Tuscan Lemon Ricotta Muffins

Some people dream of chocolate. Me, I'm all about citrus. Lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines, grapefruit…you name it. It's true love. The scent, the flavor—from tangy sweet to mouth-puckeringly tart—the colors, what's not to love? If I could, I'd put citrus in everything I eat. I mean, I used to drink lemon juice—straight—when I was a kid so I'm not exactly shy about ramping up the citrus flavor. And it's the only scent I can stand, forget about florals. Lotions, soaps, shampoos, essential oils, the little air freshener in my car…all citrus. I even got all girly and treated myself (BIG treat) to a citrus-y perfume—Bond No. 9's Little Italy…swoon. So it stands to reason that I wouldn't be turning up my nose at the citrus extravaganza that is these lemon ricotta muffins.

I first baked these babies during the darkest days of this past blizzardy winter. After yet another night of dragging myself out of bed hour after hour trying to keep up with the snow falling on the deck—because I don't need to tell you what happens if the dog can't get through to the backyard—well, let's just say that I wasn't exactly happy and peppy and bursting with love (and MAJOR props to you if you get the reference). So I did what anyone would do for a pick-me-up on a cold, dreary, winter weekday morning at 5:00 am. I baked muffins. THESE muffins. Because when life hands you lemons…you make lemon muffins.

There are few things that give you (almost) instant gratification like a muffin can. Most go from spur-of-the-moment idea to fresh-out-of-the-oven goodness in less than an hour, and this muffin is no different. The most time-consuming part, in fact, is getting the oven up to heat (mine is especially cranky sometimes). Bright, light, moist, refreshing, with just touch of crunchy sweetness…you couldn't ask for a better muffin. In winter time, they're like a ray of sunshine breaking through the snowy gloom as a chorus of heavenly voices sings their praises. And now that spring is here shading into summer (and I'm already crabbing about the heat), they're like a cool breeze of pure happiness. (Think summertime in Tuscany. Lemons, ricotta, olive oil? Yes, please.) You want these muffins. You NEED these muffins. Now.

tuscan Lemon Ricotta Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups (7.9 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour 
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar 
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese 
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten 
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and prepare a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners lightly coated with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, then make a well in the center.
  3. In separate bowl, add the ricotta, water, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and egg and stir until well combined.
  4. Pour the ricotta mixture into the well of the flour mixture and stir until just moist. Don't overdo it or the muffins will be tough (and the muffin police will mock you).
  5. Scoop the batter evenly into the prepared muffin pan (an ice cream scoop works great for this), then sprinkle each muffin with turbinado sugar.
  6. Bake for about 16 minutes, rotating the pan if needed for even baking. The muffins are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes on a wire rack.

Adapted from Cooking Light

Notes

If you have it, use a lemon infused olive oil to turn the lemony goodness up to 11.

The original recipe calls for using part-skim ricotta but I've got a thing about only using full-fat dairy when I bake. I have no idea why but we all have our little quirks, some more than others. Whatever you use, it'll be fine.

I've made these with both store-bought and fresh homemade ricotta. Of course, there's nothing like homemade, but either way, these muffins are equally good.

Except for the first time I baked these, I pressed the ricotta (especially if using store-bought) through a sieve. I thought this step gave the muffins a smoother texture.