep golden color and look dry, not glossy.
Prepare the Sugar Glaze
- Stir together the light corn syrup, granulated sugar, and water- in a small saucepan- until the sugar is dissolved.Bring this mixture up to a boil and allow it to cook for 1 minute before removing it from the stove** The syrup should be the consistency of thin maple syrup. Let it cool.
- Once the pastries have finished baking, allow them to cool for 5 minutes on the sheet pan before transferring them to a cooling rack and allowing them cool until warm.Brush 1 or 2 layers of the sugar glaze onto each quesito.
- Serve and enjoy with a tall glass of milk or a warm cup of coffee.
If it grows too thick as it sits, simply reconstitute it with a little hot water, a tablespoon at a time. Enjoy your quesitos within 2 days of baking. Keep them wrapped or packaged in an air-tight container at room temperature.
Here are more of my favorite Puerto Rican pastries: