It’s been pretty hysterical in this house for the last couple of weeks as those of you who follow my Facebook page may be aware. The 21st birthday is all done and dusted, my youngest eventually made it to Vancouver and the last of the year 12 examinations was held this morning (I’m not expecting to see my son for the next day or two). Admittedly, the hysteria surrounding all of this activity was mostly on my part as looming over all of the above-mentioned I was looking at the prospect of some quite unpleasant dental surgery. (Hmm, possible oxymoron – is there any pleasant dental surgery?) Ten days ago they strapped me down in the chair, filled me full of happiness-inducing medication and spent two and a half hours doing unspeakable things to teeth and jawbones. Unfortunately the happiness induced by the magic medication only lasts as long as the surgery – after that I was on my own with antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics and what they termed a soft-soft diet. Shudder.
As much as I was anticipating the upcoming surgery with significant trepidation, the prospect of some weeks of the “soft-soft” diet was what made my blood run cold. I am, after all, very fond of food. Fortunately I am one of those lucky enough to own that most desirable genius in the kitchen – a Thermomix – so I knew I wasn’t going to starve but, even with some of the delicious and amazingly nutrient-dense drink recipes from Quirky Jo’s website, after the first three or four days of a liquid diet I was getting pretty grumpy and fantasizing about chops. I had already worked out how to maximize my chocolate intake (a girl’s got to keep her strength up somehow) but I started to wonder about cake – specifically how to achieve softness and lightness while also including the optimal amount of nutrition and my thought subsequently turned to soft, fresh cheeses and ways to incorporate them into cake.
Cheese-making goes back to very ancient times and the cultures of the Middle East and Central Asia. It’s undocumented, but the first soft cheeses are supposed to have been discovered in the bellies of newly butchered and eviscerated milk-fed kids or lambs. Eventually people worked out how to achieve the same result independently, thus bypassing the goat/lamb intermediary, and discovered that they could make a product that reflected and intensified the flavours of the fresh milk available. Making your own fresh cheese is incredibly cost-effective and the easiest of the fresh cheeses to make at home is ricotta. All it really needs is a reliable food thermometer, some fresh milk and a souring agent. If you want to make some yourself and prefer to miss out on the whole goat/lamb butchering thing you can try this simple and reliable recipe here and if you have a Thermomix it is even easier still – just head on over to this absolutely idiot-proof Thermomix method here. (You might want to linger – Helené has some wonderful Thermomix recipes on her site.) Or, of course, you could just buy it.
Once you have obtained your ricotta cheese one of the ways you might like to use it is in this recipe for gorgeously light and fluffy muffins – I was tickled to bits with the way these turned out and they were dead simple to make. I’ve kept the ingredients quite soft (as per the dentists orders) but once my teeth are fully functional I would definitely put some nuts – either walnuts, pecans or pistachios – into this to boost the nutrition levels even more. After I removed these from the oven I pierced them all over a few times and drizzled them with some syrup – I used a locally made cumquat syrup and the muffins were very quick to vanish into waiting mouths.
Cranberry Orange Ricotta Muffins
Summary: Light, fluffy and gorgeous
- 1 1/2 cups plain flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup craisins
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup fresh ricotta
- Juice and zest of 1 orange
- Preheat oven to 180C.
- Spray muffin pan or line with muffin cases.
- Whisk dry ingredients together in large bowl.
- Blend liquid ingredients separately in a bowl.
- Mix wet and dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
- Bake 25 minutes until golden.
Printable recipe Cranberry Orange Ricotta Muffins