Cherry Ricotta Muffins:
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons (57 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cup cherries (fresh or frozen), pitted and sliced (If you use frozen cherries do not defrost before using). When fresh cherries are out of season use dried cherries.
Lemon Zest - The yellow outer rind of the lemon that contains the fruit's flavor and perfume. The rind being the outer skin of the lemon which consists of both the yellow zest and white membrane (pith).
Cherry Ricotta Muffins: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C). Place rack in the middle of the oven. Line 12 muffin pans with paper liners or spray with a non stick vegetable spray.
In a medium sized bowl, whisk the ricotta cheese and then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the buttermilk, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and cooled melted butter, mixing well. Set aside.
In another large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. Add the ricotta mixture to the flour mixture. Stir just until combined and then fold in the chopped cherries. Do not over mix this mixture or the muffins will be tough when baked.
Divide the batter amongst the 12 muffin cups using two spoons or an ice cream scoop.
Place in the oven and bake about 20 minutes or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. (The baking time will be a little longer is using frozen cherries.) Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
Makes 12 regular-sized muffins.
Cherry Ricotta Muffins are delightful. Bite into one and you may think you are eating a slice of Italian cheesecake. Ricotta is the surprise ingredient in these muffins. In the past I have always used ricotta traditionally; in an Italian cheesecake, a filling for cannoli, or mixed with a little sugar and vanilla to serve with fresh fruit. But that was before I found all the different recipes that contain ricotta in Mollie Katzen's book "Sunlight Cafe". She definitely opened my eyes to this soft cheese's versatility.
Besides ricotta, I love how these muffins contain chunks of fresh sweet cherries. For too brief a time during the summer months we are blessed with an abundance of ruby red Bing cherries. Oftentimes we eat them raw but you will definitely want to keep a few aside to make this recipe. As always, it is important to choose our fruit carefully. So look for sweet cherries that are dark red, shiny, plump, and quite firm and make sure there is no browning around the stems. Do not buy cherries that are soft or have brown spots, cuts, are wet or sticky, or have shriveled stems. The cherries do need to be pitted and cut into pieces for this recipe. Because cut cherries immediately start to release their juices, it is important to use them right away so they don't bleed into the batter.
Ricotta is a soft cheese made with milk and the whey that has been drained off when making other cheeses. I guess you could say it is not a real cheese, rather it is a cheese by-product. Ricotta means 'recooked' or 'cooked twice' which is appropriate as it is the second time the whey has been cooked. The one disadvantage that ricotta has is that, unlike other cheeses, it is highly perishable. After opening, it only takes a few days for its flavor to turn bitter. I mention this because ricotta is usually sold in one pound containers, so you will have leftovers.