Preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C).Mix the cookie crumbs, melted butter, and salt together in a mixing bowl. Before forming the crust, grip a handful of the mixture to see that it sticks together. If the mixture crumbles or doesn't hold its shape, add a tablespoon more melted butter. If butter oozes through your fingers when you squeeze the crust means the cheesecake will be oily after baking add 1/4 cup more cookie crumbs to dry it out.
Once your crust mixture is perfect, pour it into a 9-inch springform pan. Press the crust firmly into the bottom of the pan and up along the sides of the pan using the bottom and sides of a cocktail glass or measuring cup. Bake the crust for 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and allow the crust to cool. Don't turn off the oven.Once the pan is cool to the touch, wrap the bottom and sides in two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil. This will keep the water bath from seeping into the pan and ruining our cheesecake.
Melt the Guava Paste, Then Cool
Cut the disc (or square) of guava paste into 1 to 1 1/2-inch chunks. Put the chunks in a microwave-safe bowl, then heat them in the microwave for 30 seconds. Remove the bowl from the microwave and use a spatula or whisk to stir the paste a little. At this point, the paste will still be mostly solid, but you want to move it around to keep the paste on the outside from burning.
Return the bowl to the microwave and heat it for another 30 seconds. Remove the bowl and whisk again.Continue heating the paste in short intervals until the paste is smooth and loose. The paste will never be liquid but will be the consistency of thick pudding.
Make the Guava Cheesecake
First, set a pot filled with 5 cups of water to boil over medium-high heat. This is what you'll use to create the bain-marie (water bath) to bake the cheesecake in.
In a large mixing bowl, blend together the cream cheese, sugar, ground ginger, and salt on medium speed. Once the mixture is smooth and free of clumps, use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bowl and beaters, then add the guava paste.
Blend the paste into the cheese mixture at low speed until the batter turns a deep pink color, and no streaks of cream cheese are visible. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and beaters once again.
Add the eggs to the bowl, one at a time. Blend each egg in at low speed before adding the next egg. Add the almond extract and lime juice to the bowl with the final egg. Stop the mixer and scrape once again. Blend for 30 seconds to fully incorporate the eggs into the cheesecake batter. If, for some reason, you find the cheesecake batter to be too thick- like the consistency of mashed potatoes- blend in a 1/4 cup of heavy cream on low speed.
Bake, then Cool the Guava Cheesecake
The final batter should be thick but pourable. Pour the guava cheesecake batter into the prepared pan. Use your rubber spatula to smooth the top of the batter in the pan before giving it a few taps on the countertop to expel any trapped air bubbles in the batter. Set the foil-wrapped springform pan into a larger pan. You want that larger pan to have at least a 3-inch margin from the springform pan.
Pour the boiling water you put on the stove earlier into the larger pan. Carefully slide the pan into the preheated oven and bake the guava cheesecake.Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour.
After 1 hour of baking, turn the oven off. But leave the pans inside.Prop the oven door open 2 to 3-inches to allow the cheesecake to gradually cool inside the oven for 1 hour. If your oven door doesn't stay open on its own, prop it open with a wooden spoon.
After an hour, remove the pan from the oven, then remove the springform pan from the water bath.Unwrap the cheesecake pan and allow it to sit on the counter for 30 minutes to cool further.
After 30 minutes, lay a paper towel over the pan. Don't push it down. Just let it rest on the top of the pan's rim. This will trap any steam produced from residual heat once you cover the pan.Cover the pan with plastic wrap and transfer it to the fridge to cool completely, or for at least 4 hours but 6-12 hours (or overnight) is best.
Bake the Puff Pastry, then Decorate the Pastelillo de Guayaba
Preheat your oven to 400°F (204°C). After unfolding the sheet of thawed puff pastry, roll it out into a slightly larger rectangle. Once you roll out your dough, flip it onto a sheet of parchment for easier transfer to the pan.
Use a plate that's a little smaller than the springform pan you baked the cheesecake in to cut a circle using a very sharp knife or a pizza (or pasta) cutter. Then cut* 8-12 wedges from the circle. Base the number you cut on the amount of servings you want from your cheesecake.
Transfer the pan of raw pastry dough to the oven and bake the puff pastry for 13-15 minutes, or until it's golden brown and puffed up. Remove the pan from the oven once the pastry is baked and allow it to cool.
Use a sharp knife to loosen the sides of the cheesecake from the pan, then, remove the springform collar from the cheesecake. Use the knife to score the amount of slices you want from your cheesecake. You can also cut all the way through here.
Cut 1/2-inch squares of guava paste and set them on the inner line of each marked slice. Prop a wedge of the puff pastry on top of each slice of cheesecake, leaning it on the square of paste.
Lastly, use a tea strainer or sifter to sprinkle a generous dusting of powdered sugar over the puff pastry on top. Garnish the top of the Pastelillo de Guayaba Cheesecake with a few more squares of guava paste.
Enjoy the cheesecake within 3 days of baking.
Swaps and Substitutes:
replace the Maria cookiesgraham crackers, vanilla wafers, or dry, crisp oatmeal cookies (in the same amount/weight)
Tips and Tricks:
Look for guava paste (pasta de guayaba) in your local grocery store's Hispanic food section or in a market that sells Latin American products. I've also had luck finding guava paste in Middle Eastern markets and Asian grocery stores.
Guava jelly or preserves is not what you want to use for this cheesecake. Both are too runny to produce the baked texture we want in this dessert. You'll need to add 1/4 cup of cornstarch to the batter at the very end of mixing if you can't find guava paste and have to use guava jelly.
Don't begin melting the guava paste too far ahead of when you plan to mix the cheesecake batter because it'll begin to firm back up as it sits. Usually, before I begin mixing the cream cheese and sugar, I do this melting step. That way, the guava paste has time to cool before it goes into the batter. You can start the melting before you begin measuring your ingredients for the cheesecake, as well.
Don't bake the puff pastry topper the same day you bake the cheesecake. I recommend waiting until an hour before you plan to serve the cheesecake to do this step.
*It's important to use a very sharp knife and to avoid dragging your knife through the dough. Dragging the knife seals the layers of puff pastry together, inhibiting its rise.
When you handle the puff pastry, be mindful of how flaky it is. Grab the wedges from the sides, which are stronger, instead of the tops and bottoms.
Excess puff pastry trimmings can be eaten plain or topped with sugar.
Store the cheesecake in the fridge.
Once sliced, press a piece of plastic or wax paper against any exposed cheesecake (the inside) to keep the cheesecake from crusting over and becoming gummy in the cool air.
To freeze the cheesecake: wrap the baked and de-panned cheesecake well in plastic wrap and store it in the freezer for 2 months. When you want to indulge, allow it to thaw in the fridge for 24 hours, then unwrap it and serve.
For best flavor, freeze the cheesecake before topping it with puff pastry.