Are you following along, I am covering my 7 course POM DINNER PARTY in detail. 7 courses plus drinks and bread, 7 different sauces used to make the meal. Everything from a sweet Pom Grenadine (used to make the Drinks), a thick heavy honey like Pom Molasses (used to make the Bread and for Sweet potato Grits), a savory Pom Garlic Infused Sauce (used to make an Olive Tapenade Straw and a Creole Shrimp and Artichoke Soup), a Pom/Balsamic Reduction (used to flavor an Insalata Caprese Salad), a Persian Pomegranate Sharbat Sauce (used frozen as a Sorbet), Straight Pom Wonderful Juice (used for a Court Bouillon Fish Course), a Spicy Hot Pomegranate Chipotle Sauce (used for a Pork Wellington) ... And finally, today we are making dessert with a Chocolate Pomegranate Ganache..
Today, we cover the "real main" course... Dessert!
It's the last thing people eat. If your dessert is a bust, no matter how much the meal impressed, the dessert will stick in your guests head. But at the same time, serve to impress, and the meal becomes a work of art!
My dessert was being served at the end of 6 courses, plus bread and drinks. I wanted a simple, light course. Finger food if you will. So, pondering my "theme" for the dinner (The secrets in the sauce), I pondered dessert sauces. Pomegranates are naturally very sweet. Transferring that sweetness to a sauce should be a snap. It did take a little effort to get right, but in the end... I made an adaptable Chocolate sauce that worked well when thickened as a ganache for the filling for French Macarons (Freedom Macarons); and worked equally well as a soft filling for a cordial cup.
Here's what I did to make the sauce...
1 cup Pom Wonderful Juice
12 ounces Dark Chocolate
1/4 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
- First is to concentrate the Pomegranate flavor. So, over medium heat, reduce the Pom Wonderful juice to less than 1/2 cup. Mine started getting thicker at about 1/3rd cup.
- Add the chocolate and reduce the heat to it's lowest setting, stir until the chocolate has completely melted.
- Add the whipping cream and continue mixing.
- You will have a soft but thick pourable ganache. The ganache has that wonderful dark chocolate taste, as well as the sweet tang of Pomegranate!
And this Ganache is perfect as is to fill those pretty little chocolate cordial cups. I did want to add a little flair. I melted a bit of white chocolate with just a bit of heavy cream. I put the cordial cups in teh freezer for an hour to firm up the chocolate. Then, I topped the cups with just a tiny bit of the white chocolate and added a couple of Pomegranate Arils (the juice sacks that holds the seed as well as the the juice)...
These were exactly what I wanted. The chocolate shell made them easy to handle, as well as texture. The soft center was filled with the Choc-pom taste, the pomegranate really made a wonderful deep accent flavor to the chocolate. To give you a better idea of how this melts in your mouth... take a look at this shot...
And now, the macarons.
This was my first attempt at the quickly becoming legendary cookie treat that is sweeping the nation. From reading other blogger tales, I got very lucky my first time out. OR, I armed myself with a detailed explanation of how they should work, and how they can become accessible for the home cook. There are several top sites, but I am going to recommend the Queen of Macarons, Ms. Humble from the Not So Humble blog. Ms. Humble did a post titled Macaron 101: French Meringue. Honestly, do not attempt these without reading her post.
So, macarons are a wonderful almond based cookie. The unique shape and look comes from the egg whites used to form the batter. A few brave souls make the attempt to make these at home, but hunting down a professionally made macaron is worth the effort.
The taste of the cookie is flavored with the center. Usually a buttercream frosting flavored with any number of varieties of tastes. I chose a thick Pomegranate Chocolate center. Think just slightly more liquid than a fudge.
I followed the basic recipe for the Macaron cookie that Ms. Humble had in her post... Again, don't try this at home without reading her very detailed post...
Ms. Humble's Scatter Plot Macarons
yields 50 (100 shells) macarons (feel free to divide it for fewer cookies)
120g almond meal
200g powdered sugar
100g egg whites
30-35g granulated sugar
food coloring gel
Line 2-3 heavy gauge aluminum baking sheets with parchment or silicone liners (more on this below). Prep a piping bag with a round tip (I use a Ateco #11 for most of my macs, though I'll occasionally use a #804 for larger macarons). I place the bag into a tall drinking glass (or stout glass) and cuff the bag's opening over the top, this makes the bag easy to fill hands-free.
Weigh out almond meal and powdered sugar and sift together to remove any clumps. (If you own a food processor, I highly recommend blending the ingredients and then sifting.)
Weigh out the egg whites into a large mixing bowl (stainless steel or copper), if you're using stainless feel free to add a pinch of salt, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar or couple drops of lemon juice to help strengthen the whites. If you're using copper you need not and should not add any additional acid (more on this below).
Weigh out the granulated sugar. (Often I'll use homemade vanilla sugar for this.)
Begin beating the eggs on low speed. What you're doing here is unraveling the egg white's proteins (these are what will capture the air bubbles you whisk in), they're bundled up and you need to gently unwind them. A light touch does this far better than scrambling them on high speed. Once the egg whites are very foamy, begin sprinkling in the sugar as you beat. Increase the speed to medium, if necessary, and beat the meringue to stiff glossy peaks. (If they start looking grainy, clumpy or dry... uh... you've gone too far.)
Add the food coloring (for the full recipe it usually takes 2-4 drops of gel, for a half batch 1-2 drops does the trick) and mix.
Add about 1/4 of the almond/sugar mixture and fold in until no streaks remain. Continue to add the almond mixture in quarters, folding until you reach the proper batter. (More on this below)
Pour the batter into your prepared piping bag and pipe rows of batter (dollops a little bigger than a quarter) onto the baking sheets, giving them space to spread.
Tap the pan on the counter to bring up any air bubbles and quickly pop them with a toothpick.
Allow the cookies to rest on a level surface for 30-60 minutes. Until they are no longer tacky to a light touch. If you have problems with burst shells, you may need to allow them to rest longer or double stack your baking sheets to provided better insulation from the bottom.
While they rest, place an oven rack in the lower 3rd of your oven and preheat to 275-310°F (I've had the most success with about 285-290°F). I do not use fan-forced (convection) heat. If your oven tends to brown the cookies, consider placing a rack in the top of the oven with a baking sheet on it to shield the cookies. Occasionally my top element in my spastic electric oven turns on and browns my cookies, upsetting me greatly.
Bake the cookies for 16-20 minutes.
Remove the cookies from the sheet soon after removing from the oven. If they're very sticky you may need to allow them to cool a little but ideally they'll have good bottoms and you can lift them right off the paper immediately. Place them upside down on a surface to cool (I find allowing them to cool upside down prevents the cookie's interiors from settling during cooling and creating hollows).
Once cool they're ready to fill.
Now, I don't mean to brag, but if you are looking for a photo of a perfect macaron...
This is it.
The firm outer shell surrounds the chewy cake like center. The "feet" from the rising cooking process came out just like the photos of other macarons... I DID IT!!!
But, back to the Pomegranate Ganache... I needed to thicken it a bit. I just added another 8 ounces of chocolate, another 4 TBS of heavy cream and the remaining pom/chocolate sauce used to fill the cordial cups (about 3/4 cup). Melted it all, allowed it to firm up in the fridge for an hour.
And made a layer of filling between the cookies...
Little finger dessert snacks to top off my 7 course, 7 sauces meal...
And if you need a little help in learning to open a Pomegranate to get at the good stuff...
Here's how to open one... VERY neatly (So neatly, I did it over a white towel... No Mess)