In a couple of days it will be my birthday. It’s never a big to-do. About 1 out of every 365 people share this day with me, right? That’s almost 20 million of us, so the day is not exactly mine. However, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I get just a little giddy inside as the day approaches. Shhh…don’t tell anyone.
It’s not about gifts since my birthday hasn’t been celebrated with a party since I was a wee girl, though my friends and family have created wonderful birthday memories for me by remembering with a card, a phone call, or an email despite their busy lives. These days, my husband and I escape for a day or two to the same place, stay in the same hotel and for a few years even dined at the same restaurant. Yes, it’s the people who remember that make my birthday so special. I’m very lucky.
But the big event comes shortly after, the one I’m most thankful for: Christmas. For this girl who’s prone to tradition, this time of year is full of them. It’s the one time a year that my husband will go to church with me (Christmas Eve), a joy-filled hour followed by a party thrown by our close friends. It is our friends’ non-Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve party. The food is always crab and pasta (and many other dishes) while the main event is a white elephant gift exchange (theme changes each year) that brings out good-hearted competition. Who can snag the best gift of the evening? There’s always one. It’s a wine-filled, love-and-laughter-abundant evening. Despite our friends’ attempts to make this a non-traditional holiday event, it’s become just that for all of us who anticipate its arrival every year.
Then comes Christmas morning. My husband and I have our own gift exchange as we sit next to the tree with its hodge podge of ornaments. It’s quiet time we spend together before heading to my parents’ home for a higher-decibeled celebration with the crazy bunch that I lovingly call my family. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
One of my contributions to the festivities is typically dessert. I try to make a different one every year, so I have fun scouring cookbooks and the web for new recipes to try.
This year, I had a special ingredient to use. I was the lucky recipient of homemade sea salt from Linda of Salty Seattle. I’m sure you’ve seen her fabulous blog but just in case you missed her salt-making post, here it is.
I wanted to mix sweet with salty. I wanted to make caramel. This recipe at Saveur would be perfect, I thought, and indeed it was. It’s no surprise that chocolate and caramel are wonderful together but the mingling of textures–firm crust, liquid amber and silky ganache up the overall experience.
But can you guess what took this tart over the top? A sprinkling of Linda’s sea salt pulled the caramel out of secondary position against the double-chocolate punch of the crust and the ganache. The caramel is no wallflower here. It shines thanks to its salty partner and I think my search for this year’s holiday dessert starts and stops here.
You will find the recipe here. It is Saveur’s tweaked version of the Claudia Fleming original (Gramercy Tavern). I have never tasted Ms. Fleming’s version but I can’t imagine Saveur changing it enough to compromise the integrity of the original. If you decide to make this tart, I urge you to make note of some minor hiccups I encountered along the way:
- I didn’t read the instructions ahead of time and this tart requires two separate 4-5 hour chill times. This is why this post comes later than I intended.
- I don’t have an nine-inch tart pan, I have everything but. So instead of one tart, I used an 8-, 4- and a 3-inch (brioche tin, actually). In hindsight, my 10-inch pan might have worked.
- I didn’t have creme fraiche. The recipe only called for 1 tablespoon so I substituted with plain, non-fat yogurt. It created a few tiny lumps in the caramel so I just used a strainer to remove them as I poured into the cooled crust.
- For some reason, my ganache didn’t come out as smooth as all the others I’ve made in the past. The finished product suffered no adverse effects but I’ll be more careful next time.
- I planned to take a picture of all three tarts and post here but my husband discovered them in the refrigerator. I think I will have to resort to leaving him “Do Not Touch!” notes. Here’s the trio before the ganache was added and before my husband got his hands on the smaller two.