hazelnut tart stacks

How quickly time flies. It’s almost 2011 and it seems everyone is scrambling to recap the year, make resolutions and create measurable goals and objectives to chart their progress and make their lives more meaningful. It’s all good but I’ve decided not to do it this year.
Why? You know how it goes. For the next two months there will be a waiting list for the treadmills at the gym. People will show up looking half-crazed, wrapped in ipods, and flip through fashion magazines while speed walking, hoping to achieve a “reality” that only exists in the digital darkroom. Come February, the gym will be empty except for me and the elderly woman who lives down the road. Sound familiar?
hazelnut tart knife
winter bridge
I think the bigger question is how do we find meaning in our lives? You know what the culture tells us: granite countertops, the latest clothes, shoes, vacations… (a.k.a. debt)
Last week I had lunch with friends – a lovely couple who by every societal standard have it all. Night after night they returned to their comfortable home and asked each other the big questions: “is this it? Is this what gives life meaning?” Finally, they came up with an answer.
Long story short, they board a plane tomorrow with nothing but 2 backpacks and head to Africa where they’ve committed to spending the next five years to working for humanitarian organizations. They are giving up all of their worldly possessions to help others. This is how they decided to bring meaning to their lives.
hazelnut tart w milk
winter river
But what if we don’t want to go into debt and we’re not up for Africa? What’s the best way to find meaning in our lives? I’ve been through many iterations of this question, especially when I was sick and in pain. My conclusion?
hazelnut tart with tins
Here’s what brings meaning into my life:
The way my husband’s eyes crinkle up in the corners when he laughs.
The feel of sand between my toes.
The sound of chocolate chips being poured into cookie dough.
Watching blue hydrangeas grow in the garden.
Pulling on squishy socks.
Listening to music that’s hopelessly out of date.
How my arm hurts if I spend too much time on the computer.
The smell of vanilla beans.
Writing this blog post for you.
The wonderful way my head feels when it hits the pillow after an exhausting day.
Being exhausted.
Tasting the first peach of summer
Just a few examples, but for me, these simple moments give my life meaning. For me, meaning comes from simple acts of living that are easy to miss if we’re not paying attention.
That’s it. So maybe my goal this year is to pay better attention. No iTunes App required.
How about you? What gives your life meaning?
hazelnut tart w chocolate
Hazelnut Tart with Chocolate and Orange
(Warning: This dessert is out of this world.)
Pate Brissee
250 g. all purpose flour
25 g. powdered sugar
110 g. cold butter, diced
6-8 tbs. cold water
apricot, peach or orange jam
In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix flour with powdered sugar and butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. While mixing, gradually add water until the dough holds together. Flatten the ball into a disc and chill at least 20 minutes.
Roll dough out to about 1/8″ thick and line tart pans. I had enough dough for one 8″ tart and 6 min-tarts. You can divide up the dough how ever you’d like. Spread a thin layer of jam on the bottom of each tart pan. Chill for another 20 min.
Filling: (adapted from Chef Bo Friberg)
170 g skinned hazelnuts
70 g candied orange peel
170 g sugar (divided into 2 bowls, 85 g each)
170 g. unsalted butter, room temperature
78 g whole eggs (1 1/2 eggs)
2 egg yolks
20 g bittersweet chocolate shaved
1 tsp vanilla extract
powdered sugar for decoration
In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts, orange peel and 85 g of sugar finely, until almost but not quite a paste.
In a stand mixer, cream butter and remaining 85 g of sugar. Gradually and gently mix in eggs, yolks, chocolate and vanilla. Do not over mix or your tarts will fall while baking.
Add filling to tart pans and spread out using an offset spatula. Bake full size tart at 350 for 35-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Mini-tarts will take less time, between 25-30 min. depending upon your oven. Keep an eye on them.
Remove from oven. Cool. decorate with sifted powdered sugar.
Chocolate Ganache
168 g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
77 g heavy cream
20 g butter, softened
Place chopped chocolate in a bowl. Boil the heavy cream and pour the boiling cream over the chocolate. Allow to sit for 2 or 3 minutes. Stir. Stir in the butter. Pour into a squeeze bottle and decorate the cooled tarts to your liking.
Have a healthy, peaceful and meaningful 2011 everyone!
Bon Appetit


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  1. Dear EL,

    It has been wonderful knowing you and I look forward to what you have to say each time, in your space and mine.

    Wish you and your family a very happy new year.

    With lots of good cheer,


  2. Kudos to your friends! They must be in a very comfortable place, financially.

    You have a wonderful list of things that make you happy. It truly is the little everyday things that are most important. Good family, friends, hobbies, even work.

    Beautiful photos and delicious tarts! They sound amazing!

    Happy New Year!

  3. El, how am I ever going to keep up with all of these incredible desserts that you are producing? 🙂 It brings me so much joy to someone you write about life from a much broader perspective. I think too often we jump onto the hamster wheel and just go before we can think about what we wanted out of it.

    I realized a while ago that what brings most meaning to my life is giving meaning to others by letting them know how special they are to me and how much I appreciate them.

    Happy New Year El! Your blog is one of my favorite discoveries over the past years.

  4. i think finding the meaning is in your passion; what you are passionate about. from there you can find alleys and roads that connect to giving back.
    sure, if i had enough mney to take care of me, i could easily find room on my brain and life to go off on a journey. who wouldn’t when you don’t have to worry about everyday struggle?
    as far as 2011 goes i wish you a happy and healthy one. being happy & healthy is key.

  5. You should visit “slowlovelife” blog… it’s all about taking time to enjoy and pay attention. I think that is what I want from next year… more slow time to appreciate what is around me. I am ever so impressed by your friends though… whoa. Happy New Year, El!

  6. I love your interpretation of the meaning of life. It’s the little things, isn’t it? Beautiful post and delicious looking tarts!

  7. Wonderful post El! How true that our lives are fulfilled and given meaning by the small things. We can add them up to something amazing! Great perspective for a New Year!

  8. This is a wonderful recipe and one I will definitely try! Meaning in my life comes from connecting with my loved ones, ignoring the dishes to go sledding with my kids, and curling up with a good book and a mug of tea.

  9. I read your post twice. I love it so much I want to remember every word. I agree with you 100%. I love making goals and then I immediately break them. This year I decided to do the same as you, to pay attention! Pay more attention to my husband and my kids. Pay more attention to my health. BE in the moment. What you pay attention to thrives, what you don’t pay attention to withers and dies. Simple. This year I’m all about thriving in the things that matter most, relationships. Happy 2011 to you and yours.

  10. Oh what a gorgeous dessert and such a great post!!
    Your right life doesn’t just come from obtaining things or having the best. As time seems to fly faster each year, I find myself enjoying the simple things so much more… especially when it’s with friends especially the one’s who can make you laugh.

    Wishing you all the best this year!! 🙂

  11. Hello, and Happy New Year to you!!!!! What a thoughtful, and dear post, you really made me ponder.

    Although I search for the best atmosphere in my house (maybe because having some control over my life makes me feel better).. but since I left my home country, I have been on that quest for a decade now, just being me and figuring out me… I’m still searching but grateful I met a wonderful man in between, and been married for just as long.

    Where is the cross bridge? Oh it’s Winter Wonderland, and I love it.

    Happy New Year to you!

  12. I love your take on life, and whenever I am here, I feel like I’m home. Each thought you write is a part of me and my life’s philosophies. Small things = pure joy … the way the kids faces light up on the first spoonful of dessert, vanilla beans, coffee, chocolate chips, bread baking, butterflies, the morning sun, the first rain, early morning mist …Have a wonderful wonderful New Year El! And thanks for the dangerously delicious disclaimer on these yummies… they’ve got a combination of my favourite flavours. YUM!!

  13. El, you’re so right . I really need to focus on simple things, breathe and enjoy life more. Lovely pics and Happy New Year.

  14. El, the tarts look delicious with a topping of “snow” powder. Just like your wintery photos .. gorgeous as always. Wishing you all the best for 2011.

  15. Beautiful sentiments, El! I, too, am not really doing the resolution/personal growth thing this year. Not in the traditional sense, at least. But I will continue to explore the simple, important things that truly enrich and give meaning to my life. It’s given me so much joy over the past year, I see no reason to change tracks now!

    Love the snowy scenes, and of course the tarts!

  16. I wrote such a long and thoughtful comment here when I was in Banff – and I could not see it when I went back to it. I thought I would check again… maybe in your spam folder? In any case… I will not write it all again, but your work is inspiring, always – and you have definitely convinced me that this recipe is a keeper.

  17. What a beautiful post, writing and photography-wise. Thanks for reminding us to focus on the really important things in life, El. Oh and your friends sound like amazing people. Best of luck to them on their journey and I hope they find the meaning they were looking for.

  18. OK, total newbie question. By “skinned hazelnuts” do you mean skinned and roasted, or just skinned with as little heat exposure as possible? (i.e. the Julia Child method, perhaps)

  19. Thanks for New Year wishes everyone.

    Savoring-they’re giving up everything. They’ll be broke and will work in places like Darfur.

    Sam- Being confused about what skinned means is understandable. If you buy hazelnuts in some markets, they’re clean. You don’t need to roast them for this recipe. I actually have a picture of cleaned, skinned hazelnuts here: http://freshnewengland.blogspot.com/2010/10/baby-pear-strudel-with-toasted.html

    At some stores the hazelnuts come with the skin on. It’s dark brown and ugly. You have to put the nuts between dish towels and roll back and forth to get the skin off.

    Needless to say, life is easier if you buy hazelnuts without skin! Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  20. I love your list of what gives meaning in life. I think for me one on my list is me and the hubby enjoying things we like, like eating the food we love. Happy New year, El!

  21. What gives meaning to my life? When my daughters are happy, when my husband and I have a day to get away from it all, when I hold my dog, Lily, in my arms, a warm shower to calm my nerves, watching the birds … oh yeah, there’s a lot of things.

    I like your list El. And I DO love watching the Hydrangeas grow, Or the Peonies coming into bloom in early June! The sound of peepers in early spring. Love that!

    Now lets sit down with a cup of joe and have a tart, okay?

  22. I would much rather eat this tart than go to the gym… Happy New Year and Happy Cooking in 2011! One of my favorite new year sentiments goes something like this – “A little encouragement can change someone’s life…” Consider yourself encouraged…Your blog is lovely and I have enjoyed reading it very much!

  23. My wish for 2011 is to ‘be present’ at as many moments as possible in my day – not too different from your wish! I don’t make resolutions for the same reasons you listed…I make new goals everyday, who needs January 1! 😉 Still, I love the immense potential and sense of renewal that New Year’s Day brings. May you be surrounded by the people that mean the most and be blessed with good health and good food this year! xx

  24. Happy New Year El.
    It’s not what you have, but what you do with what you have that gives meaning to life. So whatever your gift, be it brains, money, music,healing,words or art how you choose to share it with the world is what counts.

    Of course I love the tarts and photos.

    Looking forward to spending 2011 with you.

  25. Beautiful post, El.
    For me: evening light, first tomato of the summer, homemade ice cream, our family’s green canoe, road trips, irish coffee, old friends.

    Happy New Year; here’s to making more meaning in 2011.

  26. lovely thoughts to go with fabulous photos and great looking eats. THIS could be my place to unwind. Take care, love your blog, Keri from spitnglue.com

  27. These tarts looks amazing as do all your sweets, I’m so looking forward to making these. I have had the ramekins for a while now and have yet found a recipe to try in them until today..keep them coming 🙂

  28. I happened to come here via Pinterest some 4 years after the last comment……I love your idea of what gives your life meaning. Happily I can say I can relate almost all of them….. Life is good!!….
    I am now going to enjoy reading and baking from your blog…..thanks for sharing. xx

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