Chocolate Ricotta Muffins

WIN_20140731_063609 (2)The last few days, my free time has mostly been occupied by getting to know Gracie and making sure the rest of my animal don’t feel neglected. I have been living on left overs from earlier in the week. However, this morning I felt the need to get into the kitchen and make some muffins. There is just something about the smell of muffins baking in the morning just gets the day off to a good start.

Yes, the ricotta mentioned in the title is ricotta cheese. Don’t be put off by the presence of cheese in your sweet muffins. Ricotta cheese help make the muffins very moist and rich.

Today I used white chocolate chips but feel free to use any kind of chips or no chips at all. They will be great either way.

Chocolate Ricotta Muffins

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ to 2 ½ TBS cocoa powder
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup chocolate chips
¼ cup ricotta cheese
3 TBS lightly beaten egg
6 TBS plus 1 teaspoon milk
¾ tsp vanilla extract
1 TBS canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray 8 muffins cups with cooking spray. Combine the flour, baking powder, cocoa, sugar and chocolate chips in a small bowl. Place the ricotta in a second small bowl. Add the egg, beating until well mixed. Add the milk and vanilla and whisk until blended. Pour the ricotta and oil into the dry ingredients. Using a spoon or rubber spatula, stir from the bottom until the dry ingredients are all moistened. A few lumps are okay. Fill prepared muffin cups to the rim. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Sunlight Café

Meet Gracie Ann

    Warning! If you are opposed to rodents, in general, or rodents being mentioned on a food related blog. Please don’t read this post.  I’ll be back to posting recipes in a day or two.

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I would like you all to meet the newest member of my flock, Gracie Ann. Gracie is a tan hooded rat. Gracie joins her foster sisters, Artie and Beckham. The gerbil, Quincy. The birds, Squeak, Beau, Riley Jo, Annie, Daisy, Reggie, Parker, Milo, Morgan, and Ruby. I look forward to getting to know her over the next few weeks.

Breakfast Fruit and Nut Cookies

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Cookies for breakfast? Yes, please! If you are the kind of person who grabs a protein or granola bar for breakfast, these cookies are for you. A soft, dense cookie studded with fruits and nuts, it will sustain you when you are on the go.

These could be made with any combination of dried fruit and nuts you have on hand. I didn’t have oat bran on hand so I subbed wheat bran.

Breakfast Fruit and Nut Cookies

2 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 TBS butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup finely chopped dried fruit, like figs, apricots or dates
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat or oat bran
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped nuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. In a small bowl, combine egg, brown sugar, melted butter and vanilla. Stir in dried fruit; set aside. In another bowl, combine all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, bran, baking soda and cinnamon. Add dry mixture to the wet mixture. Stir to combine. Drop a tablespoonsful of dough into mounds 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Adapted From Better Homes and Garden Cooking for Two Magazine

Tips For Whipping Eggs for Cake and Merinques

I have made many angel food cakes, big and small, over the years. Here are some tips I have learned that may make you angel food experiments more successful.

1. Never use a plastic bowl to whip your eggs in. A plastic is porous so it holds on to any oils or grease which prevents your egg whites from whipping to maximum volume.

2. Rinse your bowl and beaters in hot water before you start.

3. Use three bowls to separate your eggs. One to put the whites in. One to put the yolks in. Another one to break the eggs over so if you break a yolk you only have to redo one egg. Remember even a little yolk will keep your whites from whipping to maximum volume.

4. Add the sugar and extracts a little bit at a time so as not to deflate the egg whites.

5. Your meringue is ready to put on your pie when you can tip the bowl completely upside down and the meringue doesn’t fall out.

6. To prevent your meringue from weeping when making a pie, Make sure your filling is hot and your meringue is spread all the way to the edges of your pie.

Angel Food Cake

Full size 10 inch angel food cake
Full size 10 inch angel food cake

As I write this post, my angel food cake is upside down, cooling on the counter. I can hardly wait to cut into it and sink my teeth into my favorite light, and fluffy dessert. But if there is one thing learning to make angel food cake teaches a person it is patience.

Patience while seperating the eggs because even a little bit of yolk will keep your egg whites from fully whipping. Patience to get the egg whites whipped to the soft and stiff peaks stages. It can seem to take forever. Patience for it to get done cooking and be cool enough to remove from the pan without tearing it up. Patience, patience, and more patience and I am not a patient person by nature!

Angel food cake can be intimadating because it is a very technique driven recipe. The good news is that none of the techniques are very difficult, they just take practice and, yep, you guessed it patience. Hurrying at any stage of the cake can cause a flat cake. Not necessarily unedible, just not living up to it’s full potential. Once you master the techniques you will also be able to make meringue pies and meringue cookies.

Today I am posting two recipes. One recipe for the small batch angel food cake that feeds two people and a recipe for a full sized recipe that feeds 9-12 people. You can make the small cake for two in muffin cups or get small angel food cake pan at craft stores, like Hobby Lobby or Michael’s, in their cake decorating department. You should be able to find a full size angel food cake pan at any store that has a decent house wares section.

Angel Food Cake (for 2)

  • Difficulty: Advanced
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3 TBS cake flour
4 TBS superfine sugar
Dash of ground nutmeg
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp cream of tartar

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the flour, 2 tablespoons of super fine sugar and the nutmeg in a small bowl and whisk to blend well. Place the egg whites, salt and vanilla in a medium size mixing bowl and beat with a hand held electric mixer on medium speed until the whites are frothy, about 5 seconds. Sprinkle the cream of tartar over the whites and beat until soft peaks fold over when mixer is turned off and beaters are lifted, 20 to 30 seconds. With the mixer running, gradually sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons superfine sugar over the egg whites and beat on high until the egg whites are glossy, about 45 seconds. They should form stiff peaks when beaters are lifted. Sift half the flour mixture over the whites and fold it in with a rubber spatula. Fold in the remaining flour mixture. Spoon the batter into 2 ungreased muffin cups. The cups will be completely filled. Bake the cakes for 15 minutes then drape a piece of aluminum foil over the cakes and bake another 5 to 10 minutes until the top are golden and spring back when lightly touched. Remove pan from the oven and flip pan upside down to cool completely. 2 servings

Adapted From Debby Maugans Nakos’ Small Batch Baking Cookbook

Angel Food Cake (Full Size)

  • Difficulty: Advanced
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1 cup cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
9 egg whites
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine flour an 1/2 cup sugar, mix well. Beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the salt and cream of tartar. Continue to beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Add the extracts and remaining sugar. Continue to beat until the egg whites are stiff enough to stay in the bowl when turned upside down. I know this sounds crazy, but it works. Gently fold in the flour mixture with a rubber spatula. Turn the batter into an ungreased 9 or 10 inch tube pan. Bake 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and invert the pan over a liter pop bottle and let cool completely. Remove from pan and enjoy.

Adapted From Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything