Described as Torticas de Moron in Eating Cuban, these cookies are supposed to be a specialty in the town of Moron in Cuba, sold at bakeries as a popular snack item. The original is typically made with lard (although vegetable shortening seems to be a fairly common substitution) and is lightly flavored with citrus.
This version is a little more exciting. The dough, which is tender and not-too-sweet, is made with butter, rather than lard or shortening. It is also spiced up with cinnamon, orange zest, orange juice and light rum. The overall flavor is delicious and a bit on the sophisticated side, when compared to plainer cookies. They’re a great choice for a party, or just served with coffee.
I topped each of the cookies off with a small roll of guava paste. Guava paste is basically candied guava and is very popular in Cuba, as well as in other Latin/South American countries. The fruit is mashed into a fine pulp, thickened with sugar and left to dry, often with a further coating of sugar to prevent sticking. It is packaged in large blocks (for baking tarts, pastries, etc) and in smaller bites (as candies). If you like guava, you’ll probably love guava paste, although because it is so sweet, you may find that you can only eat a little at a time. It is sold at many specialty grocers (my local Trader Joe’s recently started carrying it) and can be ordered online. See the note at the end of this post for guava paste alternatives.
You can see in the photo above that my cookies are not dusted with powdered sugar, though I call for them to be served that way in the recipe below. The sugar is entirely optional. I did end up serving the cookies dusted with sugar, but decided that they looked best unadorned in the photo – especially since the swirls of guava paste looked like tiny candied roses when they weren’t covered with sugar.
Cuban Shortbread Cookies
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp orange zest
1 large egg
1 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp light rum
Guava paste (or regular jam, if unavailable)
powdered sugar, for serving
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
In a large bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer), cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in orange zest and egg, followed by orange juice and rum.
Gradually beat in the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you work, until dough comes together.
Divide dough into three portions and work with each one individually. If your kitchen is very warm, you should refrigerate the pieces you are not working with while you wait.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out to be 1/3 inch thick. Add more sprinkles of flour as you work to keep the dough from sticking. Use a lightly floured 2-inch round cutter to cut out circles of dough. Place on prepared baking sheet.
Cut pieces of guava paste into dime-sized circles or squares, making each approx 1/4 inch thick (circles if your guava paste comes in rolls, as mine does, and squares if yours comes in a brick). Lightly press one piece into the top of each cookie.*
Repeat with remaining cookie dough.
Bake for 13-16 minutes, until cookies are light gold at the edges.
Cool on baking sheet for 4-5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Makes about 3 dozen.
*Note: If you don’t have guava paste, you can use jam. Simply make a depression in the cookie before you bake it, then fill with a spoonful of jam before serving.