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Pomegranate molasses: An easy way to get the flavor

| Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2009

Once the province of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking, pomegranate molasses recently has found its way onto television and into a growing number of supermarkets.

The thick, garnet-purple syrup made by boiling down the fruit's bright red kernels packs all the pomegranate's punch but none of its hassles. Sometimes called pomegranate concentrate, it's a tart go-to item for glazes, marinades, salad dressings, even baking.

It's also a convenient way to include the pomegranate's symbolism — and flavor — in holiday celebrations. In Judaism, the pomegranate is sometimes said to have 613 seeds, representing the mitzvahs of the Torah and making it a symbol of righteousness. The fruit is an integral part of celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year that arrives Sept. 18.

But many people find digging the seeds from the fruit a bother.

"As a seeded fruit, it's problematic, but if you use the syrup then you've got an ingredient that brings you the theme flavor and the theme fruit," says Marcy Goldman, an expert on Jewish baking. "You only need a little to go a long way in recipes. It's a very emphatic flavor."

And one that may make it the new balsamic for fashionable cooks. Television barbecue guru Bobby Flay glazes turkey with it. Food Network celebrity Alton Brown even has a recipe for making it at home.

Cortas Canning & Refrigerating, a Beirut-based producer of pomegranate molasses, has seen its North American business double during the last five years, with sales of about 70,000 10-ounce bottles in 2008, says Cortas USA spokeswoman Linda Cortas.

Even more is sold to manufacturers who buy it in 25-gallon containers for ice cream and other products, she says. The family-run company makes its molasses with fresh pomegranates, and Cortas says the surge in demand has sometimes cleaned out supply before the new pomegranate season arrives.

"Five years ago we started running out before the new season," Cortas says. "We've upped it every year by 10 or 20 percent and we still get very close to running out before the new season."

Pomegranate and Sour Cherry Mandelbrot

This recipe was adapted from Marcy Goldman's "A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking: 10th Anniversary Edition" (Whitecap Books, 2009).

• 1/2 cup vegetable oil

• 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses

• 3 tablespoons honey

• 1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 3 eggs, lightly beaten

• 3 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder

• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

• 1 cup walnut halves

• 3/4 cup dried sour cherries, plumped in warm water, then drained and patted dry

• 1 egg white, beaten

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium-size bowl, Whisk together the oil, pomegranate molasses, honey, sugar and vanilla. Whisk in the beaten whole eggs. Stir in the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, walnut halves and dried cherries.

Spoon out 2 rows of the dough about 8 inches by 3 or 4 inches wide. Brush the top with the egg white, then sprinkle with sugar.

Bake until the top of the dough seems firm and dry, for about 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce heat to 300 degrees.

Carefully slide the mandelbrot off the baking sheet and cut them crosswise into slices 3/4 inch thick. Place a wire cooling wrack over the baking sheet, then arrange the mandelbrot slices on it. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, or until crisp and dry.

Makes 2 dozen.

Nutrition information per serving: 188 calories (71 calories from fat), 8 grams fat (1 grams saturated, 0 trans fats), 31 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams protein, 27 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram dietary fiber, 73 milligrams sodium.

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