These Uruguayan Chajas have an interesting history... Originally, they were made with strawberries, but because they do not grow in Uruguay during the majority of the year, the Castellano family makes it with peaches instead. The family is very secretive about the recipe, but there are many recipes available that are inspired by the Castellano original. In other recipes, the pastry is sometimes made with apricots. The dessert is named for the chaja bird, because a family friend of the Castellanos first described the pastry as “light and soft” and that it reminded them of the bird. It is now one of the most common desserts in Uruguay.
Other than the fact that the dessert is light and soft, it is also really delicious and fairly simple to make. The recipe I had initially attempted was extremely difficult to follow. So in essence, chajas are like a pastry lasagna, and you need to make them yourself ASAP!
For the peaches:
4 Tablespoons of Butter
6 Tablespoons of Brown Sugar
20 (ish) ounces of frozen peaches
2 Teaspoons of Vanilla
1/2 Teaspoon of Cinnamon
For the dessert:
1 Box of Angel Food Cake Mix (+ ingredients that the box calls for)
1 Can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
4 egg whites
2 Tablespoons of sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a medium sized saucepan melt the butter and add the sugar and cinnamon. Mix well. Add the frozen peaches and cook for 10 minutes. Occasional stir the peaches covering them in the butter/sugar mixture. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Follow directions on the box of cake mix and prepare the cake batter. In a 9 x 12 x 3 inch baking dish pour a thin layer of the caramelized peach mixture. Next, pour a layer of angel food cake mix into the dish. Drizzle a light layer of sweetened condensed milk on top of the cake batter. Repeat this process until you've used all of your ingredients save for a few peaches that you can use later to decorate the dessert.
Bake for 30 minutes
While your dessert is in the oven, beat together egg whites and sugar with a dash of vanilla on high until they reach maximum fluffiness. Set aside.
After 30 minutes remove the pan from the oven and pour the egg whites in the top of the dish. Also add your remaining peaches. Peak the egg whites to add texture.
Return to oven for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven, let cool, and enjoy!