Guava Duff, tropical delectation!
The culinary flavor of Key West comes from two main areas. One being the island nation of Cuba that sits a mere 90 miles off the coast, and the other is from the European descendants that had migrated to the Florida Keys from the Bahamas many years ago. Having family that are considered true "Conchs", our cuisine consisted of many delights from each, and sometimes a combination of the two. Guava Duff is one of those that many have never heard of much less enjoyed, but it is truly a sweet delight enjoyed as dessert or as a side dish as the Conchs do.
Hunting the wild guava.
Although this tropical fruit is widely believed to originate from Southern Mexico through Central America, it rapidly spread throughout the tropics and became a staple of Cuba as well as South Florida. It seems to be getting harder to find actual trees or fresh fruit here in Florida, but there are always commercial products available in paste form as well as guava shells in syrup. While perhaps not quite the same, it is certainly a suitable substitute for Duff and other dishes.
The Conchs of Key West readily took to the fruit and with the Cuban influence enjoyed guava in a variety of ways. Many are familiar with the wonderful pastries (plain or with cheese) that abound in Cuban bakeries, and a favorite dessert in the keys was Guava Shells with cream cheese. Another dessert made wiith guava is Queen of All Pudding which is a delightful bread pudding with layers of guava running throughout with a meringue on top. Served warm, it is also an old time family favorite. And then of course, there is the Duff!
On to the Duff!
Even though most eat this dish as a dessert, the Conch way was to eat it as a side dish. It was always a special occasion when we had it, and the menu was generally the same. Baked ham, baked beans, avocado salad and Duff. Although a sweet dish, it somehow was complemented very nicely with the ham and beans. One thing was for sure. After dinner, no one really needed dessert!
The Duff itself is basically like a plum pudding of sorts. While steaming in enameled pans was the original and preferred method, true Conchs would sometimes boil it if they were out on the fishing boats, or where it couldn't be steamed. In the absence of a steamer, baking will certainly work and this recipe has been adapted to do just that. It's not complete though without the sauce poured on top. A thick sweet rich sugar and egg sauce with bits of guava, it's definitely not a dish for dieters!
Grannie Page's Guava Duff:
2 cups of Bisquick (or any biscuit dough)
Make according to directions for biscuits.
Roll out the dough on floured waxed paper in a rectangle.
Use approximately 2 cups of peeled and cored guavas
( 1 to 2 cans of guava shells, drained if not fresh)
Slice the guava meat in thin slices and pat dry with paper towels
(especially with canned shells packed in syrup)
spread evenly over the dough setting 1/4 cup aside for the sauce.
Roll up from the long side, and pinch ends together.
Coil into a greased 3 quart casserole baking dish (or steamer pan).
Bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 to 60 minutes (or steam for 2 to 3 hours until it rises and is firm to the touch)
Slice and serve warm with sauce on top.
1/4 cup of minced or pureed guava
Enough sugar to make a thick sauce.
Beat egg and guava on high speed.
Add sugar gradually until sauce is thickened to consistence of molasses and completely dissolved.
Variations on Guava Duff
Though my family has always enjoyed the Conch version of Guava Duff, it is perhaps one of the more popular desserts in the Bahamas. Searching around, one can find variations on the recipe and many look different from others. Some call for additional ingredients such as nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves while others use only gauva pulp instead of slice or chopped guava in the duff. Some add butter to the sauce and a few use vanilla (one calls for rum!). Chances are, you can certainly find one to suit your particular tastes but we prefer to stick to the tried and true Conch method!
This is certainly not a dish for everyone, and you need to have a sweet tooth to appreciate it. Whether you have it as dessert or with the meal as we do, it is truly a rich and guilty pleasure to savor. I hope if you get the chance to try it, you'll love it as well. I hope to be featuring some lenses on Conch Cooking and some of the other food delights indigenous to South Florida and the Keys. Be sure to check them out if you like goodies such as Key Lime Pie, another one of my great grandmother's original recipes from Key West.
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Photo of Guava Duff in introduction courtesy of Travelblog.org