Roasted what?

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In early April, TD and I went up to Morro Bay to kayak for a long weekend.  Hurricane-like winds kept us from that activity (too bad we don’t kite-surf) so we found ourselves wandering the back roads of Paso Robles (at least inland the wind was a little warmer), sampling the wine and seeing what kind of trouble we could get ourselves into.  One morning we had breakfast at a little place in town.  TD’s meal came with the muffin of the day which happened to be strawberry.  Of all the fruits I’ve baked with, I couldn’t think of a single time I’d included strawberries in the actual baking part (sauces don’t count).  This is probably because strawberries can be incredibly watery–which can make the baked-good unappealingly soggy.

However, last summer’s peach cake got me thinking.  What if one were to roast the strawberries first?   Hmmmm.  Of course, research demonstrated that someone had already thought of it several times over and I had a plethora of recipes to choose from.

I’ll tell you–if you like strawberries, you’ve got to try roasting them.  As my kitchen filled with an aroma that would drive the Purple Pie Man to violence, my imagination conjured up multiple uses for these little gems beyond mere muffins.  As you see, they shrivel a bit and the flavor becomes intensely concentrated (berry concentrated if you will).  Sort of like strawberry shrinky-dinks.

Back to the muffins.  These would be really fun to make with kids.  The recipe is very tactile and  forgoes modern equipment for fingers and simple instruments.  The batter starts with sugar and lime zest that are rubbed together until the sugar is damp (yes, we’re back to lime sugar).  The other dry ingredients are then added to the sugar mixture.

Riccota cheese, melted and cooled butter and eggs are whisked together and then added to the dry ingredients.  And here is the trick–mix the batter as little as possible.  Here we are at 12 folds.

And here at 18 folds. Time to carefully fold-in the roasted strawberries.  Eighteen–that’s all you need.  I promise.

The dough will be incredibly thick–so much so that I actually stopped and review the recipe just in case I’d forgotten any of the wet ingredients.  Nope.

These are aethsetically beautiful muffins.  The batter takes on a nice golden hue that is contrasted by the deep pink berries and little flecks of lime zest.

As I’ve mentioned before, I happen to think it’s a crime to zest a lime and not use the juice. Here, I used tit with just enough confectioner’s sugar to create a thin glaze to dress up the muffins just a tad.  This is a slightly sophisticated breakfast treat and would be beautiful at a brunch buffet.

Soundtrack

I admit that I often stack several recipes on a Saturday and power-through three or four at a time.  While an efficient use of time, it takes much of the relaxation out of the process and I often feel disconnected from what I’m doing.  The Sunday I made these I had the luxury of focusing on a single recipe.  Paired with some Hooverphonic, I was reminded of how fortifying working with my hands and concentrating on one thing at a time can be.  I need to do it more often.

Roasted Strawberry and Ricotta Muffins

Adapted from Vanessa Higgins

Ingredients:

For muffins

  • 2 cups medium strawberries
  • 3/4 cup ricotta
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 10 Tbsp. butter melted and cooled, divided
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. lime zest
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp.baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
For glaze
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1/4-1/2 C confectioner’s sugar depending on desired consistency

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Gently wash and cut strawberries into quarters. Place berries on a cooling rack, seeds-side-down over a sheet pan. Bake until strawberries are partially dried, about 45 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Increase oven to 400 degrees. Brush a 12-mold muffin tin with 2 Tbsp. melted butter. Set aside.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together ricotta, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in remaining butter.
  4. In a large bowl, use your fingertips to rub together sugar and lime zest until sugar is moist. Mix in flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Use a spatula to gently but quickly fold ricotta mixture into dry ingredients. Don’t overwork it. The batter will be thick and heavy. Stir in strawberries and spoon batter evenly into muffin tins. Bake until tops of muffins are golden and springy to the touch, about 20-25 minutes.
  5. Out of the oven, allow muffins to cool 5-10 minutes, remove from tin.
  6. In a small bowl, squeeze-in juice from the lime.  Begin by adding 1/4 C confectioner’s sugar and stirring until smooth.  Add sugar until desired consistency is reached.  Drizzle over muffins.

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