I spend an inordinate amount of my time dealing with leftovers, which is funny because I don’t particularly care for them. Once I eat a meal, I’m done with very few exceptions. If I have people over for dinner, out comes my stash of takeout and deli containers, everything is neatly packed and labeled and goes out the door with my guests. I don’t want to see it again. But the bulk of my leftover issues lately are ingredients; an endless parade of bags, tubs and boxes of stuff. I develop recipes and every project typically involves a few shopping trips and a whole new set of ingredients. Once the project is complete, usually after several weeks, I have a dining room table full of stuff. Stuff I have to deal with quickly because the next project is usually on the horizon. I often joke that I’m going to have a “Kathy’s Pop Up Store of Half Used Bags of Stuff” in my dining room once a month. Come one, come all!
Some leftover ingredients I toss, some I donate or pawn off on friends and the rest goes into one of four giant plastic tubs until I can figure out a use. These are just the dry goods; I have to move even quicker on the refrigerated and fresh items. Usually it involves turning these things into other things and giving them away. Few people want a half used container of ricotta but everyone will take a cake, right? The beauty of bake and release, my friends. Last week, I had one of those leftover, half used containers of ricotta. What to do, what to do?
I asked a few people for ideas and got the same answer three times… lasagna. What is with lasagna? I may be alone in this opinion but I’m not a fan. I don’t like the graininess of the ricotta with the tomatoes and the cheese, the noodles are either too firm or too soggy and it’s not typically something you whip up for one, which results in leftovers. I’m not using leftovers only to generate more leftovers. That is the opposite of solving the problem so I’d rather so something else. I was thinking instead about a brown butter/sour cream cake I hadn’t made in a while. Could I substitute ricotta? Probably. I did a little research and found a ricotta cake recipe that looked curiously similar to my sour cream cake. A few tweaks and a mish mash of the two recipes and I had a pretty great cake.
The combination of ricotta and brown butter makes an incredibly moist cake; it held just fine for days, much longer than I expected. I used frozen berries and prefer the tiny, frozen wild blueberries to the larger conventional berries as the flavor is better and I like the smaller size. With a simple lemon icing drizzle, it’s a lovely breakfast or brunch cake and a great snack cake, nipping off a piece here and there throughout the day. Dress is up with a scoop of sorbet or buttermilk sherbet and you have a really nice dessert for a casual dinner. Whichever direction you go, you’ll have no problem giving slices away.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: WHEW. I realize how ridiculous it sounds but having extra ingredients laying around in rather great quantities can be a pain to deal with and pretty stressful. To relieve some of that tension, I like to turn them into other things and gift them to my friends. Baking relaxes me; baking for others really relaxes me. It feels good. Staring at that container of ricotta last week, my first thought was CRAP. That is going to sit there for a month before I open it, see a rainbow of mold inside and throw it away. That doesn’t feel good. But turning it into this delightful cake that keeps like a dream? Yeah, that felt good.
Eight years ago: Khachpuri (cheesy Georgian bread)
Seven years ago: Stovetop Smoked Salmon
Six years ago: Chocolate Cabernet Sauce
Five years ago: Orange Sweet Rolls
Four years ago: Chocolate Pudding Cake
Three years ago: Chocolate Crème Filled Cupcakes
Two years ago: Flourless Chocolate Cookies
Last year: Toum and Lamb Chops (Lebanese Garlic Spread)
BROWN BUTTER BLUEBERRY RICOTTA CAKE – partially adapted from this recipe
makes a 9” cake serving 8-10.
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter (½ cup/1 stick)
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ cups whole milk ricotta
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest (from 1 medium lemon)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup frozen blueberries, divided
for the icing:
1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon milk
½ cup powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350°F and place a rack in the lower third of the oven. Line the bottom of a 9″ springform pan with parchment paper and lightly coat the bottom and sides with cooking spray.
- For the browned butter: place a strainer over a small bowl and set aside until needed.
- In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter and then let it slowly cook until the milk solids begin to brown, the liquid turns a lovely dark golden brown and the mixture smells nutty. Let it go until the milk solids become a very dark brown – it will foam and sputter – keep an eye on it.
- Take off the heat, strain into the ready bowl to remove the darkened milk solids. Discard the solids and set the browned butter aside to cool while you prepare the cake batter.
- For the cake: In a large bowl whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- In another bowl, whisk the eggs, ricotta, lemon zest and vanilla until smooth.
- Switch to a rubber spatula and fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just blended. Do not over mix.
- Next, fold in the browned butter in 2 additions, then gently fold in ¾ cup of the blueberries, taking care or the batter will turn purple.
- Pour the batter into prepared pan and scatter the remaining ¼ cup blueberries on top.
- Bake the cake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted just off center comes out with moist crumbs, 50–60 minutes.
- Let cool on a wire rack at least 20 minutes before unmolding the sides. Once completely cool, remove the pan bottom and transfer to a serving platter.
- For the icing: Sift the powdered sugar into a small bowl and whisk in the lemon juice and milk until smooth.
- With a fork or spoon, drizzle the icing on top of the cooled cake. Let sit at least one hour to allow the icing to harden.
- Do ahead: the cake can be made 2 days ahead, stored tightly wrapped at room temperature up to 1 week.