The Secret Ingredient
By Kayla Butts
Taylor Berlinsky learned to cook as a little girl at the side of her father. The spirit of her grandmother, who passed long before she was born, animated their kitchen. There was much lore in the family about her grandmother’s passion for cooking and for showing love through good food. Her grandmother, they said, fed the body and the soul.
Berlinsky grew up in Rhode Island, went to college and on to grad school, then relocated to the warm breezes and blue-water views of the Coastal Bend to establish her career. She works as a registered dietitian with Spohn Hospital and with H-E-B.
She literally treats illness with good food. Her job is to prescribe nutrition, the oldest medicine, as part of an overall plan to restore and maintain robust good health. She works with patients, physicians, hospital administrators, grocery store executives, chefs, customers, and many others to connect nutrition, flavor, and health.
But her sanctuary is cooking at home for family, friends, loved ones. She expresses herself through dishes such as this lemon curd tart and these glorious blueberry cinnamon muffins.
With these recipes, Berlinsky takes classic dishes and turns them sideways for results that are familiar but also completely new. There is an initial wave on the tongue of recognition, then fireworks as new and unexpected flavors follow – lovely little surprises.
Berlinsky has many cooking tips, such as heating the curd in a glass or ceramic bowl with a silicone whisk to avoid the metallic aftertaste of pans and metal utensils. Also, she knows exactly when the curd is done by coating a wooden spoon with curd and running her finger down the back to watch the trail.
But there is something more than these techniques that make Berlinsky’s creations so good. There is passion here; love. It must be in her blood.
Berlinsky feels the spirit of her grandmother in the oddest places: in the flour dust at the edge of the mixing board; at the precise moment, just after she puts something into the oven, when the air changes from normal-kitchen smell to baking-goodness smell; in the expression on her father’s face when he tastes one of her creations and closes his eyes for a glimmer of heaven. Her father, her greatest fan among many, tells her, “Your grandmother would be so proud.”
Read Berlinsky’s food blog at @ri_foodie and her nutrition blog at @taysty.nutrition.
Makes 12-16 muffins
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
6 tbsp butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup milk
1 ½ - 2 cups blueberries
1 tbsp flour
The Crumble Topping:
2 tbsp butter
½ cup oats
½ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a standard muffin tin with cupcake liners.
Using a mixer, cream butter, oil, and sugar together until light in color and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Mix in vanilla.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Alternate adding flour mixture and milk to the butter mixture, starting and ending with flour.
In a separate bowl, coat blueberries in 1 tbsp of flour to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the muffins. Gently fold the blueberries into the batter. Fill the muffin tin with batter.
Melt the butter. Add oats, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon and mix to combine. Sprinkle each muffin with crumble topping.
Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Inactive prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup plus 1 tbsp powdered sugar
¼ tsp salt
Zest of 1 lemon
½ cup (1 stick) cold butter, cubed
½ tsp vanilla extract
Zest and juice of 3 lemons
3 whole eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp butter, cubed
For the crust, begin by zesting 1 lemon.
In a food processor, pulse flour, powdered sugar, salt, and lemon zest together until combined(just a few seconds). You can also use a pastry cutter or your hands if you don’t have these tools. Add cubed butter and pulse until the mixture is a coarse meal.
Add egg and vanilla and pulse until the dough is moistened and just begins to come together. It should be crumbly; do not process until the dough forms a ball.
Flour a clean surface and transfer the dough onto the surface. Form the dough into a ball and flatten it slightly to form a disc. Wrap it in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to cool for at least one hour.
After one hour, remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on the counter to soften for about 5 minutes. To roll out the dough, flour a clean surface and a rolling pin, and roll the dough into an 11-inch circle. It should be about 1/8 inch thick. To place dough in tart pan, roll it loosely around a rolling pin to move it from the counter to the pan. Gently press the dough into the corners of the tart pan, making sure it fits well into all the crevices and there are no tears. Remove excess dough that hangs over the sides using a knife. I like to leave just a bit of extra dough around the edges in case there is any shrinkage while it bakes. I used a 7-inch tart pan (this crust recipe can be used for a 9-inch tart pan), so there was some leftover dough.
Place the tart pan in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Frozen dough is less likely to shrink while baking. While the dough is freezing, preheat the oven to 375°F.
Remove the tart pan from the freezer and line the pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper tightly against the crust, making sure to cover the edges to prevent burning. Fill the crust evenly with pie weights (or dried beans, uncooked rice, etc.).
Bake the crust for 30 minutes until it’s golden brown and dry. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Run a knife along the edges of the crust to remove any excess that hangs over the sides of the tin.
Make the lemon curd while the crust is baking in the oven.
Place a pot of water on the stove to simmer on medium heat.
Zest and juice 3 lemons.
Whisk the zest and juice with sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a heatproof bowl until combined. To avoid a metallic taste, use a non-metal bowl. Place the bowl over the pot of simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl, creating a double boiler. Whisk the mixture constantly until it becomes thicker. It should take 10-15 minutes. After about 8 minutes, begin gradually adding the cubed butter and allowing it to melt into the mixture. The curd is finished when it’s thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon and you can run your finger through it leaving a clean line.
Remove the lemon curd from the double boiler and run it through a sieve to remove the zest, creating a smooth finish. Allow the curd to cool to room temperature.
Once the curd and crust have both reached room temperature, add the curd to the crust. If desired, use a spatula to smooth the surface of the curd for a clean finish. Place the tart in the refrigerator to cool. The curd will thicken even more when it’s cooled.
Decorate the tart with fresh berries, candied lemons, edible flowers, powdered sugar, or any other toppings you desire.