Sunday, March 3, 2013

Post-Qual & Baking with Ricotta

Hello, good people of the internet!

I know, it has been a good long while since I've posted anything. I have an excuse, I promise. At the beginning of February, I had my qualifying examination, which basically determined whether or not I got to become a PhD candidate. Gulp. I wrote a 20+ page qualifying document and presented a 30 (plus interruptions) min talk on what I've done, what I plan to do, and why I should be kept around for the duration of my PhD. Also, I shamelessly bribed my committee by making my crowd-pleasing whole wheat cherry scones.

I am happy to report that I passed(!) my exam, and Northwestern is stuck with me for a few more years. Woo! Since then, I've been keeping busy with lots of research stuff. There's no rest for the weary!

While I was working on my qual, I developed a habit of "stress baking" where when I just couldn't look at my paper anymore, I would go bake something. My research group gratefully accepted my offerings, as you can imagine.

The most exciting adventures during this time involved, of all things, ricotta cheese. I had a bunch of ricotta leftover from a Skinnytaste baked pasta recipe because when you buy ricotta cheese, it has to be in a half pound container or larger, even if you only need a 1/4 cup. Blah. Fortunately, I was inspired to use up the cheese, which led to the two recipes below.

I brought the orange ricotta muffins with me to Bloomington, IN where I visited my friend Lindsay for a weekend post-qual. They were met with rave reviews, so you have assurance that they are delicious from a non-biased source. The lemon cookies were one of the offerings that my lab received, and the cookies I brought in were gone in a matter of hours. I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I did!

Side note: I finally joined Pinterest against my better judgement. I'm addicted. :) Click on the link above to follow me!

Orange Ricotta White Chocolate Chip Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins
Adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 orange (I bought navel oranges, so I had A LOT of zest. To me, this is a good thing.)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, add the sugar and orange zest. Rub the orange zest and sugar together with your fingers.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar and orange zest mixture together until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add the ricotta cheese and beat until smooth. Beat in the egg, orange juice, and vanilla extract.

4. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just blended. Stir in the white chocolate chips. Divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups.

5. Bake muffins for about 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden brown. Let muffins cool completely.

6. While the muffins are cooking, make the glaze. In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, orange zest, and orange juice. Drizzle glaze over muffins. Let the muffins sit until glaze hardens.

Lemon Ricotta Meltaways

Yield: About two dozen cookies
Adapted from Secret Life of a Chef's Wife

1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup gran­u­lated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tea­spoon almond extract
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tea­spoon bak­ing powder
1/2 tea­spoon bak­ing soda
1/4 tea­spoon salt
zest from 1 lemon

Lemon glaze:
1 cup pow­dered sugar
2 table­spoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Cream together the but­ter and gran­u­lated sugar in a mix­ing bowl fit­ted with a whisk. Add the egg and mix well. Add the ricotta cheese, almond extract, and the lemon juice. Blend well.

Mix the dry ingre­di­ents and lemon zest together in a separate bowl, and and add them to the butter mixture. Mix until incor­po­rated without over-mixing.

Roll dough into balls, and place about two inches apart on cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a glass covered with flour, flatten each cookie into a circle.

Bake for 14 minutes. (The original recipe only called for 8 minutes, but my cookies were raw at that time. I needed a much longer baking time, but be sure to check on your cookies periodically for doneness!) The cook­ies will begin to brown on the bot­toms, but not the tops.

Let rest 2-3 minutes on sheet, and then remove to cooking rack. Let cookies cool completely.

For the glaze:
Mix ingredients together in a bowl, and driz­zle on cooled cook­ies.

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