Good Eats and Sweet Treats from My Small Boston Kitchen

Strawberry Lemon Ricotta Muffins

I’m a muffin lover, it’s a fact. On weekends, my favorite thing to do is get up late, take my time getting out the door, and then make my way to a favorite local bakery for a muffin and a coffee. Kevin says muffins aren’t breakfast – they’re like an appetizer for him, but for me it totally hits the spot. There’s something so comforting about this big, fluffy cake-like pastry, bursting with fresh fruit, smelling of cinnamon, sprinkled with sugar – any which way is just fine with me. Recently I bought some strawberries because they were on sale (and I really love sales), and intended to use them for something breakfast-related. I keep a rather enormous excel document with all the recipes I find that I want to make – far more than I will ever have time in this lifetime to make (yet I will still try) – so I went through that, and pulled out some particularly tasty sounding strawberry muffins, and settled on this l recipe from Willow Bird Baking.

I played around with the recipe a bit, omitting the walnuts, and adding lemon zest to the muffin batter. The lemon was a really fantastic touch, and made the muffins feel so perfect for a sunny spring morning. I halved the recipe and am quite certain I didn’t get all of the measurements right (as you can see in the photos… these aren’t the prettiest muffins ever), but these muffins STILL turned out just right. Extremely moist and light, with the perfect balance between citrus and sweet. The ricotta filling is very lightly sweetened, and really goes nicely with the light and fluffy muffin that surrounds it. My ricotta filling baked out the sides of the muffins and totally did it’s own thing, but I didn’t mind. they tasted too good.

I think these muffins would be great with blueberries folded in too, and perhaps some orange rind for a bit of a different citrusy twist. They’re perfect for a quick breakfast on the go, great as an afternoon snack, but really not bad any time you chose to grab one. Next time I’ve got some extra strawberries around I know what I’m going to do with them!

1/2 cup (2 ounces) walnuts or pecans (I omitted these)
3 cups unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour (I used all-purpose)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Zest from one lemon
1/2 cup (4 ounces) ricotta cheese
6 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream (I had sour cream on hand)
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 1/4 cup chopped strawberries
Kosher salt, to taste

1) Adjust the oven rack to the center position and preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 1/2-cup capacity muffin tin. Lightly toast nuts in a pan on the stove (or on a sheetpan lined with parchment paper in the oven) until they just start to smell toasted – about 5 minutes. Monitor closely so they don’t burn!

2) In a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda together to combine. Make a large well in the center and pour in the yogurt, oil and lemon zest. Whisk together the liquids and gradually draw in the the dry ingredients, mixing until incorporated. Fold in chopped strawberries.

3) For the filling, place the ricotta in a mixing bowl and, if stiff, break it up with a rubber spatula to loosen. Stir in the sour cream or crème fraîche, confectioners’ sugar, and a pinch of salt.

4) Using a pastry or plastic bag with the corner cut off, fill each muffin tin one-third of the way with batter. Place one tablespoon of the ricotta filling into the center of each muffin. Pipe the remaining batter into the cups, filling them to just below the rim (resist the urge to overfill). Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of the nuts over the top of each muffin (if using).

5) Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly brown and firm to the touch. Let cool in pan for about 15-20 minutes before inverting over a cooling rack. Let cool upside down. When completely cool, refrigerate in an airtight container until it’s time to eat! Heat for a few seconds in the microwave before eating.

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