Pomegranates are probably the most regal of all the fruits. If fruit had a court, pomegranates would rule while the apples and oranges danced below, trying to win approval from their ruby laden lords. (I hope you are now all imagining a lot of fruit in a room together, dressed in fancy clothing, discussing serious courtly matters... I am.) Not that I have anything against apples and oranges- I actually don't like apples that much, but I have recently found an excellent- cake-centric- use for them which you will hear more about shortly- but they are nowhere near as dramatically impressive as the pomegranate. They also don't have as cool a name... I mean 'orange'... That is laziness fruit-onified.
Which fruit does your mind jump straight to whenever you need a cake to look like it is dripping in glittering rubies? That's right. The Regal Fruit.
They also taste pretty darn delicious- made all the more delicious by the tedious extraction that must be performed every single time you crack one open. I'm not joking... they are difficult to get to, so they are at least twenty times tastier.
My grandma and her partner came up the other day and dropped off a magnificent care package filled with home-grown fruit and vegies and a tub of the family's favourite chicken noodle soup. Apart from some spectacularly gleaming purple eggplants, I was most excited about the huge basket of pomegranates that found themselves on my kitchen bench.
Unfortunately the tree from whence these pomegranates came was rather neglected over this dry summer and the fruit is sour. So sour. Scrunch face sour. So these pomegranates required some creativity; they were not for snacking.
Quite good over muesli with a drizzle of palate-balancing honey.
AH-MAY-ZING turned into a thick syrup and swirled through these dark chocolate cloud pies.
I call them cloud pies... they are actually mini versions of a French silk pie. But I like evocation and so: cloud pies. Because they taste like eating a rich dark chocolate cloud, pierced with rays of tart pomegranate syrup.
Are you imagining that? Good. Because now I will tell you how to get them into your belly. The whole endeavour is actually quite easy, and not that much of an endeavour at all. The only slightly (very, very) tedious part is juicing the pomegranates. Something I had no idea how to go about so I just got stuck in: slice those babies in half and SQUEEZE! Yes, it did look like I had murdered some crimson blooded unfortunate, yes it did take ages to make a very scant one cup of juice. But it was also kind of fun. So don't let it turn you off. (Also don't cheat and buy packaged juice- if you don't want to spend $3 on a pomegranate only to squeeze it to its death, go wandering in the suburbs near your house... pomegranates are in season and surprisingly abundant. Forage! Also this recipe kind of depends on some sourness courtesy of the fruit, which I don't think you will get with supermarket pomegranates.)
And just before we get on with making the best autumn pie ever, that will impress everyone with it's simple, dramatic beauty and amazing flavour, I am thinking you should make extra of that tart pomegranate syrup (if you can be bothered with all the squeezing). I am thinking it could be very well paired with some vodka in an autumn cocktail, or perhaps swirled through some vanilla ice-cream for a little royal drama in all that creamy white...
Now. Cloud pie. You know you want to. Here's how:
CHOCOLATE AND SOUR POMEGRANATE CLOUD PIE- adapted from here
Makes one large tart, or eight smaller ones.
(I made these into mini tarts because I have mini tart tins that I hadn't used yet and was excited about. You could do the same, or you could make one big tart, for which you will need a 25cm tart tin with a removable base.)
1 quantity sweet pastry- I used this one
60g dark chocolate
pomegranate seeds, to decorate
for the syrup
1 cup pomegranate juice (4-5 pomegranates)
1-3 tbsp white sugar- depending on the tartness of the fruit
for the dark chocolate cloud
170g butter, at room temp
225g raw sugar
1 tbs vanilla extract
100g dark chocolate, melted
3 large eggs, at room temp
2 tbsp Dutch cocoa
Preheat the oven to 180c. Roll or grate your pastry into your greased and floured tart tins and blind bake til lightly browned around the edges (check after 8 minutes). Remove pastry weights/beans and bake another five minutes (ish) until the pastry is fully cooked.
To make the syrup, cut your pomegranates in half and squeeze them like you mean it. Don't worry about getting pith or seeds into your juice, just squeeze, squeeze, squeeze! Once you have one cup (unless you are making extra, in which case you will know how much you need), strain your juice through a very fine sieve into a saucepan. Add the sugar and simmer gently away for 15-20 minutes, until thickened. I would check after 15 minutes, and then quite regularly after that, until you are happy with the consistency. You want it to be thick, but still drizzle-able.
Once the tart shells are cool, melt your 60g of chocolate and paint the insides- this keeps the pastry crisp and fresh.
To make the cloud put the room temperature- very important that bit- butter and sugar into a large bowl and, using electric beaters, beat until smooth and light (about 5 minutes). Mix in the extract and melted chocolate. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for five minutes in between each addition. This is what gives the filling its light airiness- this is where you bring the cloud. Stir in the cocoa.
Once the chocolate has set on the tart shells, spoon your filling in and swirl the syrup on top. Chill for a couple of hours before serving to set the filling and develop the flavour.
Sprinkle with your extra pomegranate seeds before serving.