I know you will want to make these Tuscan Lemon Muffins as soon as you come in from the snow, so make sure you have some ricotta cheese and a nice lemon or two around the house. If you can splurge on a few of those organic Meyer lemons that are in the grocery now, all the better. The rind is what makes this muffin so lemony.
I have a weakness for any baking project that involves lemon zest, olive oil and ricotta. Although I don't ever recall having a muffin like this in Italy, the flavors are there, and that's all that matters.
What would you do with a platter of figs? was the question I posed to my Facebook friends last week. I found there are lots of fig enthusiasts out there.
You will need less than a cup of ricotta cheese for the muffins, so you will likely have some leftover, unless you keep making muffins every day like I did. The leftover ricotta can be transformed into a ridiculously easy dessert of Sweet Ricotta and Wine-Poached Figs, which I was inspired to make after hiking with a friend the other day.
Hiking with girlfriends has always been a great source of recipes for me. I've known Renee for a long time, but until we hiked I did not know that: a. she is a foodie and an amazing cook, b. she was raised in an Italian-American household, and still makes pasta with her dad, and c. she has a passion for ricotta which, like me, she prefers homemade, but uses so much of the stuff that she often resorts to store-bought.
Renee makes this quick dessert by mixing ricotta with sugar (not too much), orange zest, and the scrapings of a vanilla bean. She serves it with a fresh berry compote, and slices of ciabbata bread that have been toasted with cinnamon and sugar. Yes, like a cinnamon toast bruschetta!
After hiking with Renee, I literally ran home and made this Sweet Ricotta. Luckily, I have been making a lot of Tuscan Lemon Muffins, so there's always a tub of ricotta around.
My fresh fig habit is getting expensive. I'll have to switch to dried soon.
I didn't have any berries, but I did have these figs, which I had been rationing out two at a time for breakfast, atop toast smeared with ricotta. I had just enough left to make a compote to go with my new sweet ricotta dessert.
This is my idea of breakfast.
I don't have a formal recipe for the poached figs, but you don't really need one. I took the remains of last night's red wine (about 1 1/2 cups), some honey, a cinnamon stick and a few whole star anise. I simmered it until it became quite syrupy, and then added the fresh figs, and cooked them in the poaching liquid at a very low heat for about 10 minutes. I don't see why you couldn't use dried figs for this, and just poach them a little longer.
Red wine, honey, star anise and a cinnamon stick will set the scene for the holidays.
Poaching fruit in red wine and spices will fill your house with a nice holiday vibe, which will hopefully get you into the right frame of mind for all that cooking you will no doubt be doing in the next few weeks. Embrace it.
Fresh figs are delicate, so don't poach them too long or too vigorously.
Sweet Ricotta with Wine-Poached Figs and a slice of orange.
For a printable version of the recipe, click on the file below it.
Tuscan Lemon Muffins
Makes 24 regular muffins, or about 36 mini muffins.
I have made this muffin with both whole milk ricotta and part-skim ricotta, and it always turns out with a perfect, tender crumb. The original recipe from Cooking Light magazine calls for part skim ricotta, no doubt to get the calorie count down.
I have made no alterations for altitude. Next time I think I will add orange zest and vanilla, and call them Sicilian Orange Muffins.
This recipe was written by Maureen Callahan, and published in the May 2011 issue of Cooking Light.
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (8 ounces if you like to weigh)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup part-skim or whole milk ricotta
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 medium or 2 small lemons to make: 1 tablespoon lemon zest and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- cooking spray
- 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (such as Sugar in the Raw)
1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
2. Prepare the muffin tin by lining with cupcake liners, then spraying the whole pan with cooking spray.
3. Scoop the flour into the measuring cup, then level off with a knife. Place into a medium mixing bowl.
4. Add the sugar, baking powder, and salt to the flour and mix well.
5. Measure the ricotta into a liquid measuring cup, and then add it to the flour mixture. Add the water, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and egg, and stir just until moistened and all the flour has been incorporated. Don’t overmix.
6. Divide the batter between the muffin cups, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
7. Bake for 15-18 minutes for regular muffins, or 11 minutes for mini-muffins. Use a wooden skewer to test for doneness.
8. Cool, and sprinkle with a bit more turbinado sugar.
|File Size: ||171 kb|
|File Type: || tuscan lemon muffins|
I didn't have any vanilla beans for my sweet ricotta, so I used a teaspoon of this vanilla bean paste. Thick and rich, the paste smells like the inside of a vanilla bean. Ask for some for Christmas this year!