May 10, 2011

Brown Butter Ricotta Muffins

As we've mentioned, we've been really into fresh ricotta recently, and when we get some to toss with pasta and broccoli or to spread on toasted bread with fava beans we often have a bit left over. This, of course, is not really a problem, but it is kind of a fun task to try to figure out what to do with the extra ricotta. This was the situation we were in going into this weekend - extra ricotta! What should we make?

We had some friends over for brunch Sunday morning. It was not intended to be a Mother's Day brunch; this just happened to be the day when everyone was available, and none of this group has a mother living nearby. However, one of our friends is in the early stages of motherhood, with her son due in a couple of months, so we celebrated her this morning with  a cauliflower and caramelized onion tart, lots of the fresh berries that they're practically giving away at the market these days, excellent bagels made by one of our friends, and...something with ricotta.

What we came up with definitely walks the fine line between breakfast and dessert, and to be honest they probably fall more on the dessert side of things. Actually, they seem like they should be called tea cakes - they're the perfect little afternoon sweet, but if you choose to have these with your coffee before work, we won't judge you. We made mini muffins because we just got a mini muffin tin, which is one of those things that I realize is not really that practical but that I just really wanted, and Michael humored me and got one for me a couple of weeks ago. When it came to the recipe, we wanted the focus of the muffin to be the fluffy texture and sweet taste imparted by the ricotta, so we kept them pretty simple. We couldn't resist adding brown butter, though, since we figured the nutty flavor would really come through in such a simple base batter. We also added some currants, because we like how they add a little tiny burst of sweetness without overwhelming. This recipe seems ripe for experimentation, though - these little muffins could be the vehicle for all sorts of deliciousness, so have fun with these. 

Brown Butter Ricotta Mini Muffins (makes 24 mini muffins - and, we imagine, 12 full sized muffins)
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Ricotta Berry Muffins

- 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) butter
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 cup fresh ricotta
- 2 cups flour
- 2  tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup currants

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease your muffin tins, if they are not nonstick.

First, brown the butter: put it in a medium saucepan over medium heat (you will have an easier time seeing when the butter is done if you have a light colored pan). Melt the butter and cook until you can see that the solids have separated (they will look like little white flecks on the bottom of the pan) and turned golden brown. You will know for sure that it's done because you'll start smelling the brown butter. Quickly pour the butter into a medium sized bowl to keep it from cooking further and burning. Let it cool a few minutes.

Add the vegetable oil to the bowl with the butter, then whisk in the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing completely after each addition. Stir in the milk, vanilla, and lemon juice, then add the ricotta and mix well.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just incorporated, being careful not to over mix. Fold in the currants.

Distribute the batter into the muffin tins, filling them just to the top. Bake at 400 for 15 - 20 minutes, until the muffins are golden brown around edges, the tops are set, and a tester comes out clean (if you are baking full sized muffins, increase the bake time to 20 - 25 minutes).


  1. yum! these just scream "spring" to me. Breakfast, dessert, midnight snack... I think they pass any of those tests :)

  2. I think we ate some of this batch for every one of those options!