David GuasIn September 2007, Pastry Chef David Guas exchanges his longtime corporate role for an entrepreneurial path that includes private consultation, boutique catering, cookbook authoring, and, eventually, his own retail bakery. Damgoodsweet Consulting Group, LLC, the irreverent name he has given his company, is the perfect description for all of his work. In the beginning, however, odds were against the native New Orleanian having a culinary career at all. His family expected him to become a doctor. It was clear to this young man, however, that becoming a chef was his calling and the only path he could ever consider. Fortunately for Guas, his family background actually helped him chase his dream, all the way to the nation’s capital where, for nearly ten years he was the Executive Pastry Chef of Acadiana, Ceiba, DC Coast, and TenPenh restaurants. In the Guas family, all gatherings and entertainment centered around food. From a very early age, during visits from his Cuban relatives, the curious boy seemed always to be playing indoors and not outside with the other kids. In this family, it was not always the women taking charge in the kitchen. Guas’ first mentor, his grandfather, inspired and taught him that being in the kitchen did not make him any less of a man. “Abuelo” (grandfather) opened Guas’ eyes to appreciate the cuisine of his Cuban heritage. “When Abuelo was visiting, my lunch changed drastically and my classmates knew from a single whiff of my lunch bag who had packed it that day.” Guas has fond memories of the pressed Cuban sandwiches with extra pickles and mustard. Whenever Abuelo visited, he prepared a new Cuban dish for his family to taste. “If only I had written down the recipes, I would have my first cookbook already,” Guas laments. There was, in fact, a strong feminine influence as well, right in his own backyard, in the form of his grandmother from Amite, Louisiana. “Granny” could often be found in the kitchen “burning” flour and butter in an iron skillet and promising that it was “goin’ to be good eatin’.” She taught Guas to appreciate the fruits of Louisiana’s soil, cooking with seasonal blackberries, strawberries, and even wild berries from the back woods. “It was so much fun picking berries or visiting nearby fruit and vegetable stands with my cousins first thing in the morning,” remembers Guas. Unlike most native Louisianians, who used large amounts of sugar and butter in everything they cooked, Guas’ Granny stewed and puréed the fruits naturally, often blending them with savory herbs to flavor poultry and meats. Sunday morning breakfast was a ritualistic gathering, with buckwheat or cornbread pancakes and puréed fig preserves or fruit syrup, all natural and no sugar added. (But don’t think for a minute that Guas didn’t sneak any of the butter tucked away in the fridge, which was, after all, an acceptable sneak with Granny – because she had made it!) Unwittingly, the young Guas was learning techniques he would eventually incorporate into his future desserts. The base provided by Guas’ family was strong. Add to that a natural talent and a passion for updating timeless desserts, and you have a recipe for success. Guas doesn’t boast a formal culinary degree, but a few specialized cooking classes at a small culinary school in New Orleans taught him the basic, classical preparations, as well as certain cutting-edge techniques he needed to secure a job in a high-profile kitchen. As an associate pastry chef at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans with Executive Chef Jeff Tunks at the helm, Guas churned out thousands of desserts per week to the delight of locals and national critics alike. Tunks took notice of this talented young assistant and began courting him: Tunks was leaving New Orleans to open his own restaurant in Washington, DC, and he needed a pastry chef. Guas packed up his bags and went off to Washington. DC Coast opened in June 1998 to critical acclaim. TenPenh followed two years later in August 2000, to more of the same, and Guas became Executive Pastry Chef, splitting his time between the two restaurants. In September 2003, he drew deeply from his Cuban heritage to create Latin American- and Caribbean-inspired desserts for Ceiba. And two years after that, in September 2005, with the opening of Acadiana, Guas developed sophisticated interpretations of his hometown dessert favorites from beignets to Bananas Foster. During his years with Passion Food Hospitality, Guas’ desserts were recognized and praised by such publications as Food & Wine, Chocolatier, Santé, Cooking Light, Food Arts, Where Washington, Restaurant Digest, Restaurant Business, National Culinary Review, and Nation’s Restaurant News. In September 2003, Bon Appétit featured Guas as one of eight “Dessert Stars” in the country. In 2004, the fourth year he was nominated, Guas was named Pastry Chef of the Year by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. He is listed in The International Who’s Who of Chefs, and has appeared regularly on The Today Show, demonstrating his expertise on national television. Of Guas’ sweets, the restaurant critic of The Washington Post writes, “I have yet to find a single dessert I can say no to,” and the critic of Washingtonian magazine states emphatically that Guas’ desserts are “worth saving room for.” Very sweet, indeed.
David Guas: Hi! I am David Guas with Damgoodsweet Consulting Group here in the Washington, D.
C. Area. Here today, we are talking about caramel popcorn balls for Halloween time. In this particular recipe, you are going to need a small sauce pot, measuring spoons, measuring cups, a rubber spatula and as far as ingredients go, some very easy to find ingredients you will need. The other thing we have to keep in mind is our safety today. Safety in the kitchen is very important when dealing with hot sugar, hot stoves, hot pots, short knives. So, be careful when you are cooking today in the kitchen. Some of the ingredients that we are using today is dark brown sugar, in this case from the recipe on video, we are using half a cup, using a forth of the recipe, half a cup of dark brown sugar, a quarter cup of unsalted butter and then two tablespoons of light corn syrup.
Once these ingredients are put into your small sauce pot, we are going to go ahead and place this on the stove at a medium heat. Once all the ingredients are completely melted and dissolved and incorporate, we will increase the heat in order to cook it for one minute. While this is melting, we have gone ahead and popped our popcorn and placed it into a stainless steel mixing bowl. In this case, try to get away from any of the butter flavored or specially flavored popcorn, so just use neutral microwavable popcorn.
In this particular recipe, based on the fact that we cut the recipe down by a quarter, we are using two quarts of popped corn. I am using a high heat rubber spatula which can be purchased at any cooking store that ensures that over time, I am not left with warped spatula from the heat, one of my favorite tools in the kitchen. Once all the butter has melted and we have worked out all the lumps of the brown sugar, we have increased the temperature to high and we will cook that for about a minute. Now, I dont trust myself, so I always set timers and you could see how its have completely scraped down the sides to ensure that we dont have any uneven cooking. What happens generally when you have sugar on the sides of the pot is you will tend to get some darker sugar, some burning sugar that gets incorporated and what it does, it changes the tint of the entire caramel. After a minute, we removed our hot sugar, be careful because it does tend to do a little bit of spinning. We are going to go ahead and pour that over the top of the prepared popped popcorn, using our same high heat rubber spatula.
Again, we are going to do something just called folding. At this point, I have supplied in the recipe some rubber gloves that you can use. Now, if you are used to dealing with hot sugar, sometimes you could omit this particular piece of material that you may need. My calloused hands from many years in the kitchen. I really use the rubber gloves when I am dealing with the hot sugar. It is important to use a large bowl and you will see you may have a little bit of overflow. What you are doing is your making sure that you are quoting each cornel of popped popcorn with a bit of a caramel to ensure a nice secure ball once we begin to form. At this point, you can just visually pick up the caramel popcorn and begin to form them into balls.
Some other variations are, you can always add some nuts at this point, but when you are handing this out to the masses during Halloween, nuts tend to be omitted to safeguard any allergies. You can see how easy these form and I am just applying a little bit of pressure while I form these. You can place these, if you dont have granite at top, directly on some parchment paper or baking sheet, so that they dont stick.
Now, once your balls are completely formed, you want to give them about 30 minutes to completely cool and you can see here, I have taken the liberty of crafting just a sandwich bag. You dont have to go out and buy any kind of fancy cellophane candy bags, just a regular zip lock bag for sandwiches, a pair of scissors and a nice ribbon, black, orange or both. You can also use pipe cleaners; those are a lot of fun because you can actually push those into different shapes. Once our popcorn balls are completely cooled, place it into your bag and at this point, I would like to go ahead add the ribbon, and I will cut the excess bag of after I have tied the knot. This is a nice alternative to the standard candy that is handed out generally and to get away from the fruit that you may get at your neighborhood Deniss home. I dont know how many times I have gotten apples and looked at that particular person like they were crazy. So, here we have our fun Halloween popcorn balls that you can hand out during the holiday season.