Monday, April 14, 2014

Lemon Ricotta

I really wanted to try and make the lemon ricotta pancakes I had at Isola at home because they were delicious and when I eat yummy things at restaurants, I always want to try my hand at recreating the recipe. I loved how incredibly lemony the pancakes were and I thought that making a lemon ricotta would be the first step to infusing extra lemon flavor into the recipe. So, I'm sharing the lemon ricotta today and the lemon ricotta pancakes tomorrow, which is kind of how it happened in real life. I made the lemon ricotta on a Saturday afternoon and then I whipped up the pancakes on Sunday morning.

Sometimes, store bought ricotta has extra unnecessary ingredients mixed in, like thickening agents and preservatives, so I didn't think just adding a squeeze of lemon to the store bought stuff would cut it, especially for the uh-mazing pancakes I was planning on whipping up. Besides, ricotta is so easy to make and it only requires a few ingredients so there really is no excuse, right? Plus, when ricotta is infused with lemon, it is awesomely delicious. Once you've scrolled down, you'll see how I just spread it right onto some bread with honey. It's been added to my (long) list of favorite breakfasts.
Ingredients [yields approximately 1 cup]:
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 lemon - zest and juice
½ teaspoon salt

*To make plain ricotta, leave out the lemon and use 1½ tablespoons of white vinegar to curdle the cheese. But honestly, the lemon ricotta is so good, I don't ever want to look at the plain stuff again.

First things first: pour the milk, heavy cream, and salt into a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Slice large strips of the peel right off of the lemon - about 4 to 5 strips - and put them into the saucepan as well. Lemon peel contains the essential oils with tons of lemon flavor so this step is crucial to imparting most of that fragrant lemon flavor to the cheese.

Bring the milk mixture up to a boil. Once it's boiling, it's time to pick out the pieces of lemon peel and discard, as they've done their job. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
Squeeze the juice from the lemon. You'll need about 4 tablespoons, which is about the amount of juice you'll be able to coax out of one lemon. A good tip is to maximize the amount of juice is to give the lemons a squeeze and/or a roll on a flat surface just to give the pulp a little workout before you slice it open. This will help make it a bit easier to juice the lemons.
Add the lemon juice right into the hot milk mixture. Let the mixture sit for 2 minutes; during this time, the acid of the lemon juice will curdle the milk.
Set up a strainer with a wet cheesecloth or a wet paper towel draped over and set it over a bowl. Why a wet cloth? Because water is, for lack of a better work, "sticky." So, if you wet the cloth, it will attract the moisture from the milk mixture and at the same time, leave a barrier so that the cheese doesn't attach itself to the cloth. It's all v. scientific.
Once the milk has curdled, pour it into your cloth/towel-lined strainer.
Use a spoon just to give the mixture a stir - literally one stir - to release any air bubbles in the bottom that might be hindering the whey from draining and to make sure that gravity's able to do it's 'thang.' Leave the cheese to drain 20 to 30 minutes. I love thick ricotta so I let it sit for the full 30 minutes until no more liquid was dripping.
Here's what it looked like after about 15 minutes.
And here's what it looked like after the full 30 minutes.
Scoop the cheese right into an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to a week. The ricotta will seem slightly soft when you're spooning it into the jar but after it's chilled, it'll be lovely and thick and spreadable.
Like I mentioned above, I'll be sharing the pancake recipe tomorrow but today, I'll show you a delicious snack that can be whipped together with the ricotta. It's just a slice of french bread with a smear of the ricotta and a drizzle of honey. The ricotta is so lovely and lemony and fresh and creamy. It's delicious when it's spread onto a piece of really good bread. I also imagine this lemon ricotta would also be delicious squirted inside of some cannoli shells (after it's mixed up with a bit of sugar, of course) and it would probably be awesome in a savory dish like a lemon chicken stuffed shell. Ugh, I'm already keen on whipping up a double batch; that's how good I think this stuff is.
Here's the recipe page:

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