Apple, Extra-Virgin Olive Oil and Ricotta Muffins

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We Italians are very opinionated, bordering on fastidious, when it comes to cakes and all things sweet. We proudly cook family recipes that have been passed on for generations without so much of a written note and each family strongly believes to be the sole keeper of a perfectly moist cake recipe. And then, one day, only a few decades ago, we heard about this miracle cake batter, an Anglo-Saxon recipe sure to produce the lightest, fluffiest afternoon tea treat: the muffin recipe! It was love at first bite. We all make muffins now, just as proudly as we whip amaretti cookie dough. We may have swapped the melted butter for extra-virgin olive oil and, in this case, added a few tablespoons of ricotta, but the miraculous principle has remained the same: lumpy batter=moist cake.

That’s Amore!

INGREDIENTS, makes 12

2 1/4 cups of self-raising flour, sifted

1 teaspoon  ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting on top

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

2 eggs

2/3 cup caster sugar

70 ml Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

4 tablespoons of full cream ricotta

2/3 cup of milk

2 handfuls of semi-dried apples, chopped up (or 2 fresh apples, chopped up)

Demerara sugar and almond flakes for sprinkling

HOW TO

  1. Preheat  your oven to 170°C (390 F)
  2. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with 12 muffin cases or baking paper.
  3. Put flour, lemon zest and cinnamon into a large bowl. In separate bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until apple and creamy. Add the ricotta, oil and the milk, mix well, then pour the liquids into the flour, lemon zest and cinnamon mix. Stir until just combined. The batter should be a little lumpy and slightly sticky and thick. Add a n extra splash of milk if too thick or another 1-2 tablespoons of flour if too runny. All flours then to vary, according to how they are milled and to how they react to humidity, so feel free to adjust quantities to suit your needs. I always do it.
  4. Add the chopped apples and spoon the batter into the muffin tin. Sprinkle with demerara sugar and almond flakes * and bake for 2-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool at room temperature, dust with cinnamon and consume with unrepentant pleasure!

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* If you’d like to top the muffins with a piece of semidried apple, like in the pictures, make sure to cover the muffins tray with oven paper for the first 15 minutes, otherwise the apples may color too much. Remove the paper after 15 minute to allow the top of the muffins to rise evenly and develop a healthy sun-kissed look.

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1-egg, Moist Apple and Mascarpone Cake

How many of you ever suffered a sudden Sunday craving for home-made  apple cake, went to the fridge to fetch the ingredients and looked in dismay at the sorrowful sight of 1 lonely egg left on the shelf?

How can you possibly make a lovely, fluffy rich cake with just one egg? My all-time favorite recipe for apple cake calls for three!

That’s when my friend Barbara over at Sunday at The Giacometti’s came to the rescue. Her simple and yet moorish marble cake recipe requires 1 egg only because the lack of protein is heavily compensated by the generous presence of butter and the luscious mascarpone cheese, an Italian must-have in the fridge.

I twicked her family recipe slightly, adapted it to suit my need to use up a couple of lackluster apples, and, Ecco Fatto!

A moist, rich, fluffy, apple cake that required no extra trip to the shops.

That’s a Sunday treat!

Ingredients 

1 egg

180 gr -3/4 cup of sugar

80 gr -1/3 cup of soft butter

2 tablespoons of soft mascarpone (substitute with thickened cream if mascarpone is not available)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or paste

1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder

1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves

small pinch of salt

1 tablespoon of Calvados or any liquor you fancy (omit if you don’t like liquor)

230 gr – 2 cups of self-raisin flour, sifted

2 apples, thinly sliced, skin on

almond flakes to sprinkle on top

How to

Preheat the oven to 180 C, 350F.

Line  a loaf tin with baking paper.

Beat the egg with sugar until pale and fluffy. Add butter and mascarpone and whisk until well incorporated. Add vanilla, liquor, salt and spices.

Sift the flour and pour into the bowl. Mix it with a wooden spoon or a spatula until well amalgamated. Try to avoid over beating the flour, you don’t want to stimulate the gluten too much, otherwise the cake will turn out bit too dense.

Add the apple slices and mix them through the batter.

Pour the batter into the tin, sprinkle with the almond flakes and bake for 35/40 minutes, or until nicely bronzed on top and a skewer come out clean if inserted into the middle of the cake. Cool in the tin, at room temperature for at least 1 hour before slicing.

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Italian Apple and Cinammon cake

My two months in Italy already seem so far away in the past. It has only been two weeks since I’ve been back, but, as it always is, all the things you put on hold and stop worrying about when you are on holiday, come back to haunt you and to kick you in the rear as soon as you return. If, on top of that, you add meetings for a new job within hours of arriving in Sydney after an excruciatingly long flight, a family reunion in Adelaide two days later (mind you, this was great fun and we could count on an endless supply of babysitters…), two -boring- visits to the Mac Genius Bar hoping to get my laptop fixed, and two children under five both sick with colds and sore throats, then you get a the pretty picture.
This morning I decided to wake up early and start the day the right way around.  Everybody  is still asleep as I type this, and I’ve already fed my baby and put him back to sleep, had a hot bath in a quiet and calm environment, with no rubber ducks or squirting toys of any sort floating around me, and, most importantly, the cake is already in the oven and I can smell the lemon and the cinnamon impregnating the house with their sweet and intoxicating aromas.

Today is going to be a great day!

INGREDIENTS:

3 eggs, separated

200 gr (1 cup) of brown sugar

130 gr (1/2 cup) of Greek yogurt

75 ml (1/3 cup)of grape seed oil (or light olive oil, non extra-virgin)

1 teaspoon of vanilla paste (or extract)

220 gr (2 cups) of sifted self-raising flour

50 gr (1/3 cup)of Almond meal

3 table spoons of sultanas soaked for 30 minutes (or 1 minute in the microwave) in Marsala wine (or Rum)

1 table-spoon of cinnamon powder

1 grated apple

zest of 1 lemon

2 apples cut in quarters, 2 table-spoons of butter, 1 table-spoon of castor sugar

How To

1. In a frying pan, caramelize the apple quarters with sugar, lemon zest and butter for 10 minutes.

2. Whisk the sugar with the yolks until pale and creamy. Pour in the yogurt, oil, the grated apple and vanilla and mix well then add your flours, cinnamon and the pre-soaked sultanas with two table spoons of the soaking liquid.

3. Whisk 3 egg whites until soft peaks form and gently fold them into the cake batter.

4. Pour cake mix into a cake tin lined with baking paper and top with the caramelized apples and almond flakes.

5. Bake at 170 Celsius (350 Farenheit) for around 35/40 minutes

As tough as it is, allow to cool before you cut yourself a large slice…


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