I was so thrilled when I finally found a copy of Nancy Silverton’s pastry cookbook at Powell’s a few weeks ago. Of course, I still haven’t made the recipe I bought the book for (the incredible homemade buttermilk crackers we had at Duckfest), partly because my eye was immediately drawn to the ricotta-stuffed muffin recipe. Our favorite goat cheese vendor had fresh ricotta last week, we just had to do it. Really, could you have resisted?
The muffin batter itself was a lot like my usual muffin recipe – yogurt and oil, not too sweet. The difference was the addition of ground toasted fennel seed into the batter, a fabulous idea in itself – plus a creamy center of ricotta mixed with a bit of sour cream, that spills out when you bite into the muffin. Mmmm.
I did run into a few difficulties. My muffin tins might not have been large enough, because even after I filled them past the point I thought was wise, I still had enough to scrape into a small bread pan. The dough was much stiffer than I expected and was rather hard to work with; on the other hand, the filling did not leak at all and the muffins didn’t explode in the oven, so maybe that was how it was supposed to be.
If I make this again (probably not for awhile, as we still have most of this batch in the freezer) I may switch it up a little. The batter seemed like it had too much flour and possibly too much baking powder, and it surprised me that it had no salt. The Gothberg Farms ricotta is so fresh and tender it doesn’t really need the sour cream added in, and I think a bit of sugar, vanilla or maybe fresh herbs might be good additions. We ate our muffins with lots of fresh raspberries on the side, but you could toss berries into the filling instead. I can think of lots of different directions to go here – what would you do with this muffin?
Almost (but not quite) as written by Nancy Silverton, from Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the La Brea Bakery.
- 2 tsp fennel seed
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups yogurt
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup (4 oz) ricotta
- 4 Tbsp sour cream
Preheat the oven to350°.
Toast the fennel seeds in a small pan. Let them cool and grind them in a spice grinder or mortar.
Combine the ground fennel seed with the flour, baking powder, baking soda and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the yogurt and the oil. Mix them together, then incorporate the dry ingredients from the sides. Mix well, making sure to get all the flour from the bottom of the bowl.
Mix the filling ingredients together in a separate bowl. Grease your muffin tins with oil or butter, then spoon in batter until the cups are 1/3 full. Drop in a spoonful of the ricotta filling in the center of each cup. Top with the rest of the batter – the cups should not quite be full (extra batter can be baked in loaf pans or additional muffin tins).
Bake 25-30 minutes, until golden brown on top. Serve with berries or jam.