time for baking: nectarine buttermilk tart

“Is there anything special you want to do this weekend?” my husband asked. It was Friday night, sometime after our dinner out with the kids at the neighborhood pizza place.

“Just bake. I just want time to bake,” I said. “And maybe do some writing.”

I think this is my request nearly every weekend. Other than spending time with Sam and the kids – even if all we do is go on walks or read or watch a movie together – having a couple of hours in the kitchen and some time at my computer is all I require to have a smile on my face when Sunday evening rolls around.

nectarine buttermilk tart | the merry gourmet

My wish was granted this weekend.

I’ve had tarts on my mind for the last few months. It started when I baked Dorie Greenspan’s whole lemon tart (from my favorite baking reference, Dorie’s Baking: From My Home to Yours) for a dinner party around Christmas. I tweaked and adapted a spin-off of that lemon tart back in early February, this citrus tart. I thought that would quiet my tart-baking obsession, at least for a while, but it didn’t.

Last week I read Nikole Herriott’s post about Tim Robison’s french silk pie, and the first photo of the miniature tin tart pans and baked tart shells won’t leave my mind. I’ve been searching for tiny tart pans — not just any tart pans, perfect ones – online since. (And thanks to Nikole, I think I’ve found them.)

My Saturday started with baking, first the shortbread crust for this tart, and later, the tart itself. I love the flavors of this blueberry buttermilk tart, but since my husband balks when I suggest using blueberries in a dish, I opted for nectarines. Raspberries would work here, too, but I wasn’t willing to pay $5 for 6-ounces of raspberries, knowing I wanted 2 full cups of fruit in the tart.

nectarine buttermilk tart | the merry gourmet

On Sunday, I experimented with yeast bread. I made an enriched dough using one of Peter Reinhart’s recipes. With half, I shaped and baked a loaf of sandwich bread. With the other half, I practiced making rolls of various sizes. Using my digital kitchen scale to weigh out bits of dough, I rolled little 1-ounce silver dollar rolls, 3-ounce knotted rolls, and larger rolls destined to be hamburger buns. Not wanting to be left out of a cooking activity, Oliver got in on the action, using his tiny hands to shape and mold the small dough balls.

And, in case you wondered, six-year-olds have the perfect size hands to create small dinner rolls. They are also great as taste-testers. They are not reliable, however, at cleaning up.

homemade bread

In between all the baking, there were play dates for each kid, filled with games of tag and hide-and-go-seek and ghost stories. We did a bit of shopping – the grocery and Target shopping list kind, and the wandering-the-mall kind. Madeline debated the merits of various earrings at Claire’s and finally picked out her first pairs of non-starter earrings. She selected, as I would have at age 9, a pair of sparkly turquoise dolphins, some tiny silver hearts, and a pair of tiny black-and-white panda bears. We all sat outside together on the front porch, rocking in the rocking chairs, and we took turns using the leaf blower to scatter the leaves and the thick layer of pollen off the back patio. We read books and magazines.

I wrote a little. Not enough, but it never is.

And if it’s not asking too much, I’d like a similar weekend next weekend. And the next. And the one after that. (You get the idea.)

nectarine buttermilk tart | the merry gourmet

Nectarine Buttermilk Tart

You might think that buttermilk doesn't have a place in a dessert, but you'd be wrong. The flavors of the custard are delicate and light, and the chunks of sweet nectarine are wonderful surprises to bite into.

I used a 9.5-inch nonstick, deep fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, such as this one. If you use a wider, more shallow tart pan, decrease the baking time by 10 minutes and check carefully for doneness.


For the Tart Crust:

1-3/4 cups (210 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (60 grams) confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon cold water

For the Filling:

1 cup buttermilk
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons minute tapioca
2 cups roughly chopped nectarine (from about 2 nectarines)


Prepare Tart Crust:

Butter a 9.5-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom; set aside.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt; add these dry ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter pieces to the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely incorporated. Stir the yolk and water together; add the yolk mixture to the food processor. Process in long pulses of about 10 seconds each. The dough will start coming together after about 4 to 6 of pulses; just before, the sound of the food processor will change. Turn the dough out onto work surface and knead together a few times to capture any dry ingredients that have escaped.

Tear bits of the dough ball off and scatter over the bottom of the tart pan. Press dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides. Freeze the tart crust for at least 30 minutes prior to baking.

Partially bake the tart crust: Heat the oven to 375 degrees and place oven rack in the center of the oven. Press a piece of nonstick foil down tightly against chilled tart crust, nonstick side down. Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. If crust has puffed up, press these areas down gently with back of a spoon. Transfer crust to cooling rack and let cool to room temperature.

Prepare the Filling and Tart:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a blender, combine the buttermilk, egg yolks, granulated sugar, lemon zest and juice, butter, vanilla, salt, and tapioca. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Spread the nectarine pieces over the cooled tart shell, and pour the buttermilk mixture over the fruit. *Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the filling is just set.

*Note: If you use a wider, more shallow tart pan, your baking time will be closer to 35 minutes.

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18 Responses to “on friendships, and braised beef short ribs”

  1. DessertForTwo — February 10, 2012 @ 10:56 am

    I echo your sentiments about never allowing myself to be close friends with someone until I was older. I’ve always been really driven in school and now with my career, so I rarely made time for things like friends. When I moved to Cali for grad school, I met the most wonderful group of girls and we instantly connected. I have never had female friends so wonderful. I can’t imagine life without them. Sometimes, I still find myself holding back details of my life from them and I don’t know why. It is such a joy to be able to call a friend and discuss anything my heart desires. And it makes me light up when they call me or need me in return.

    Lovely post, as always, MJ 🙂

  2. Jenny — February 10, 2012 @ 11:08 am

    When I was growing up – I wasn’t allowed to have friends. My parents – one an alcoholic and the other with mental illness were abusive and controlling – they didn’t want anyone to “hurt” me – so no play dates, movies, parks – no anything. It took a long time – a very long time to learn how to be a friend – and now I am lucky to have many friends – those I have met and those I haven’t. I still shy away at first – but I try very hard to let people into my life. You wouldn’t think that would be true as much as I share on my blog and in the social media – I guess there I feel safe. I share my love through food with my friends and family — that comes so easy to me. I so enjoy your beautiful words.

  3. Janis — February 10, 2012 @ 4:56 pm

    I love this blog post for oh so many reasons.

  4. Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray — February 10, 2012 @ 5:14 pm

    I always love your posts so much (I’m quite sure I would love these ribs too). It’s funny, some of my blogger friends (whom I haven’t even met) have been the best support and checked on me more than my in-real-life friends during the last couple of weeks. Both varieties of friends mean the world to me–but friendship sure is an interesting thing. I think friends begin to mean more as we start to know OURSELVES better, which happens as we age. Anyways–you said it better than me 🙂

  5. Maureen — February 10, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

    What a beautiful post. I could feel the raw emotion when you talked about friends. I believe friends come into our lives and go out of it as if it’s planned — because we need them at that time.

    I’ve lost some good friends who’ve recently died and so many things trigger memories of them. Especially food. 🙂

    These ribs look so good. I haven’t made them since moving from the states. I haven’t seen them at the butcher. Maybe I should ask.

  6. Liren — February 10, 2012 @ 6:32 pm

    I loved this piece, MJ. When you open yourself to someone, whether in real life or on the screen, there is a vulnerability that can be frightening. I’ve always been the type that considers friendship something you foster for life, so the first time I drifted from a friend I took it very personally as a failure. But such is life, and we can just be grateful for the ones who are present and share with us each day. I’m so glad you had a lovely weekend and delicious meal with good friends 🙂

  7. Flavia — February 10, 2012 @ 7:26 pm

    What a lovely post, Merry. I have had several special, longtime girlfriends in my life whom I cherish very much, and they are still a big part of my life to this day. I also feel so blessed and incredibly happy to have met so many wonderful friends through my blog and Twitter (you are one of them!). When I first left the corporate world to stay home full-time, I felt very lonely. Most of my close friends are back in my home state of Maryland and the few friends I have here in Houston have busy lives and I don’t see them often. Once I started my blog and started connecting with new people who shared the same passions for food, cooking, writing and photography, the loneliness I felt faded away. It has been so wonderful to become part of such a rich and inspiring community!

  8. Jill Mant~a SaucyCook — February 11, 2012 @ 1:25 am

    I can not imagine my life without my girlfriends. They have held me up when I thought I could not go on, cheered me on through my triumphs, just listened to me when I have needed to talk, and sat and said nothing when I needed only to know they were there. My girlfriends have laughed with me until we cried, shared secrets we will take to our graves and been the “aunts” to my children that my own sister just couldn’t be. They are my life line.
    I would like to be your friend and come for braised short ribs!

  9. Gail — February 11, 2012 @ 7:04 am

    So sweet, MJ.
    Love you, too. You’re one of the best gifts I’ve received from Twitter.

    Oh, and the short ribs and grits don’t look bad either!


  10. marla — February 11, 2012 @ 9:01 am

    Friendship is a true gift, thanks for reminding us not to take it for granted. Such a comforting recipe too 🙂

  11. Macaroni Mama — February 11, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

    Merry Jennifer, this is a beautiful post. When you and Carrie grew apart, my heart was broken too. You guys were so close for so many years. By the way, your shortribs and grits looks scrumptious. Love you.

  12. Elizabeth — February 11, 2012 @ 7:59 pm

    I used to always spend New Year’s Eve with a group of good friends, but since we’ve turned into bona fide grown-ups it’s been harder and harder to get together. So glad you had the chance to share such a delicious meal with so many wonderful people (those ribs look incredible!).

  13. Paula — February 12, 2012 @ 9:33 pm

    Your friends are as blessed to have you as you them (I’m sure they know that). I think it is wonderful that your blog, your writing, has opened many doors to new people, friends and possibilities but it is you who had to keep those doors open and walk through them. I’m happy, grateful, that you are and that you are not holding back.

    Your fall-off-the-bone short ribs look amazing!

  14. Paula- bell'alimento — February 12, 2012 @ 9:59 pm

    Love these short ribs and YOU! xoxo

  15. kyleen — February 13, 2012 @ 10:34 pm

    Friendship is truly one of the best things in life. I have a best friend, whom I’ve known since eighth grade, which isn’t that long in retrospect (considering I’m only in the eleventh grade). Anyways, I hope that we’ll stay friends for a long, long time, despite the fact that we go to different high schools and that we’re most likely going to different universities in different parts of the world. It’s scary…

    This post was beautiful and it really made me reflect about the value of friendship. Thank you for sharing.

    The braised short ribs look delicious, by the way.

  16. Alyson — February 17, 2012 @ 7:16 pm

    Kyleen – maintaining friendships from a distance takes some dedication, but I have found that there are some people in life who you can always return to and pick up where you left off no matter how much time has passed. I’m 31 and have had the same best friend since I was in the 3rd grade. She never left our hometown. I left for college and never went back. She got became a teacher, got married, and had a baby much faster than I did. It didn’t matter. We are still best friends. Unfortunately, for every story like that, there are lots of people who you love for a period of time, who serve a purpose, and they leave your life for whatever reason. I hope you and your friend stay friends forever, but if not, you always have wonderful memories and if she helped you become who you are she is forever a part of you.

    MJ – I love this post. For the longest time I thought life was about how many friends you had and not the quality or depth of the friendship. I tried so hard to be friends with everyone. Some time in my mid to late 20’s I realized you just can’t spread yourself too thin and only certain people are truly worth the effort. I love and cherish the friends who love me enough to be there during the crazy times. Those friends who you really can tell anything to and not be judged. Friends are like extra sisters God sends us along the way. Our friend group went through some crazy things recently – from losing a parent to cancer to fertility issues, all sorts of “the stuff of life” – and without each other it sure would be a longer, lonelier road. Thank God for friends.

  17. Tobias — February 18, 2012 @ 4:41 pm

    I just stumbled upon your blog and can nothing but admire your open and expressive way of writing in this post and can only assume that your other posts are similar. I for now am far away from opening up that much and give so much insight into my life (which may not be the best attribute for a blogger).

    Those ribs look pretty amazing, by the way. 🙂


  18. Chris — February 19, 2012 @ 5:14 pm

    I don’t have any true friends other than family these days. A lot of close acquaintances, but not like the friends I used to have.

    The ribs and grits really rock! I love grits anyway and topped with the succulent ribs? Oh yeah, I’ll take seconds!

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