Friday, November 27, 2009
Chocolate & Pomegranate Cupcakes
I made these cupcakes as part of a school project which required our class to head to a local farmers market and pick an item that we don't cook with very much or have never used in our cooking before. I have used pomegranate to make a Persian dish called Chicken Fesenjan, but have never used pomegranate in a dessert before.
Also, I was hired to cater a recent Sacramento Press workshop, and I was trying to think of a seasonal dessert. One reason I chose the pomegranate is because it is so beautiful. Another reason is because the Pom Wonderful company actually sent me juice a few months ago and I never used it. I finally used a combination of fresh pomegranate and the Pom juice to create the Chocolate & Pomegranate Cupcakes.
So first, a little about the Chocolate & Pomegranate Cupcakes: Just use your favorite chocolate cake recipe and swap out some of the liquid with pomegranate juice. This infuses the pomegranate flavor into the cake. Then, for the filling, I used my signature buttercream recipe, and added a concentrated pomegranate flavor used in the Chicken Fesanjoon recipe: Pomegranate Paste. I finished off the cupcakes with a chocolate ganache frosting, once again using pomegranate paste and juice for some of the liquid in the recipes. Before frosting each cupcake, I placed five or six arils (seeds) in the cupcakes and brushed the tops with pomegranate juice.
The name "pomegranate" derives from Latin pomum ("apple") and granatus ("seeded"). The history of pomegranate is traced to Greek mythology.
There is a Greek myth which tells of two characters, Persephone and Hades. In the story, Persephone is kidnapped by Hades. Before Persephone was released to Hermes (Messenger of the gods in Greek mythology who had been sent to retrieve her), Hades tricked Persephone into eating four pomegranate seeds which forced her to return to the underworld for a season each year. This myth explains that this is how winter came upon the earth.
Other historical appearances by the fruit:
In Crete, the pomegranate was given to a bride by her groom when they entered their new home together.
Married women in ancient Rome wore headdresses made of pomegranate twigs to signify their marital status.
In China, a picture of a ripe, open pomegranate is a popular wedding present, expressing the wish “May you have as many children as there are seeds!”
Pomegranates are mostly grown around the Middle East and in some parts of the United States as well. They need a humid, Mediterranean-type climate for best growth. In the Northern Hemisphere, the fruit is typically in season from September to February.
I had never seen a pomegranate until I moved to Sacramento in 2005. Now they are readily available in Ohio and I see them when I go home for Christmas, but they are quite expensive as they are not grown there.
Before tomato arrived in the Middle East, grenadine (grenadine was originally prepared from pomegranate juice or cherry juice, and sugar) was widely used in many Persian foods and is still found in traditional recipes such as the aforementioned fesenjan, a thick sauce made from pomegranate juice and ground walnuts, and usually spooned over poultry and rice.
The Parts of the Pomegranate:
There are four main parts of the pomegranate:
Aril – The botanical term for a seed surrounded by the juice casing.
Albedo – The white, fleshy substance directly under the skin of a pomegranate.
Membrane – The translucent yellow material surrounding the pomegranate arils. The membrane is bitter and not recommended for consumption.
Rind – The outer peel or husk of a pomegranate. Much of the antioxidant content of the juice comes from crushing the whole fruit.
A pomegranate provides 70 calories per 100 grams of fruit. They contain antioxidants that keep your arteries healthy and may help to prevent prostate cancer.