ricotta muffins with blueberries and lemon

It’s been four years since I last published a recipe. But every so often, I get a notification that someone new has visited or followed the blog, or someone asks why I stopped, or I visit it myself to remember a recipe (mostly because I rarely re-make things, and I’m terrible at remembering which of my earmarked recipes I ended up using.) And then I remember that I did enjoy this little project, and I think that maybe I shouldn’t abandon it wholesale.

Today was one of those days because I had extra ricotta cheese, and I thought these pancakes would be a good idea for tomorrow morning. But I can’t leave well enough alone, and since Pinterest has come into its own in the time since I last did this blog thing, I looked for other things to do with the ricotta (specifically, things that would not require morning math or measuring.) My five year old was sitting next to me, saw a picture of blueberry muffins, and asked me to “please make those.” I had everything I needed on hand, but I also had a few tweaks I wanted to make to the recipe as I was reading it, so I was off to the races. The little one helped.

This is a pretty basic recipe that uses the “muffin method” (mix all your wet ingredients together, mix all your dry ingredients together, mix it all together) but uses ricotta in the place of  yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk or milk. The ricotta – especially whole milk ricotta -is quite thick and makes for a very sturdy batter, which should not be over-mixed. Really: fold it about 10 times and walk away. Even if there are still streaks of flour. Even if there are lumps. Even if you think I’m crazy. It will hydrate itself if you just let it sit a minute.

Another thing to note about the “muffin method” of baking is that sugar counts as a wet ingredient. It dissolves so quickly in the wet ingredients that its addition to the eggs, cheese and butter gives you more liquid to work into the dry ingredients. The original version of this recipe had the sugar included with the dry ingredients, and while I’m sure it works, I was happy to have the volume of the sugar in my “wet” bowl so that I could mix the two more evenly and more gently.

Because the batter was going to be so stiff, I was concerned that adding the blueberries after I’d mixed that batter would crush them and leave me with a gray muffin. I decided to toss the berries with the dry ingredients and just incorporate them with the wet ingredients all at once. Again, this required a light hand, which had the lucky side effect of forcing me to not over-mix the batter. The end result is a moist, tender muffin with great color contrast and juicy berries. The sweet, lemony crunch from the sugar on top doesn’t hurt, either. But, really, you could do without it just as easily. But look how pretty it is with it …

Muffins - 6

Ricotta Muffins with Blueberries and Lemon
(inspired by Dorie Greenspan and adapted from Patty Price’s Honest Cooking)

¾ cup whole milk ricotta, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup sugar
Zest of one lemon, peeled in strips
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350F and prepare a 12-cup muffin pan using paper liners, baking spray, or the traditional butter-and-flour method.
In a food processor, combine the sugar and lemon zest until the sugar looks slightly damp and clumpy and the lemon is finely ground. Reserve 1/2 cup of this lemon-sugar mixture for topping the muffins and place 2/3 cup in a large mixing bowl.
In that large bowl, thoroughly whisk together the 2/3 cup of lemon sugar, ricotta, eggs, melted butter and vanilla.
In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently toss the blueberries with the flour mixture.
Pour the dry ingredients (flour and blueberries) into the bowl of wet ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, being careful not to crush the berries or over-mix the batter. The batter will be very thick and there may be lumps or streaks of flour. Let the batter sit about five minutes.
Fill the muffin cups evenly (I used an ice cream scoop and it worked very well) sprinkle the reserved lemon sugar over the tops of the unbaked muffins. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in the pan on a metal rack, then release the muffins for eating, or cool completely and store in an airtight container.

 

 

 

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