I've always been fascinated by the pomegranate. It's such a strange fruit. I remember the first time my mother packed me off to school with one of them for lunch. We were studying Greek myths in class at the time. My mother thought a pomegranate would make an apropos Show-and-Tell item, while adding a healthy component to my standard bologna sandwich and Capri Sun lunch. I was somewhat more doubtful.
"How do I eat it?" I asked as I poked at the lurid red fruit dubiously.
"You peel skin and eat seeds," she replied patiently. "Don't eat the other parts. Very bitter."
You only ate the seeds!?! Even at a young age, something about the concept seemed horribly wasteful to me as I considered the softball-sized item. It wasn't until lunchtime, when I carefully peeled back the fruit's thin, rubbery skin to reveal row after row of juicy jewels, that I finally understood. Timid prodding loosened one of the crimson orbs, which I popped into my mouth with both excitement and fear.
Then it hit me. An explosion of mouth-puckering tartness followed by a wash of sweetness. I ate one seed after the other with relish, savoring the bursts of flavor and the crunchiness of the inner hulls. Persephone has been a fool, I decided. In her place, they would have had to invent new months to accommodate the number of fruits I'd eat.
My love for the pomegranate has only grown stronger with time, which is why I developed this recipe for Pomegranate Muffins. It's based on a Blueberry Muffin recipe from the Joy of Cooking. The moist, sweet cake and tart, crunchy pomegranate seeds create a nice contrast between textures and flavors. Please try it.
2 standard muffin tins
2 large mixing bowls
1 flour sifter
1 rubber spatula
1 large whisk
1 microwaveable dish
1 2oz ice cream scoop
2 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup sugar or Splenda
4 large eggs
2 cups of whole milk
10 tbsp Grand Marnier
2 cups of cake flour
2 cups of whole wheat flour
2 tbsp of baking powder
1 tsp salt
Zest of 1 orange
Seeds of 2 pomegranates, washed and cleaned
Melt the butter in the microwave. Add the melted butter to the first mixing bowl and slowly whisk in the milk, eggs, sugar, and Grand Marnier. Incorporate well, then set aside.
In the second mixing bowl, sift in the two flours, baking powder, and salt.
Carefully pour the wet ingredients on top of the dry and fold in using the rubber spatula. Stir until the ingredients are just barely incorporated. Do not over mix, since that will cause gluten to form and result in tough muffins. Don't worry if you end up with bits of flour here and there. They'll cook out.
Fold in the pomegranate seeds and orange zest. Stop as soon as you achieve even distribution. A few turns ought to do it. Let the mixture sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes so that the flour particles take in some of the moisture. This will result in a thick, scoopable batter that will cook evenly.
Heat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Using the wax paper wrappers and leftover residue from melting the butter, butter and flour the muffin tins. I usually do this even if I'm using Teflon-coated products for a little extra anti-stick insurance.
Using the ice cream scoop, lay a round of muffin mix in each well of the muffin tins. Divide any leftover mix evenly among the wells.
Bake the muffins for between 12-15 minutes depending on the strength of your oven. The muffins will be done once a toothpick inserted into their centers slides out cleanly. Start checking after 12 minutes. Until then, do not open your oven door unless you think the muffins are actually on fire. They'll be fine.
Once the muffins are done, let them cool in their tins for a few minutes before transferring them to a rack or clear tea towel to finish cooling. Stored in a Ziploc bag in the refrigerator, they'll last for up to a week. However, they're best enjoyed the same day they were baked.
(Makes 24 muffins. The recipe can be halved to make only 12 muffins.)
Good Eating and Happy Holidays!