Dark Chocolate Tahini Caramel Tart
I hope you’ll excuse my absence here but I thought you should know, I had a baby! So many things to say about the last six weeks with her that I’m sorry I didn’t come here sooner, if only to document it as a journal entry of sort. The beginning days with a newborn melt together they feel unending, days and nights are irrelevant and the return to normalcy is a vague hope. But now that I have a semblance of order (just a semblance, chaos is thankfully, blessedly permanent), the beginning days with babe are starting to feel like a foggy memory. That twists my heart in the most cliche of ways because time is a thief running past me with my most precious moments. I try to stay present. I know how fast the first years of life pass. I’ve done it a few times and still yet I’m indignant at the injustice of it all. Ok let’s backtrack so I can share a little about this new girl of ours.
I knew I was expecting when a faint nausea lingered inside of me, unobtrusive but distinct. It escalated quickly into debilitating, life-is-over is-this-even-possible nausea. I didn’t eat for too many days to count and the first doctor I paid a visit to begging for relief curtly informed he does not care if I don’t eat as long as I drink. “You’ll be ok soon,” he casually promised. Soon felt like forever.I didn’t pay him a second visit. And thus began my search for a better doctor I did not find. It was my first pregnancy since moving to Israel and feeling hopelessly sick while navigating a new medical system that sent me yo-yoing from different offices and clinics was so dizzying I skipped most of the standard protocol. Eventually I got hold of the only medicine my body agrees with and the nausea subsided enough to resume life. Life in survival mode, but at least that included yogurt with cacao nibs and peanut butter. Progress.
I took things day by day, frustratingly slow but I made it to my due date. My mom came to visit from Canada. My father-in-law and his wife from Las Vegas. They were all casually hanging out, waiting for the baby to make its appearance. Conversations were often around whether it was a boy or a girl, sometimes we’d reminisce about past births, and most often we were wondering out loud when it would happen. As if she picked up on everyone’s antsy, she didn’t rush. I would get asked daily, maybe even hourly, if I feel different and if anything progressed. Nope. People had flights back and curiosity to fulfill. A doctor I went to sent me to post-date check ups and I found myself hooked up to a monitor every other day. The nurses promised it would take 15 minutes, it took 30. An ultrasound said I had too much amniotic fluids so they sent me to the hospital. The doctor on call spoke a comforting English that didn’t require me to mentally translate medical terms, but she tried to pressure me into an induction. I didn’t like her anymore. I went home, 41 weeks with baby making no plans to join us. With everyone’s advice I heard countless time before, I was pacing the malls, eating foods that were too spicy, and talking with baby in utero hoping she’d understand that I was so over it and maybe she’d like to hang out in my arms. I needed the debilitating exhaustion and nausea to disappear. Plus, I had tiny onesies and knitted sweaters in shades of ivory and grey waiting so I can finally nurture and love this new being. At 42 weeks, I doubted my own resolve to keep things natural and dragged my way to a doctor again. He was probably an alarmist but he berated me for skipping a few tests (hey, it’s this maze of a system’s fault), and sent me off with a grim prediction. I didn’t like him either. The next day, I got my blood drawn, another ultrasound done, and a new visit to a new doctor. I was 42 weeks and 1 day overdue, on the brink of tears at a hair’s breadth, and SO. DONE. The doctor looked up at me from his reading glasses after he scanned my results and in his thick Romanian accent assured me everything is fine but that I should make my way to the hospital now. I asked if I could go the next day and in typical Israeli nonchalance he shrugged his shoulders and said, “maybe, but just go now.” I figured I’d listen even though all I wanted was to curl up in my bed and accept that I will stay with a protruding belly indefinitely. My husband, my mother and I walked out of the clinic and parted ways. My mother went home to hold the fort while my husband and I stepped onto the city train, rolling a small suitcase, heading four stops away to Shaare Zedek. My mind was wandering between watching the plethora of people on the 4pm rush, wondering if I’m missing something of importance in the suitcase, and anticipating how the next few hours will play out. I didn’t feel like I was on my way to have a baby. Who takes the train to go have a baby? This isn’t supposed to be how the script plays out! Being a little on the pessimistic side, my mind was feeding all my anxious thoughts of a painful induction, a never-ending labor, a careless midwife, a potential c-section. Basically a mashup of everything I prayed wouldn’t happen.
I rolled into the L&D ward casually. The clerk took my information and handed me an ID bracelet. Things were getting serious. After waiting hours, I found myself in uniform (a bubble gum pink hospital gown) and attached to the fifth monitor of the week. The nurse promised 15 minutes, it turned to 50. Lying on my side for so long felt impossible. I tried to make conversation with my husband to numb out the anxiety of what’s to come, of what the doctor on call would decide is the best course. But mid-thoughts the contractions that I had been feeling for weeks became more assertive. Even if just by a little. Right then, my eyes widened in disbelief when I felt the baby’s twists turn into a distinct, even painful, kick in utero. I was so shocked I started laughing. Seconds later my water broke in a gush so dramatic the nurse’s reaction confirmed its amazement. And that’s when it all came into action. The contractions intensified to a point where I could no longer talk, or laugh. I got wheeled into a delivery room. My husband was trying to encourage me while I felt like there is not justice in the world and this amount of pain should not exist. I screamed, coerced, pleaded for an epidural despite my honest resolve to keep things natural. I was convinced my labor would last hours and each second already felt like an eternity. Three minutes after I got the epidural that did not work, my sweet, patient midwife (who spoke English!), helped me welcome a new life into this world. A new world into our life. Our sweet baby girl. I trembled with relief and immense gratitude for this almost-9lb precious soul.
"For You created my reigns, You covered me in my mother's womb. I shall thank You for in an awesome, wondrous way I was fashioned; Your works are wondrous, and my soul knows it very well." Tehillim (Psalms) 139:13-14
I’m amazed anew at how a tiny, helpless human can bring immense joy. I love every second of holding her and kissing the crevice between her double chin and shoulder. She has pudgy cheeks and a small birthmark on the top of her lip. I welcome the insufficient sleep at night and her piercing shrills. Between all six of us, there is always someone willing and begging to hold her, maybe even too eagerly. Call her spoiled but that’s how I like it. She won’t take a pacifier and we already gave her three nicknames. She fits right into the crew and we can’t remember life without her. She has shown me that my heart can expand to hold more, to love more. I love the gift of motherhood. I feel immensely blessed and grateful to G-d for the minutiae of the everyday and the perfectly imperfect days.
This cake has made a few appearances so far. It would probably be more if not for the fact that a dark chocolate crust layered with a deep caramel and a thick ganache is a sometimes food. It’s rich and decadent yet comes together simply enough. The caramel method is the easiest I’ve tried and now my go to technique so take note of that and keep it in your back pocket. I added tahini into it. I love the understated nuttiness it lends the confection.
You can use any biscuits you’d like for the base. Feel free to swap butter for the coconut oil.
Dark Chocolate Tahini Caramel Tart
250g dark chocolate petits beurres biscuits
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1.5 cups sugar
½ cup water
200ml non dairy cream
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons tahini (or coconut oil)
200ml nondairy cream
300g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
Maldon salt, to garnish
Heat oven to 350F. In a food processor or chopper, process the biscuits until crumbly. Mix with coconut oil until it feels like wet sand and firmly press into a 9inch tart pan all the way up the edges. Use the back of a measuring cup to get it nice and firm. Bake for 10 minutes to set. Remove and allow to cool.
In a frying pan, bring the sugar and water to a boil over medium high. Boil until the sugar melts and caramelizes into a deep golden amber. Remove from heat and carefully and vigorously stir in the cream. Wear a glove since it’ll steam and splatter. Continue stirring until well incorporated. Mix in the salt and tahini. Set aside to cool slightly. Pour the caramel over the crust. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
Pour cream into a small saucepan and heat over medium high. When the sides start to bubble and the cream is hot but not boiling, add in the chocolate. Remove from heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir until the chocolate has melted into the cream. Carefully pour over the caramel and smooth out the top. Sprinkle Maldon salt. Return to the refrigerator to set for at least an hour. .
Store the cake in the fridge, covered, for up to 10 days.