I have a confession to make: I engage in extreme baking. What is extreme baking? Well, my definition involves limited tools, only the ingredients I have on hand, confined spaces, and lots of water. When you live on a sailboat, that sort of becomes the routine. Itâ€™s a routine Iâ€™ve been out of for the past few months since Lee and I have been staying with his parents in Maine while we got our boat ready for the grand voyage South to the Caribbean. Before that though, we lived on the boat in Rhode Island all last winter, sailed down to the Chesapeake Bay in the spring and summer, and then sailed up to Maine. I know. What a life!
I wonâ€™t go into to much detail about the whole boat thing here; this is my cooking blog and this is my sailing blog. I will, however, be cooking on the boat and blogging about it because I think itâ€™s as much of an adventure as the sailing itself!
Finally, on to the muffins! After 30 hours or so of high winds, bouncy seas, and really, really, really cold everything I was ready for some good food. Weâ€™d been living on cold hot dogs, apples, and PB&J sandwiches because I was afraid to heat up a pot of soup on our pitching stove. Things had calmed down a little so I went below, dug out some ingredients, and started into a recipe that had been brewing in my head.
Pear and ricotta cheese go together like, well, peanut butter and jelly. They are perfect for each other, delicious, and simple. I often ate pears and ricotta with my lunch last fall and winter. When I saw this recipe for muffins with ricotta cheese in them I immediately thought â€œBut why are there no pears?â€. Something had to be done.
I salvaged a few very ripe pears from the house in Maine and padded them down with scrunched up plastic bags for their boat ride. They survived nicely.
I made a few modifications to the recipe I started with to accommodate for the pears and my healthy taste. I wish I knew how they would have turned out if everything had gone according to plan. There was, however, a little problem with the oven. The boat oven is tiny. It has one rack and a burner on the bottom that I have to light by hand. When I started working on the muffins the other day, I lit the stove and set the temperature to 176 degrees C, or 350 F (the boat is Finnish so the temperature is in Celsius). I mixed all my ingredients, poured the batter into the muffin pan, and popped it in the oven. The oven was probably preheating for 15 minutes before I put the pan in. I set a timer for 20 minutes and when I checked the muffins at the end of that time they were still liquidy!
The only explanation is that the oven wanâ€™t preheated when I started baking. There is no thermometer in it but I used a removable one when I first started cooking on the boat last year. After I determined that it heated up to the right temperature I stopped using the thermometer. I guess I forgot how long it takes to heat up the other day though.
I put the muffins back in, turned up the temp just to be sure, and baked them for another 20 minutes, checking them often. Then I pretty much gave up and declared them done. They were mostly done and they solidified a bit as they cooled.
Lesson learned? Use the oven thermometer! I also think the batter was a bit too liquidy. I will not rest till I get this recipe right! Next time Iâ€™ll use a little less buttermilk and probably less pear as well. The good news is, even with their slightly soggy centers, these muffins are DELICIOUS! They are cheesy, sweet, and protein packed. Leeâ€™s dad, who sailed with us for this passage, loves doughy things so he really liked these.
Lee enjoying a muffin as we approached Newport.
Sorry for the unglamorous pictures. Food photography underway will take practice.
This is also my recipe for Fall Fest, which I am really enjoying. Visit A Way to Garden to find out more.
1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons pumpkin puree (or butter, melted and cooled)
2 cups flour (I used about 3/4 whole wheat pastry – all I had left – and 1/4 whole wheat)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 very ripe pears, chopped very small
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs into the ricotta one at a time.
Add the buttermilk, pumpkin, sugar, and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and allspice.
Slowly stir dry ingredients into wet until barely mixed.
Fold in pear.
Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups with liners or greased with a little oil. Cups will be very full (you could also make more like 16 muffins with less in each cup).
Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
You might want to cut down on the liquids and/or pear. Using butter instead of pumpkin might also help. As I said, Iâ€™ll be experimenting with this recipe and Iâ€™ll post an update on my success.