Thursday, Oct 18, 2018
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All duffs are not created equal

Nicole Burrows offers up a taste of old-fashioned Bahamian guava duff

All guava duffs are definitely not created equal. There is duff, and then there is real Bahamian duff — made the old-fashioned way — the way grandma did it. The dough’s crumb doesn’t have the texture of cake, nor is it bready; nor is it baked in an oven. And when guava duff is done right, it’s a thing of perfection. Think heaven … think sublime! That melt-in-the-mouth quality can make for a transport you away feeling. That was the experience Nicole Burrows sought after years away from home. She wanted a piece of the authentic guava duff of her youth, but found that it was not to be had anywhere she looked. She took matters into her own hands, and that gave rise to her business, Old-Fashioned Bahamian Duff. Her duffs were in demand over the festive season, and the orders continue to pour in as more people become familiar with her old-fashioned Bahamian duff.

Old-Fashioned Bahamian Duff was the result of Burrows “jonesing” for a taste of her childhood, versus what is out there in the market and passed off as guava duff.

Burrows recalled receiving a Bahamian cookbook as a gift at eight years old. Her mother Christine Burrows had written two duff recipes for the book. She and her mother made those duffs as she grew up. She wanted that taste again.

“I was jonesing for some real Bahamian duff, an I couldn’t find it anywhere. And no one knew anyone who knows how to make it properly, so I said okay, I remember I made this with my mom when I was small and I’m going to try make it for myself again.”

So that’s what she did, except she modified the recipes after much experimentation.

“Those two recipes from Mum didn’t quite give me what I needed, so I manipulated them until they did — modifying ingredients, quantities, tools and methods,” she said.

Burrows is not a pastry chef or cook. She just wanted the best duff, and figured out how to make what she wanted.

Her first try she said came out okay. Her next three times she said were horrible. Burrows was determined to get it right. Through much trial and error, she eventually got her perfect old-fashioned duff.

“As I spent more time with the dough and kneading it, recognizing the properties of the dough, I realized what it’s supposed to feel like … what it’s supposed to sound like.”

She got to the point that people describe as cooking with heart, soul and love — and not a recipe, like our forefathers did.

“They just knew because they did it, and were familiar with it. It was kind of like instinct. Science became instinct, and that just became their skill and talent. But I had to study it.”

She nailed her recipe after two weeks of trial and error. Her mom liked the resulting product; her friends liked it; their coworkers liked her duff. It was like a “lightbulb moment” when she began to think her guava duff could become something bigger as people were willing to pay her for her duff. Slowly but surely she started to develop a clientele.

She says most people would be surprised at the simplicity of her recipe. She describes her ingredients as very basic.

“I’ve seen very elaborate recipes for guava duff and it really is not necessary.  A big part of that is the soul and the love that comes with that. We need to get back to the real thing. It’s simple ingredients.”

She boils, not bakes her duff. But says she’s figured out a way to produce it so that the water does not hit it, which she said enables the duff to cook a little better and more easily.

Burrows experimented with 11 different types of sauces before she decided on the whipped version she serves now.

Her duff is vegan; it has no eggs in it. Her sauce is vegetarian. But she says she can make it vegan if a person simply has to have it.

Burrows herself has been vegan and vegetarian in the past.

That’s the history behind Burrows’ Old-Fashioned Bahamian Duff business.

While everyone has their likes and thoughts on what guava duff is, Burrows believes it’s about the consistency and quality of the dough.

“It has that slight chewy bite to it — it’s not too gummy, not too sticky — but it’s not like cake, and it’s not like bread. And I think that’s what makes for the difference with old-fashioned Bahamian duff as I know it, versus what many other people seem to think it is.”

She also likes the fact that she is doing her part to keep something that is authentically Bahamian alive, which she can introduce to her nieces and cousins.

“They’ve not seen anyone take the time to stand over a stove and cook it. All they know is the duff that’s baked in the oven and cooked with hot air, and not with boiling water. I had to make the clarification for my niece, the fact that duff is actually boiled and not baked. I’ve been around long enough to know what old-fashioned duff is supposed to be like,” said the 42-year-old.

Burrows’ duffs were such a hit that two weeks before Christmas she decided to sell them to people who like her wanted to have that true-true taste of old-fashioned Bahamian guava duff. She launched her business via social media and was flooded with orders as people sought a taste of memories of their childhood, or were introduced to what they’d never had.

For the holidays she produced guava duff as well as a seasonal cranberry duff in a nod to the holidays … simply because she loves cranberries. She found her cranberry duff to be just as well received, especially by men, who she guesses were more open to being risk-takers.

Old-Fashioned Bahamian Duff offers just the two flavors for now. Burrows has an additional two flavors in the works and is sourcing suppliers for the fruit.

Her duffs can be had in three sizes — full size from which 16 to 18 servings can be had; mid-size which is about 10 to 12 servings, and the mini, that is approximately six to eight servings. Portions are approximate, according to how thin or thick a person slices their duff.

As Old-Fashioned Bahamian Duff continues to take off, Burrows says she wants to have access to a steady supply of fresh ingredients on a regular basis, and if not fresh, then frozen. Currently she incorporates fresh, frozen, and canned fruit, to make her resources stretch for her fresh to order duffs.

“It’s fresh to order, but I like the thought of having my fresh guavas,” she said.

Old-Fashioned Bahamian Duff may be a new business venture, but Nicole Burrows can envision herself with a quaint factory, and the ability to ship abroad. She’s already had inquiries for her duff from the United States and Europe.

Old-Fashioned Bahamian Duff can be reached on Facebook or in social media or WhatsApp or text message at 814-1795. Burrows prefers written requests as she says they rarely get a chance to answer telephone calls or check voice messages.

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