Summer is just around the corner and that means longer, hotter days and kids running around the house 24/7 (if you are a parent). Although summer is supposed to be a more relaxed time of year it can actually be more hectic, especially if you are an adult with school age children. With the summer schedule already (or about to be) in full gear, it is good to have versatile recipes that are quick and easy to prepare and light on the palate.
Muffins are my preferred versatile recipe item, mainly because they were the first thing I learned to bake on my own as a kid. They are quick and easy to prepare, leave minimal clean-up, and have a seemingly infinite amount of flavor combinations so you never get bored. Today, I elected to work with the flavors of Italy, hence the name Skinny Tuscan Lemon Muffins. A combination of classic Italian ingredients (lemon, ricotta, and olive oil) creates a tart and satisfying muffin. The combination of ricotta cheese and olive oil make this muffin insanely moist, like a mini lemon pound cake. For striking lemon flavor, lemon zest and juice was not enough. To get lemon flavor that shines through everything else, I added lemon extract with the zest and juice. If you don’t like a heavy lemon flavor you can always omit the extract. Lastly, each muffin is finished with a heavy sprinkle of turbinado sugar to lend a crunchy textural contrast.
I highly recommend giving these muffins a try, especially this summer. They are great fresh out of the oven, at room temperature, or reheated. If you want to keep some on hand for quick snacks they can be frozen for longer storage and reheated in the microwave or simply left out to thaw on the counter to room temperature. If you elect to keep them at room temperature right after baking, make sure you store them in an airtight container and do not hold for more than 3 days (although they will likely never last that long). Enjoy these muffins at breakfast with coffee, grab one out the door before work/school, enjoy one as a sweet afternoon snack with tea, or fulfill a late night sweet craving. The possibilities are seemingly endless!
Skinny Tuscan Lemon Muffins
- 7.9 ounces All-Purpose Flour (about 1 ¾ cups)
- ¾ cup Granulated Sugar
- 2 ½ tsp. Baking Powder
- ¼ tsp. Salt
- ¾ cup part-skim Ricotta Cheese
- ½ cup Water
- ¼ cup Olive Oil
- 1 tbsp. Grated Lemon Zest
- 2 tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice
- ½ tsp. Pure Lemon Extract
- 1 large Egg; lightly beaten
- Turbinado Sugar (Sugar in the Raw); for topping
- Preheat oven to 375°. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray or fill tray with muffin-cup liners and coat liners with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine ricotta, water, oil, zest, juice, lemon extract, and egg. Add ricotta mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just until moist.
- Divide batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle turbinado sugar over batter in each muffin cup. Bake 15-16 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the muffin tin then transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool completely or serve warm.
Weight Watchers: 7 Smart Points, 4 Points Plus, or 4 Traditional Points
RECIPE ADAPTED FROM: MAUREEN CALLAHAN
PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS
ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEES PATISSERIE 2017
As Spring comes to a close and we turn things over to summer on June 20, now is the time to enjoy the bountiful fresh fruit options spring provides. Luckily, here in Central Florida, you can find white tents and loaded pickup trucks all over the sides of the roadways selling fresh, in season produce and other oddities (such as gator jerky) on a typical drive home year round. This time of year, the main produce being sold at these mini markets of sorts are strawberries. Since I live rather close to Plant City (Florida), the winter Strawberry capital of the world and host of the annual festival dedicated to strawberries, it is not hard to come by an abundance of strawberries at affordable prices. With an abundance of fresh, irresistible strawberries, finding new ways to use them is not only fun but tasty.
Strawberries (and cherries) have always been my go to topping for cheesecake. As much as I love fruit glazed cheesecakes, I do have a problem with the cheesecake to fruit ratio often found in many recipes. The ratio ALWAYS leans heavily in the side of the cheesecake with minimal fresh fruit topping. I decided this needed to be changed. Why not make a cheesecake-esque dessert that focuses more on the fruit topping over the cheesecake filling.
The following recipe is the result of such a desire I have had since childhood. With this recipe, for once, the strawberries are the star of the show. Instead of being a simple topping, the strawberries are nestled in a thinner layer of creamy cheesecake filling and graham cracker crust, allowing them to shine. Perhaps even better than the taste itself, is the fact that this dessert will not set you back a ton of calories. In fact the tart is very low in cholesterol and high in vitamin C. It is perfect to serve at spring and summer parties and your guests will never suspect it is not as indulgent as it appears.
While on the topic of parties, this is also a great dessert that can be made in advance. You can easily make the crust and filling ahead of time (up to 2 days) and then assemble the dessert the day of the party. This will help free up some time to make all of the other items you may be serving that do not have the ability to be prepared in advance.
- This tart will easily serve 10 people. If you need it to serve more you can easily double (or triple) the recipe and divide the crust, filling, and topping evenly amongst two (or more) tart pans.
- You may have some extra strawberries if your cartons managed to miraculously not have any squishy or moldy strawberries at the bottom.
- Although I chose to use a 9 inch round tart pan, you may also use an 8 x 12 inch rectangular tart pan or 9 inch pie plate.
Strawberry Almond Cream Tart
- 36 Honey Graham Crackers (9 sheets)
- 2 tbsp. Granulated Sugar
- 2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter; melted
- 4 tsp. Water
- 5 oz. 1/3-less-fat Cream Cheese; softened (about 2/3 cup)
- ¼ cup Granulated Sugar
- ½ tsp. Vanilla Extract
- ¼ tsp. Almond Extract
- 2 cartons Fresh Strawberries; hulled & divided
- 1/3 cup Granulated Sugar
- ½ tbsp. Cornstarch
- ½ tbsp. Lemon Juice
- 2 tbsp. Sliced Almonds; toasted
- Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat a 9 inch round removable-bottom tart pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Place the graham crackers in a food processor and pulse to fine crumbs. Add the sugar, butter, and water. Pulse until the mixture is moistened. Place the crumb mixture in the prepared tart pan and press into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.Bake for 10 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack.
- Once crust has cooled completely, prepare the filling. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract. Stir until mixture is smooth. Use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to spread the mixture evenly over the crust.
- To prepare the topping, place 1 cup of strawberries in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is pureed. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine strawberry puree, sugar, and cornstarch. Stir with a whisk until smooth. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1 minute. Remove the glaze from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
- Combine remaining strawberries (approximately 3 cups) and lemon juice; toss to coat. Arrange the strawberries, bottoms up, in a circular pattern over the filling. Spoon the glaze evenly over the berries. Sprinkle almonds around the edge. Cover and chill tart for at least 3 hours.
Weight Watchers: 11 Smart Points, 6 Points Plus, or 5 Traditional Points
RECIPE ADAPTED FROM: JEAN KRESSY
PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS
ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEES PATISSERIE 2016
With winter officially over and the onset of Spring, everyone naturally turns to fresh, light, and airy trends. Clothing takes on hues of light pastels and airy designs, homes become lighter following dreaded bouts of extensive cleaning, and food menus turn to the flavors of seasonal fresh fruits like the recently harvested lemon. With spring also comes the rush to reach goal weights set back around new years before summer bikini season starts. What dessert could possibly fit the requirements of all these springtime cliches??? Enter now the Lemon-Poppy Seed Angel Food Cake.
Unlike other cakes, angel food cake uses absolutely no butter or oil, not even to grease the pan. It is very light and airy with a bit of sponge at first bite. Perhaps the best cake to eat on a diet. This cake also does not use baking soda or baking powder…. but how does it get its statuesque height??? EGG WHITES… and a whole lot of them I must add. In fact this cake has a very short ingredient list. But do not be deceived by the apparent simplicity. With simplicity comes more stress to the smallest of details. That flour you didn’t think you needed to sift will lend you a dense, squat cake. Or that little microscopic speck of egg yolk that slipped into the whites while you were separating them will forever prevent you from reaching proper peaks. Without gentle care this majestically tall, snowy-white cake can turn dense, wet, and depressing. You don’t want to serve a depressing cake reminescent to the blah winter blues to a crowd of cheery guests at an Easter party.
If you are careful to follow this recipe with care you are sure to produce consistent sky-high beauties flecked with bits of poppy seeds and bursts of lemon in each bite… absolutely perfect to serve for any springtime celebration. The key you must always remember while preparing this is the volume of the egg whites you whip up so be sure to watch for any hint of yolk when separating the eggs initially. You can use cold or room temperature eggs since both will ultimately whip up to the same volume, however cold eggs will take a little bit longer and are more likely to make you start questioning if you messed something up along the way when you really haven’t. To add some reassurance that you won’t end up with deflated whites I always use cream of tartar because the acidity it offers helps to stabilize the whipped whites.
I know it may be tempting but do not use all-purpose flour in this recipe. You will end up with a cake more like overly soft bread that plasters to the roof of your mouth when you eat it. Not flattering. If your tube pan does not have a removable bottom, I recommend lining it with parchment paper. Just make sure you never grease any part of the pan or parchment. The eggs need to cling to the pans surface in order to rise high and if you grease the pan the eggs can not grip the pan and you will end up with a short stubby brick of a cake. Not cool. After being separated from Angel Food Cake since my grandmother last made it during the holidays, I can confidently say this cake is a keeper for generations to come.
Serves: 10 generous portions or 12 smaller portions
Lemon-Poppy Seed Angel Food Cake
- 4½ oz. Cake Flour (approximately 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. if you do not have a scale)
- ¼ tsp. Salt
- 1¾ cups Granulated Sugar
- 12 Egg Whites
- 1½ tsp. Cream of Tartar
- 1 tsp. Lemon Extract
- 1 tbsp. Lemon Zest; grated
- 2 tbsp. Lemon Juice; (approximately 2-3 lemons)
- 1 tbsp. Poppy Seeds
- Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 325°. Whisk the flour and salt together in a bowl. Set aside. Process the sugar in a food processor until fine and powdery, approximately 1 minute. Set aside about half of the processed sugar in a small bowl. Add the flour mixture to the remaining sugar left in the food processor and process until well aerated as if sifted, about another minute.
- With a stand mixer set to medium-low speed, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy. Increase the speed to medium-high and with the motor running, slowly add the sugar set aside earlier. Make sure to evenly distribute the sugar around the bowl and do not add it all in one spot or you run the risk of deflating the egg whites. Continue to beat until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon extract, zest, and juice. Mix until just incorporated.
- Sift the flour mixture over the whipped egg whites in 3 separate additions. Fold the mixture gently with a rubber spatula after each addition until incorporated. Gently stir in the poppy seeds until evenly distributed. Scrape cake batter into a 12-cup UNGREASED tube pan.
- Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean and the cracks in the top of the cake appear dry not wet, about 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and invert the cake on a bottle if your tube pan does not have a stand and allow to cool to room temperature upside down, about 3 hours. This keeps the cake from deflating. Once cool, turn the cake right side up and run a knife around the edges of the pan. Invert the pan on a platter & serve.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
PHOTOGRAPHY & STAGING: PETER MENDOROS
ALL REMAINING CONTENT © HONEYBEE’S PATISSERIE 2014