Cuban Guava Bars (Masa Real) Are Easy and Crazy Good

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If you walk into any Cuban bakery in Miami, you’ll find these guava bar cookies called Masa Real prominently displayed. They are so tempting with their rich stripe of guava jam sandwiched between sweet buttery pastry. Masa Real (mah-sa-ree-al) means royal dough and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. But to be honest, the sweet version is the most popular. 

Guava, known as guayaba (gwah – yah – bah), is synonymous with guava paste to me because that’s the only way I’ve ever eaten guava. But the fruit is grown locally in Miami, and it’s about the size and shape of a very fat pear. You can buy it at most local fruit stands and supermarkets. I actually went out and bought some before I started writing this blog. The fruit is pretty green right now, but as soon as it’s ripe, I’m giving it a try. (You guys are such a good influence on me!)

Best Way To Eat Guava Paste

Guava paste affiliate link is sold in cans or bars and can be cut and enjoyed with a slice of gouda cheese or on top of Cuban crackers smeared with cream cheese. It’s basically Cuban jam. In fact, cream cheese and guava paste is our version of PBJ. But by far, one of the best ways to eat it is in Masa Real. (Another famous guava pastry is Cuban pastelitos, but we’ll save that for another post!)

masa real

How I Came Across This Guava Bar Recipe

This recipe is not like any of the masa real recipes I’ve found online. It’s really super easy. You don’t need a mixer or a rolling pin to make these guava bars. 

I got this recipe at least 30 years ago from Felix, my grandmother’s long-time boyfriend. He found it in a Latin newspaper, in a section titled El Hombre en la Cocina (The Man in the Kitchen). Back then, it was unusual for a Latin man to cook, so maybe that’s why they made this recipe so easy? 

Whatever the reason, I’m glad I found it. My recipe is dog-eared, torn, and butter stained. I love recipes when they get that way! It shows it’s a favorite and so worth sharing it with you. 

This recipe is also special because it’s one of the Cuban dishes I make that Mami doesn’t. So, she likes it when I bring her some fresh baked masa real (the Bean Train working in reverse!).  

How To Make Masa Real de Guayaba

These guava bars are easy to make, and you don’t even need a mixer. In fact, you mix it as little as possible so you don’t overwork the dough. You melt the butter and then add a crumbly mixture of flour, sugar, eggs, and baking powder. Then mix lightly with a fork. 

I’m going to warn you that this recipe uses a ridiculous amount of butter. So much so that some of the butter will just sit on top of the dough. Don’t worry. The butter will incorporate into the dough as it bakes. It will taste perfect, not oily at all. 

Once the dough is ready, you divide it in half and smooth half onto a 9×13 pan and then layer the sliced guava paste on top and then add the rest of the dough and smooth it down. That’s it!

I know I probably scared you by saying that it has a ridiculous amount of butter (3 sticks, in fact). But the taste is really rich, so a little goes a long way. I cut the masa real into 20 pieces to give you the traditional Cuban bakery size. But I usually cut that size in half when I’m serving, so you can get 40 squares of masa real from one recipe. 

guava desserts

Some Tasty Changes To The Original Recipe  

While I love the original guava bar recipe, my kids wanted to make some changes. So lately, I’ve been melting the guava paste affiliate link, so it’s a spreadable jam. It’s a little more work but not too crazy. And my kids like it better that way. The guava layer is not as thick, and the buttery pastry is moister because it mixes in with the guava jam. 

Instead of layering the slices of guava paste affiliate link, you pour the guava jam over the first half of the dough. With this method, you need to cool the dough in the fridge for 15 minutes before adding the guava jam. Otherwise, you’ll get a hot mess. Which I’ve done before, and it’s not bad at all, but not as pretty.

Another change I’ve made recently is adding a little strawberry jam and salt to the melted guava. It’s soo good that way! I got this idea from my son, who’s been making guava strawberry jam which he uses for French toast and for cocktails (I’ll share those another time!).

Not sure which version of the recipe to make? Take the easy way out and make the original recipe with the sliced guava paste. Either way, you’re gonna love these guava bars!

bean train food for thought

Masa Real reminds me of Felix, my mother’s common-law husband of more than 30 years. He really liked to bake and was nice enough to share this recipe with me. While I don’t have many memories of Felix, he tended to keep to himself, I feel it’s important that I tell you a little bit about him today. 

To be honest, I didn’t have much of a connection with him. He was not very social, and we didn’t have much in common. He started seeing my grandmother when I was ten years old, and his attitude towards kids was that they should be seen and not heard. That attitude didn’t seem to change much when I grew up. It’s not that he was unfriendly. He just didn’t really interact that much with people. 

And lately, it’s really made me wonder if he felt seen or heard himself. He’d studied agricultural engineering in Cuba because that’s what his father wanted him to do, but he really didn’t like it. When he emigrated to the US, he never tried to pursue his degree. Instead, he took on odd jobs he didn’t seem to like much. 

But late in life, he finally got a job he really liked, working at the Publix Bakery. He fried the donuts and croquettes and baked the cakes and cookies.

Thinking back on his life now, he can teach us two things. 

Connect with your passion – Find your purpose, work diligently to discover it. Your purpose is that thing you do that makes you feel alive and connected with the world. It may not be the job you do, but the ways you get to be creative and joyful. I have to wonder what Felix’s life would have been like if he had discovered what he liked to do earlier in life. It seemed like life happened to him. I can relate because too often I’ve let life happen to me too. That’s why Bean Train is so important to me. It gives me a chance to do some of the things I love to do. 

Connect with your people – Felix was pretty solitary. He didn’t really connect with my mom or me. When he moved to Miami from New York, he didn’t stay in touch with his older siblings or his nieces and nephews. Not having had any children of his own, I wonder if there’s anyone who will remember Felix.

But this recipe reminds me of him. That’s one of the things I like about family recipes. They keep memories alive. Felix can live on in this recipe. I think he would have liked that, to be seen and heard through his favorite cookie.  

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Cuban Guava Bars

Cuban Guava Bars (Masa Real) Are Easy and Crazy Good

  • Author: Sandi Abbott
  • Prep Time: 45
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 40 squares 1x
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Cuban

Description

These guava bar cookies, known as Masa Real, are so rich and delicious! And super easy to make. Buttery pastry and rich guava jam are layered together to make this super popular Cuban dessert. These rich bar cookies are a hit for bake sales, potlucks, and teacher gifts. 


Ingredients

Scale

3 sticks butter

14oz package of guava paste affiliate link (I like to use Conchita brand)

2 tablespoons strawberry jam (optional – see note)

Dash salt

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups white sugar

2 tablespoons baking powder

4 eggs


Instructions

Guava Bar Recipe Version 1: (see note below)

guava paste

Guava Jam:

  1. Cut the guava paste affiliate link into ½ inch cubes.
  2. Bring ½ cup water to boil over high heat and add the guava cubes.
  3. Lower the heat to medium and let the guava melt, stirring occasionally.
  4. While it melts, add 2 tablespoons of strawberry jam and a dash of salt.
  5. Once all the cubes have melted, remove from the heat and pour into a glass bowl.
  6. Let it cool to room temperature before using. 

Guava Jam

Dough:

  1. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and a dash of salt until combined. 
  2. Beat four eggs in a separate bowl until combined and then add to the dry ingredients. 
  3. Mix together to form a crumbly meal. 
  4. Melt the butter and shortening in a pot over medium heat. 
  5. Once melted, add the dry ingredients to the pot and gently mix with a fork until all the dough is wet. It will look like you’ve added too much butter, but it’s OK. 

masa real dough

Shaping and cooling the dough:

  1. Spray a 9×13 pan with butter spray.
  2. Add half the dough to the pan and use a piece of parchment paper or wax paper to flatten and smooth the dough to cover the full pan.
  3. Cut a piece of parchment paper or wax paper a little bigger than the pan.
  4. Add the other half of the dough to the paper and spread out in a rectangular shape similar to the pan.
  5. Place both pieces of dough in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. This will make it easier to layer.

I do not suggest placing the second dough on top of the first one as it will stick to the paper when you separate them. While the dough cools, preheat the oven to 350. 

masa real dough

Layering: Take the two layers of dough out of the refrigerator. Spread the guava jam over the cooled dough in the pan. Place the second layer on top. The top layer may not fit perfectly, that’s OK. Once it bakes, it will look just fine. 

Bake: Once the oven is preheated, bake for 30 minutes until golden and a knife inserted in the top layer comes out clean. 

Guava Bar Recipe Version 2: (see note below)

If you don’t want to melt the guava and cool the layers, you can follow the original recipe’s instructions. In that case, you won’t need the strawberry jam. 

Guava Paste: Cut the guava paste into thin slices no more than 1/4 of an inch.

Dough (this step is the same):

  1. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and a dash of salt until combined.
  2. Beat four eggs in a separate bowl until combined and then add to the dry ingredients.
  3. Mix together to form a crumbly meal.
  4. Melt the butter and shortening in a pot over medium heat.
  5. Once melted, add the dry ingredients to the pot and gently mix with a fork until all the dough is wet. It will look like you’ve added too much butter, but it’s OK. 

Making Masa Real

Layering: 

  1. Spray a 9×13 pan with butter spray. 
  2. Add half the dough to the pan and use a piece of parchment paper or wax paper to flatten and smooth the dough to cover the entire pan. 
  3. Place the guava paste slices on top of the dough, covering all the surfaces. 
  4. Add the rest of the dough and use a piece of parchment paper or wax paper to flatten and smooth. 
  5. Bake for 30 minutes until golden and a knife inserted in the top layer comes out clean. 

masa real



Notes

Strawberry Jam: You don’t need this if you’re making the easier version.

I’ve given you two versions of the recipe.

Version 1: The main difference is that in the first one you make a guava jam and spread. The jam mixes more with the dough and it makes the bar cookie more moist. My kids love it this way.

Version 2: This version is easier. All you need to do is cut the guava paste and layer it with the dough. This gives you a thick stripe of guava and a more intense guava flavor. However if you don’t cut the guava paste evenly you will have some ares with less guava. 

Not sure which version of the recipe to make? Take the easy way out and make the original recipe with the sliced guava paste affiliate link. Either way, you’re gonna love these guava bars!

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 square

Keywords: guava bars, Cuban guava bars, masa real, masa real de guayana, guava desserts, guava paste, guava jam

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