Pomegranate Molasses Ghost Cookies

The Origin

I wrote a 50,000+ word manuscript in the month of November.  In order to accomplish such a feat, I had to write an average of 1667 words a day.  On November 1st, 1667 words a day seemed like quite a hefty amount, but by the time November 30 rolled around and I’d lived through a least one 7,000 word Saturday scrambling to catch up to my goal, 1667 words seemed a paltry sum.  And I didn’t do all of this novel writing alone.  My mom, as well as some 300,000 writers worldwide, also undertook the NaNoWriMo challenge.  

Stories can grow in surprising ways.  My novel, The Window of Cluttered Glass, is my first real stab at even thinking about writing any kind of fiction for at least a decade.  And, sweet heavens above, my book turned out to be so very fictional.  It’s a young adult fantasy novel, and there is another world, an extremely evil witch, souls trapped for 400 years in the unfinished stained glass Window of All Things.  Also a smart-ass bird named Jacquemo who my protagonists, Roland and Adelaide, freed from the 400 year old oak tree that imprisoned him, and a visit to the Underworld for guidance.  And I wrote this story, me, the girl who likes reading and writing genre-bending creative nonfiction the most.

The Scene

Food happens in my book, fictional though it may be.  Peanut butter and honey sandwiches, chili, and blood-soaked Wonder bread to lure the shades of the dead.  And, best of all, the freshly-baked cookies that are offered to Adelaide by what appears to be the ghost of her dead mother.  Here is an excerpt from the sprawling craziness of my first draft:

“Adelaide, look at me.  Look at me!  Your mother is not here, your mother is dead.  You went to her funeral, and I went to her funeral.  We watched her body going down into the ground.  You loved her, and she is dead.  You have to help me find a way to get out of here.”

Now that the door was closed, the only light was coming from a door behind them.  Adelaide stepped into the light.  And then Adelaide heard her voice, “I’m in the kitchen, Adelaide!  Come see, they’re ready.” It was her mom’s voice.

Adelaide walked into the lit room, and there was her mother.  She was standing in front of the oven pulling out a tray.  “Mom?” Adelaide didn’t move.  

“Of course, Addy, who else were you expecting?  Here, try one.  They’re still hot,” and Adelaide’s mom put a cookie into her hands.  It looked like a brown cookie, and Adelaide stared down at it.  And then she knew.

“You are not my mom,” she whispered at the thing that looked like her mom.  And Adelaide’s mom started to laugh.  “Oh sweetie,” she said.  And then Adelaide’s mom grew smaller and smaller, until she turned into a black cat.  

Adelaide looked down at the cookie in her hand.  It was nothing but a dried clump of mud.  She let it crumble through her fingers.

 

 

The Pomegranate

If such a ghost cookie did exist, a cookie that was offered to a girl in an attempt to gain control over her and keep her in a hostile place, that cookie would have to be made out of pomegranate.  Because it was a pomegranate seed that passed through Persephone’s lips in the Underworld and gave Hades power over the woman he lusted for.  Our winter days exist because Persephone ate that pomegranate seed.  

As I teach my students every year, the Ancient Greeks were always chomping down on the wrong food.  But unlike Persephone, Adelaide did not eat the pomegranate cookie, at least not in this draft.

I bought a bottle of pomegranate molasses last year after falling in love with a pomegranate eggplant dish at Fadi’s, a Houston area Mediterranean restaurant.  And I just opened it for the first time to experiment with using it as an ingredient for ghost cookies.  It’s really good stuff, intensely concentrated and tangy-sweet.

 

Pomegranate Molasses Ghost Cookies

You will need:

  • 3/4 pound melted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ounces pine nuts or chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a mixing bowl, combine the melted butter and the brown sugar.  Separately, beat the egg with the pomegranate molasses and add to the sugar mixture.   Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix into the sugar mixture.  Cover and chill for an hour.  Use a tablespoon to make balls that are slightly smaller than a golf ball.  Roll the top of the cookies in the pine nuts or chopped walnuts.  Cook for 8-10 minutes in the oven.  Allow to cool before eating.

 

The Revision

So, now I have 50,000 words of raw story material on my hands.  It needs to be revised.  Also, I’ve made this cookie recipe twice now, trying to solve the problem of the spreading square cookie outcome.  The cookies taste great, but they spread into each other.  This cookie recipe needs to be revised.

Tarte Citron, the Champagne of Desserts

When I was in middle school, my mother, my sister, and I went on a road trip. I don’t remember where we were going or where we were coming from, but I remember a sign on an empty country highway that announced a roadside book sale coming up in one mile.

“Mom, can we stop? Plllleeeaaasse?”

“Oh, all right.”

On this day I had my very first cookbook buying spree. I bought six cookbooks, and one of them was De Gustibus Presents: French Cooking for the Home. Twelve different French chefs create 12 different menus for 12 different occasions.

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I have cooked many of the recipes over the years. I made Jacques Pepin’s Scallopine of Turkey Breast with Morel and Cognac Sauce for Thanksgiving of 2001, the one year anniversary of my parents’ divorce. My father, the fryer/roaster/briner/experimenter of the turkey, was gone. I took advantage of the food power vacuum and subjected my family to a three course meal taken from the pages of French Cooking for the Home. Looking over my notes from 13 years ago, I remember my horror at the cost of the ingredients. It would still be quite a few years before I began the process of learning how to appreciate simplicity in cooking and life over elaborate fanfare.

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I made the Wild Mushroom Crepes for my mom’s birthday the following year. My future stepfahter and stepsisters were there for that meal, one of the last I cooked in the house I grew up in. I made a modified version of the Thin Apple Tart for paying customers at the bagel shop. And I made the Christian Delouvrier’s Tarte Citron for extra credit in my French 102 class in college. I remember sitting around the table in my apartment with my partner and squeezing lemon after lemon after lemon. My life smelled like lemons for at least a month after making this tart. I made it again last week as part of a friend’s successful green card quest celebration. And this time around, I used a juicer.

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My tart.

 

Here’s what the books author has to say about this recipe:

This is a perfectly sublime ending to a rich, complex dinner. Once assembled, the tart requires only a minute under the broiler and then an hour to set, making it a breeze to prepare.

With a juicer, it really is a breeze to prepare. Without one, the one cup of fresh lemon juice becomes a bit like one of Psyche’s more boring challenges. Like separating different legumes into piles.

The first time around, I remember Madame Roland eating the tart and saying, “Oh la la, just like in la France!” and I gave a little bow for the class. For my more recent tart, one of the revelers declared it the champagne of desserts. A slightly bigger bow. Incidentally, a brut sparkler would be the perfect thing to drink with the tarte citron.

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Tom Eckerle’s sexy lemon tart photograph from the book.

 

Lemon Tart

You will need:

½ pound frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 cup fresh lemon juice (about six lemons)

6 large eggs

5 large egg yolks

1 cup granulated sugar

15 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a light floured surface, roll out the pastry about 1/8 inch thick into a circle approximately 12 inches around. Transfer the pastry to the tart pan. Gently fit the pastry into the pan, and cut away any excess with a sharp knife. Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Preheat the broiler.

In the top half of a double boiler, combine the lemon juice, eggs, egg yolks, and sugar. Set over simmering water. Beat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the mixture is very thick and clings to the beater. *

Remove from the heat. Using a whisk, whisk in the butter a little at a time.** Pour the custard into the partially baked pastry shell. Place under the double broiler for 1 minute. LITERALLY 60 SECONDS. DON’T MESS AROUND WITH THE DOUBLE BROILER. YOU WILL GET BURNED. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.

Garnish with raspberries before serving, if you so wish. Or strawberries, or blackberries. Or fresh basil or mint.

*I made the custard ahead of time and kept it in the fridge for overnight for convenience purposes. It worked out wonderfully, so this is an option.

**Since I forgot this step and accidentally included the butter in the double boiler with the rest of the ingredients, I’m skeptical about how necessary this is.

Adapted from French Cooking for the Home.