Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Crown Jewel Affair Dessert: Dark Chocolate Pavlovas with Pomegranate Frozen Custard

This is the final post in The Crown Jewel Affair, a POM Wonderful, pomegranate-inspired, dinner party!  If you haven't been following along, you may wish to go back to the Introductory Post, here, and then you can mingle your way through the welcome cocktail, appetizer, soup, salad, two main courses with a palate cleanser in between, and then back here, for dessert and an after-dinner mint.  It's a long and delectable journey!

Choosing a dessert for our Crown Jewel Affair was no easy task. My first thought was Fine Cooking's Chocolate-Pomegranate Torte. The torte is topped with a layer of pomegranate jelly, covered with a bittersweet chocolate glaze, and garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds. I made this a few years ago for our annual Halloween Party and it is truly decadent.

However, after learning of the Daring Cooks' November challenge, Rise and Shine! Soufflé!, and sharing a chocolate souffle when we went to a recent dinner concert at Anthology, I started contemplating individual dark chocolate souffles, served with a scoop of pomegranate ice cream, drizzled with a pomegranate-port reduction, and garnished with pomegranate seeds.

It's a woman's prerogative, so I switched gears one final time, after deciding I really did not want to bake souffles during the party, and chose another awesome dessert we could prepare in advance: Individual Dark Chocolate Pavlovas and homemade Pomegranate Frozen Custard. Pavlova was the June Daring Bakers' challenge this past summer, and I tried a few different versions for our New Zealand themed Concert in the Park. This was John's first choice for our party.

We adapted Thomas Keller's Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Ad Hoc at Home. For the pomegranate flavoring, I used two cups freshly squeezed pomegranate juice and one cup pomegranate liqueur, and reduced it down to one cup of heavenly goodness. We also add mascarpone cheese to our ice creams, for a boost of creamy richness.

John's Pomegranate Port Syrup evolved into a Pomegranate Port Pink Peppercorn Syrup at the last minute, when he spotted a new jar of pink peppercorns sitting on the counter.  He really is brilliant when it comes to experimenting with sauces and flavors.

Dark Chocolate Pavlova / Pomegranate Frozen Custard / Pomegranate Pink Peppercorn Syrup

Individual Dark Chocolate Pavlovas
Adapted from Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova
(Makes 10-12)

6 large egg whites
2 cups superfine sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and position the racks so you can bake the two baking sheets of meringues at the same time. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pour the egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer and, using the whisk attachment, beat until satiny peaks form. Add in the sugar, a spoonful at a time, while continuing to beat the whites, until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Turn off the mixer, remove the bowl, and add the cocoa powder, balsamic vinegar, and chopped chocolate. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in until fully incorporated.

Secure the parchment to the baking sheet with a dab of meringue under each corner. With a large spoon, mound the meringue onto the parchment paper, forming individual pavlovas about 4 inches in diameter, and gently make a shallow well in the top of each meringue to later cradle a scoop of ice cream or other filling (imagine serving a scoop of mashed potatoes onto a plate and making a little well for the gravy). You should be able to fit 5-6 meringues per baking sheet. You can also use a pastry bag with a large plain tip to form the meringues, but I like the rustic, free-form look.

Place the meringues in the oven, and immediately reduce the temperature to 300 degrees F. Bake for about 45 minutes, gently rotating the baking sheets halfway through. After 45 minutes, turn the oven off, open the oven door slightly, and let the meringues cool completely while inside the oven. Once cool, gently remove the meringues from the parchment and store then in an airtight container until ready to serve. These can be baked and stored for 2-3 days.

Pomegranate Frozen Custard
Adapted from Thomas Keller's Vanilla Ice Cream, Ad Hoc at Home
(Makes a generous 1 quart)

1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 cup pomegranate-port reduction (see above)
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 1 tablespoon vanilla paste
10 large egg yolks
Pinch of kosher salt
Pomegranate Pink Peppercorn Syrup, for drizzling (recipe below)
Pomegranate arils, for garnish

Pour the milk and cream into a large saucepan, and add 1/2 cup of the sugar. With a paring knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean, if using, and add them to the liquid, along with the pod (or stir in the vanilla paste). Bring to just below a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and let steep, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Remove the vanilla bean from the pan, if you used it. Return the pan to the heat and heat until the cream is just below a simmer.

Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and the yolks in a bowl until slightly thickened. Slowly, while whisking, add about 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture to the yolks, and then gradually whisk in the remaining milk mixture. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a clean saucepan and strain the liquid into the pan.

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl and set a medium bowl in the ice bath; have a strainer ready.

mascarpone, and stir until incorporated. Strain into the bowl, add the salt, and let cool, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate overnight.

Pour the custard into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. When the texture is "soft serve," transfer to a storage container and freeze to harden.

Pomegranate Pink Peppercorn Syrup

2 cups POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice
1 cup Ruby Port
1/4 cup pink peppercorns, partially cracked with a mortar and pestle

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 3/4 to 1 cup, 30-45 minutes. Strain through fine mesh sieve and allow to cool.

To Serve:  Place a Chocolate Pavlova on dessert plate, top with a scoop of Pomegranate Frozen Custard, drizzle Pomegranate Pink Peppercorn Syrup over the top, and scatter some pomegranate arils over the top and around the plate.

After Dinner "Mints"  Pomegranate Arils marinated in brandy

I hope you've enjoyed our series of posts highlighting The Crown Jewel Affair, a POM Wonderful Dinner Party. Hosting a dinner party is challenging and stressful, and ours would not have been such a huge success without our commendable family and friends who willingly helped with planning, preparation, menu development, cooking, serving, dishwashing, bartending, printing, decorating, photography, and videography. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for a rewarding and memorable evening.

A very special thank you to POM Wonderful for choosing There's a Newf in My Soup! as one of 100 POM Wonderful Dinner Party hosts. In accepting the challenge, I hope we've made you proud. Fresh or bottled POM Wonderful pomegranate juice starred in a jelly, vinaigrette, braising liquid, sauce, reduction, ice cream flavoring, and syrup, and fresh pomegranate arils were found floating in cocktails, and adorning every course, providing an elegant and festive touch, pop of brilliant color, burst of sweet, tart flavor and surprise crunch.

We truly broadened our pomegranate horizons and look forward to incorporating pomegranates in many more culinary creations!

The Crown Jewel Affair POM Dinner Party from There's a Newf in My Soup! on Vimeo.



Carmen said...

Pomegranate is such a great alternative to cranberry - and much easier to manipulate. Thanks, Denise, for these delicious recipes!

Pammy said...

Just finished reading all the posts from the Crown Jewel Affair and now I'm starving! Your recipe choices were all outstanding and I was most impressed by your non-obvious use of the pomegranate. Anyone can sprinkle pretty red seeds on things, but the way you integrated the arils and juice was so uniquely delicious. My grandmother has a tree that produces an abundance of pomegranates each year and I'm always at a loss for creative ways to use them. Not anymore! THANK YOU for opening my mind and filling my belly with your generous talent.