Dear future self,
There is one key piece of advice that emerged from the small group discussion we had that I think is rather important for you (and for me right now as well) to hear again (and again): no one else is going to remember your embarrassing moments.
The times that your answer is totally off in left field – or you don’t even have an answer. Or the times that you start to get nervous while presenting and you suspect that there may be a slightly audible tremor in your voice. Or the times that you respond lamely or laugh at the wrong moment or make a joke that falls flat.
Maybe if it happens all the time they will remember (I suppose the flat jokes are my only jokes), but the single fleeting moments will be forgotten because, to be quite honest, they are utterly inconsequential!
No one will remember them. Except you, that is. You who does tend to run these select memories over and over in your head like a mobius strip-cassette tape… all while liberally imagining other’s thoughts to feed the part of you that relishes feeling terribly bad about yourself. You remember way more than enough for everyone.
You know what? You can probably let it go. And embarrassing moments will continue happening so often as you go forwards that your only option will be to let it go – and if you can do so a bit faster, everything will go a bit easier.
I was recently assigned to write a letter to my future self. Given that I had to write it in a certain context, I had no expectations I would end up writing anything personally meaningful. Though in contrast to a period in adolescence where my susceptibility to peer pressure meant that I could not take assignment like this seriously, now I aim for a more judicious use of skepticism, best employed for actually important things. Cheesiness on the other hand, gets a free pass – if I feel a wave of sincerity coming in, regardless of how contrived the situation is, I’ll take it!
One of the pieces of advice that came up, only briefly, resonated with me – no one is going to remember or dwell on the times you mess up. In the way of good advice, from some perspectives it’s quite obvious, a thought I have tried to remind myself about before. However, talking about it together with others made it more concrete, and not something my perpetually embarrassed self wished up out of thin air.
Here’s an exercise if you happen to be like me: try to remember all the times that other people have said something strange or made a bad joke …and probably it’s hard to remember. Perhaps you have the vaguest recollection that oh, that does happen, but you barely make note of it and move on. Which is exactly what others do for you.
Much less forgettable, or at least what I would prefer people remember about me, is this caramelized cranberry and nut tart. It’s based on a recipe I found in the smitten kitchen archives. You fold the nuts and cranberries into a caramel, press into a baked tart shell and bake it for a bit longer until the cranberries burst. I loved the idea of using the tartness of cranberries to balance out the sweetness of the caramel – and not to mention that the bright pop of red makes the tart look so festive!
I stayed fairly true to the original recipe, introducing some cashews and pumpkin seeds for a pop of colour, used my own tart crust recipe (a ratio for pâté sucrée I half-randomly made by averaging out a number of other recipes), and adjusted the presentation a bit.
It tastes how you might imagine – think nuts and caramel, like a soft praline. The exciting part is the tartness of the cranberries, which wonderfully temper the sweetness of the caramel. It doesn’t slice the cleanest, but it does feel like a bit of a messy dessert in disguise.
caramelized nut and cranberry tart
- 56g soft butter
- 1/8 tsp kosher salt
- 15g granulated sugar
- 25g beaten room temperature egg (half an egg)
- 105g flour, half all-purpose, half whole wheat
- 65g granulated sugar
- 104g whipping (36% milk fat) cream
- 38 butter
- 1/8 tsp kosher salt
- 45g (1/2 cup) frozen cranberries
- 38g (1/4 cup) cashews
- 14g (2 tbsp) pumpkin seeds
- 33g (5 tbsp) slivered almonds
For the pate sucree, cream the butter (56g) with the salt and sugar. Beat in the egg a bit at a time. Lastly add the flour and mix until a cohesive dough is formed. Note that the amount of flour can vary – I find this works best when I am working with half whole wheat and half all-purpose, but if you’re using 100% all-purpose flour you may use a bit more. Conversely, if your dough doesn’t come together, feel free to add a bit more liquid as needed. Knead just a couple of times to smooth out the dough. Roll out to around 1/8″ thick between two sheets of parchment paper, then chill completely.
Have ready a 6″ diametre tart ring that is 2cm high.
Cut out a circle from the chilled tart dough that is a few inches wider in diameter than the tart ring. Let warm up so the dough is more malleable, then press into the ring and trim off any excess. Chill completely until firm. (Alternatively, for a straight-sided tart tin, I prefer to line the bottom and sides separately. Cut out strips to line the sides and a circle of tart dough for the bottom of the ring, being sure to press the pieces together along their seams to seal.)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Dock the bottom of the tart with a fork. If you like, for added insurance you can blind bake by lining the tart shell with parchment paper and rice, but I’ve found baking weights unnecessary (and inconvenient!) so long as my tart dough is thoroughly chilled and the base is docked.
Bake for around 10-15 minutes or until dry and just beginning to turn golden. Brush the tarts with a little bit of extra beaten egg as an additional seal (and if you have any cracks, that can help seal those as well) and bake for another 2-3 minutes.
Then prepare the filling. In a small saucepan, heat the cream, butter (76g) and salt until the butter is melted. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar with a bit of water. Boil until all the sugar is dissolved, then cook until an amber caramel is formed. Gradually add the cream-butter mixture to the caramel while whisking to combine. If chunks of hard caramel form, heat until the caramel is all melted again. Set aside off the heat to cool for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F.
Stir the nuts and cranberries into the caramel. Fill the tart to the top, but don’t heap the filling or it will overflow. You may have some extras. Bake for around 20 minutes or until the caramel is bubbling around the edges. Let cool completely before slicing. The caramel is quite soft at room temperature – it slices cleanest when chilled.
Notes for different sizes: The recipe is scaled for a 6″ diametre and 2cm tall tart ring. Use double filling for a 6″ diametre and 3.5cm tall tart ring. For a more typical 8″ diametre and 1″ tall tart use a double recipe of crust and 2.25X filling recipe.