finding balance and a blueberry buttermilk tart

I feel as if I’ve been running a marathon, but without all of the calorie-burning and health benefits. And without the sweating.

My work-life balance has been wonky lately. When my mind drifts in the evening, I find myself thinking about work projects or emotionally-difficult patient encounters. My sleep has been disrupted with dreams of work, dreams filled with patients and their diagnoses. I’m certain my children are sensing my preoccupation, at least in some subconscious way. My five-year old has been especially clingy, refusing to sleep in his room, and Madeline is more on-edge and sensitive than usual.

Last night, after a particularly dramatic melt-down with no apparent cause, Madeline hugged me tightly, her face still wet with tears. “Can we bake something this weekend, Mommy?” she asked. “Can we bake a cake together?”

Creating balance between work-life and home-life is a daunting task. When I juggle my important roles — wife, mother, doctor, employee, daughter, sister, friend — it’s a struggle to keep from dropping one of those balls, much less all of them.

The motivating factor that helps me keep those balls in the air? Guilt.

As much as I hate that feeling of guilt, it’s the third hand — and fourth and fifth hands — in my daily juggling act.

This blueberry buttermilk tart was an effort to overcome my guilt last weekend after spending Friday and Saturday  away from my family for a work meeting and to speak at a conference. We had one remaining bag of frozen blueberries from our blueberry picking excursion last summer. The bag held two cups of plump berries, not enough for a pie, but just the right amount for this tart. I battled with the sticky dough for the crust, throwing out one batch entirely after it misbehaved. I finally used Dorie Greenspan’s tart crust method, and it came out wonderfully.

And this weekend? I predict another round of guilt-induced baking.


Blueberry Buttermilk Tart

While you can use a pre-made dough for this crust, I recommend making your own. The baked crust has a texture like shortbread – sandy and almost-but-not-quite crumbly. The method for the crust comes from Dorie Greenspan. Rather than risk the irritation that comes from watching the dough tear and stick as you try to roll it, just use this method. It works.


For the tart shell:

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) plus 1 tablespoon cold or frozen unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon ice water

For the filling:

1 cup buttermilk
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons minute tapioca
2 cups fresh blueberries, picked-over and rinsed


Prepare the tart shell:

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt a couple of times until combined. Add in the cold bits of butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add in the beaten egg yolk and process for long, 10-second, pulses until the dough starts to come together in clumps. The sound the food processor makes as it works the dough right before the clumps form will change, so listen closely. Pour out the dough onto a work surface, and knead it a couple of times, just to incorporate any loose bits that try to escape.

Press the dough into the bottom and sides of a non-stick, 10-inch, fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Chill the shell in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter the shiny side of a sheet of aluminum foil and place the buttered side down tightly over the tart shell. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove the foil. Press down any puffed up areas of crust with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the crust is a light golden color. Cool the shell in the pan, on a cooling rack.

Prepare the filling and tart:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a blender or food processor, combine the buttermilk, egg yolks, granulated sugar, lemon juice, butter, nutmeg, vanilla, salt, and tapioca. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Spread the blueberries over the cooled tart shell, and pour the buttermilk mixture over the blueberries. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the filling is just set.

The tart crust and method come are adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s recipe in Baking: From My Home to Yours. The filling is slightly adapted from a recipe in Gourmet, July 1990.

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19 Responses to “birdwatching and buttermilk muffins”

  1. 1
    Brooke — January 21, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

    Glad to hear you enjoy the birdies, too! I do the same thing. I wish I was better at identifying them! and the biscuits look lovely.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — January 21st, 2013 @ 7:49 pm

      You need a guidebook!

  2. 2
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — January 21, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

    Oh yes… the simple joys of life. Nature is full of them.

    This is such a wonderful recipe, MJ. Love that it’s just a tad bit sweet.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — January 21st, 2013 @ 7:49 pm

      Thank you, Brian. Yep, the’re just a tad sweet, and it makes them just perfect. 🙂

  3. 3
    Anna — January 21, 2013 @ 6:09 pm

    A lovely post. It’s so true that often the little things bring with them the most joy (I’m often terrible at remembering that though!). These muffins look delicious (and I have 3/4 of a carton in the fridge waiting to be used!). Do you think they would freeze ok?

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — January 21st, 2013 @ 7:48 pm

      Thank you, Anna! You know, they never last that long around here, so I haven’t tried freezing them. But please, if you try it, will you report back to me and let me know how it goes? I’d bet that they’d freeze just fine!

  4. 4
    Lana @ Never Enough Thyme — January 22, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

    Back in the summer we put up a bird feeder in the back yard and filled it with feed especially for song birds. It’s wonderful to just sit and watch and listen. I have found it so relaxing to just sit still and watch that feeder. And it’s pretty doggone entertaining, too, when the squirrels try to figure out how to get up that slippery pole 🙂

  5. 5
    DessertForTwo — January 22, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

    What a sweet story. We are quite the birders in our family too 🙂

    These muffins look great–intriguing and delicious!

  6. 6
    Tina — January 22, 2013 @ 10:55 pm

    I miss the robins. I know summer is around the corner when they return here.

  7. 7
    Kathryn — January 23, 2013 @ 6:08 am

    I really think that it is those fleeting moments that make life what it is. Sure the big stuff can be pretty good but it’s that little stuff that really makes you happy.

  8. 8
    Paula — January 23, 2013 @ 5:25 pm

    Lovely post and wonderful looking muffins. While it will be a few more weeks before we see the robins, I’m content to watch the blue jays, chickadees and morning doves that visit us every day. A few Springs back we had a robin build a nest under our deck. She had three little chicks and I’d sneak out when she was away from the next to video the babies. I never stayed long as I didn’t want to upset them but I did get some great footage that I treasure. I hoped Mommy robin would come back each year to lay new eggs but she never returned.

  9. 9
    megan @ whatmegansmaking — January 24, 2013 @ 7:11 am

    I love the simplicity of these. And lovely post – although I have to say that I don’t think I could recognize too many birds on sight…

  10. 10
    Cheryl Arkison — January 24, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

    Now I’m wistful for May, when our robins take over the trees.

  11. 11
    Di {CookTheTV} — January 26, 2013 @ 9:37 am

    Hi Jennifer,
    Checking out your site from twitter. Oh my gosh, all of your recipes look soooo good. My only regret is not having found you sooner!
    🙂 Di

  12. 12
    Anna — January 29, 2013 @ 1:14 am

    Just wanted to report back and let you know that I froze these muffins with great success (they’re so simple and delicious!). Before I froze them I split them and filled them with jam. When I wanted to eat them, I left them to defrost on the bench for a couple of hours and then I zapped them in the microwave for 10 seconds. They defrosted perfectly! Thanks for a great recipe. Also, I went one step further with melting the butter and browned it which was delicious.

  13. 13
    Erika @ The Hopeless Housewife — February 4, 2013 @ 7:44 pm

    What a lovely breakfast treat!

  14. 14
    Ashley Jean — February 11, 2013 @ 10:30 pm

    don’t have kosher salt can i use regular table salt?

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — February 12th, 2013 @ 7:03 am

      Yes, you may.

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