Bring on the tropics with these Guava-Berry Coconut Cookies! A cream cheese sugar cookie, folded with sweetened flaked coconut and glazed with strawberry guava. It’s about to get tropical all up in this piece!
Words directed towards those who come from foreign lands, whether fleeing war, gangs or seeking a better life.
Terms expressed, sometimes aggressively towards those who do not immediately adopt ‘American’ culture.
I was born in the USA into a household that was 100% Dominican. My grandma, fleeing abuse came to NYC on a sponsored visa. My mom, with her 4 siblings followed years later, green card in hand to a country that did not wholeheartedly embrace them. It was the mid 70’s. Saigon had just fallen, NYC was super seedy, and the unemployment rate for people of color was around 16%.
My mom, a girl of almost 17 walks into high school, a strange place, in a strange land, a Pan Am bag holding her books.
The bag ripped from her shoulders by some half-assimilated Dominican yelling ‘Pan Am! Pan Am! Miren a Pan Am!
And kicked her bag down the hall. His friends laughing as she chased it and cried.
The name stuck.
This is my mom’s memory of high school. In a strange place. In a strange land.
My mom never quite assimilated. I was born and raised Dominican. Plátanos for breakfast and rice and beans for dinner.
A single mom who never ever spared the rod.
Plátanos for breakfast and rice and beans for dinner.
Old boleros and merengue played as the scent of Mistolin or King Pine scented the air on Saturday mornings.
Mami singing loud, zero fucks given, loud enough to be heard clearly in my friend’s fifth-floor bedroom. We lived on the first floor.
Not a word of English was spoken in our apartment. The TV blared with what was then known as Channel 41 or 47 and now known as Univision or Telemundo.
We shushed when Mirta de Perales peddled her products and dropped knowledge in five-minute increments. The apartment quiet as she showed us how to achieve long lustrous manes. Walter Mercado read the stars and told us how to live our lives.
My English wasn’t fluent until the second grade.
I had no desire to assimilate.
My heart was Dominican palm trees, the Malecon, and sand. My feet, however, were firmly planted in concrete.
I rocked an accent.
I spent my summers sticky with mango juice and color. So much color.
I’d come back from the Dominican Republic with fresh new Spanish curse words, fresh off the island merengue tunes, and parasites.
I listened to Spanish music when I should have been listening to Madonna or Lisa Lisa.
I spoke fluent Spanish in Dominican dialect.
I embraced a culture that as an American I was supposed to reject.
In time I lost my accent, worked on my grammar and diction.
I worked until the words that belie my true Dominican roots are ‘decision’ or ‘position’, words that after 33 years I can’t pronounce without reciting them in my head first.
For a few years, I stopped thinking ‘Dominican’ because I was busy trying to assimilate, busy embracing American culture, clothing, lifestyle, and music. I was super proud of my blue American passport while viewing my mom’s red Dominican passport with…with… with the judgment reserved for someone who failed to assimilate.
I’m not proud of those years. I am not proud of poking fun at my mom’s super thick Dominican accent as she attempted to speak English. I hurt her. I took her back to those years with the Pan Am bag kicked down the hall. I was an asshole. I am not proud of rejecting who I was because the world around me forced me to change.
And now? Well…
I still eat my platanos.
I still listen to my merengue.
Mango juice drips from my chin every summer.
I clean my house with Mistolin and King Pine. My voice is not as loud as mami’s.
My body is a voluptuous wide-hipped small waist size 12.
I read up on my Dominican history. I dream of retiring there. I want to help reduce the crime that’s crippling my country.
I drink my rum.
I love my people.
I rep my land.
I embrace my Dominican roots. I have one foot firmly planted in Dominican sand, and one foot planted on concrete.
Assimilating shouldn’t mean rejecting your roots, your sense of self, your culture. You don’t give up your sabor to fit into some other motherfucker’s mold.
Fuck a mold.
I live seamlessly between these worlds. American. Dominican. I am both.
These cookies. They’re an American cream cheese sugar cookie. A cookie I folded with sweetened flaked coconut and glazed with guava and strawberry – Guava-berry after one of my favorite Juan Luis Guerra songs.
You see, if this cookie with both American and Dominican roots can live as one, anyone can.
Guava-Berry Coconut Cookies
- Coconut Cream Cheese Cookies
- All-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup - 3 ¼ cup
- Salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- Baking powder - 1 teaspoon
- Unsalted butter, at room temperature - 1 cup (2 sticks)
- Full fat cream cheese, at room temperature - 1 (8 ounce) package
- Granulated sugar - 1 ¼ cups
- Egg - 1 large
- Vanilla bean paste - 1 tablespoon
- Sweetened flaked coconut - ¾ cup
- Guava-berry filling
- Sliced strawberries - 1 cup
- Sliced guava paste - ¼ cup
- Splash of vanilla extract
- Confectioners’ sugar - ¾ - 1 cup
Bake the cookies:
In a medium bowl, combine all-purpose flour, salt, and baking powder. Whisk quickly to combine and set aside.
In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, over medium/high speed, beat the butter, cream cheese, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. This should take about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg, followed by the vanilla bean paste and beat until combined. Stop mixer and scrape the bowl.
Turn the mixer speed to low and add the flour all at once. Beat until just combined. Remove bowl from the mixer and fold in the sweetened flaked coconut. Divide the dough in four parts and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill the dough in the freezer for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Generously sprinkle your counter or workspace with all-purpose flour. Remove one piece of dough from the fridge. Place over your floured surface and roll the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. Use a bench cutter or a large spatula periodically to ensure dough does not stick to the surface.
Cut dough with a lightly floured round cutter (I used a fluted round cutter). Place about 1 inch apart on the parchment lined cookie sheets. Gather the scraps, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill. Repeat with remaining dough.
Place in the oven and bake for 7-9 minutes until the cookies are a very light golden brown and set.
Remove cookies from oven and allow to cool in the cookie sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wired rack to cool completely.
Make the guava-berry glaze:
Blend the strawberries and guava paste in high speed until combined. Pour the strawberry-guava mixture in a medium bowl. Add the vanilla extract and confectioners’ sugar. Whip vigorously until combined. Place in the fridge until ready to use.
Fill the cookies:
Before serving, pour glaze in the center of each cookie with a teaspoon. You can cover the entire surface of the cookie, or just the center. Allow the glaze to set a bit before serving.
Store cookies in between squares of parchment paper in a tightly sealed container. Since the glaze doesn’t set completely, I suggest filling these cookies the same day you plan to serve.