Lemon Ricotta Cakes with Orange Blueberry Syrup (or, The Griddler’s Redemption)

8 Oct


I’ve been sweating this day all week. After last Saturday’s most dubious debacle, I had no margin for error heading into my bounce-back performance. I thought about aiming low, picking the low-hanging fruit, painting a bigger bullseye–anything to ease me back into pancake relevance. But that seemed unbecoming of the spirit with which this whole challenge was designed.

There was nothing particularly challenging about the ingredients themselves in the recipe I chose, just challenges imposed by the idea of matching my total lack of finesse in the kitchen with a recipe that demands it. Sifting gave me no pause, and the combining without over-mixing thing is something with which I have grown both comfortable and familiar. But the folding. Dios mio, the folding!

For context, it bears noting that I really do like baking. But over the years, I have rejected recipes outright for their insistence on folding anything into anything else. It didn’t square with my slapdash style in the kitchen. Anything that couldn’t be just mixed or combined or otherwise thrown together was disqualified. But these lemon ricotta cakes had been in my queue for a while, folding and all. And I finally found the perfect week to conquer my fear. Hey, if Maverick could retake the skies after Goose’s untimely demise, I could raise the spatula once more. So, I steeled myself with a strong cup of coffee and some push-ups this morning, and away we went.

Squeezing the juices for both the syrup and cakes was time consuming but fragrant as hell; well worth the effort. Everything else was pretty low-key as well. And then came the folding.

I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow, but I had watched umpteen video tutorials throughout the week on proper folding technique. In the end, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had made it in my mind. It does require a certain artfulness that no video can completely convey. The cut, fold, turn maneuver described in the video link below worked well for me.

Judges were kinder this week

The best reward of all for the whole thing had to be the boy’s reaction, which was glowing. Mission accomplished. We may never permanently eradicate the specter of last weekend’s horror, but we took a big step toward minimizing its effects today.

Pants: Shorts, actually, and both the boy and I wore them, though that is emblematic of another problem entirely. (It’s fall, damn it…enough with the heat!)

Planning: My first question when reading through the list of ingredients was: Cake flour…that’s a thing? And I already covered this, but the folding gave me pause.  Also, the cake flour can, apparently, be a bit difficult to find at times. I found some sources on the web that mentioned a homemade version in a pinch, which includes mixing a little cornstarch with an all-purpose flour. I can’t speak for the effectiveness of that, but the reviews were good. Simple Google search will reveal some sites with that idea.

Gathering: Had to call in some help on this one. My wife was gracious enough to take my list to the store on Friday and gather what I needed. Cake flour was readily available, though there were not many brands/varieties from which to choose. The Valencia oranges came from our local food co-op, which has had them on special for weeks now (which was the inspiration to go with this syrup), and they were perfect for the job. Everything else was in the house already.

Execution: Harrowing, as much as pancake preparation can be. This was one of the more labor intensive recipes I have done for a breakfast, what with the whisking of the egg whites and the white-knuckled folding. We came out aces at the end, though, which is the important thing.

Results: Excellent. The hassle with the egg whites and the folding was worth it. The cakes were spongy and moist, and the flavor was perfectly balanced. These are pretty light cakes when all is said and done, so I would definitely avoid any temptation to go with skim anything (ricotta, milk). They might be a bit slight otherwise. I would be curious to try the cakes with butter on the griddle instead. Knowing how light they turned out, the butter may have added a nice richness. Then again, using the oil maintained that inherent fluffiness. You probably cannot go wrong either way.

Crossover Potential: Cakes with just some spread, like mascarpone or a jam? Sign me up. Using the same basic approach, with some obvious ingredient and preparation tweaks, to make some lemon ricotta muffins or cookies would be interesting. Hell, having a cold glass of the batter was something that was barely beneath me after I first tasted my mixture after mixing. (Don’t judge.)

The cakes recipe:

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese (whole milk, organic)
  • 1 cup milk (2%, organic)
  • 3 eggs, separated (cage-free)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (organic, pure cane)
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon (organic)
  • 1.5 cups cake flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  1. Preheat griddle to 350 degrees
  2. Preheat oven to 175 degrees
  3. Whisk together ricotta, milk, egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest and juice until smooth
  4. Sift together flour, baking powder, and 1/8 tsp. of your salt over ricotta mixture and combine gently with a wooden spoon–do not over-mix
  5. In separate bowl, whisk egg whites until frothy; add remaining salt and continue whisking until peaks form
  6. Using rubber spatula, fold 1/3 of egg whites into ricotta mixture, then gently fold in the remaining whites
  7. Be ready to get the batter on the griddle ASAP–those bubbles you worked so tirelessly to whisk into your egg whites, and then preserve in your folding, will start to vanish when idle
  8. Coat griddle with vegetable oil and ladle batter using a 1/3 measuring cup
  9. Watch for bubbles, or use spatula to peek at underside–when golden, flip (roughly 1-2 minutes per side)
  10. Keep completed cakes warm in your preheated oven while the remainders are prepared–you will need to reapply vegetable oil to the griddle as needed
And the syrup recipe:
  • 3 cups fresh-squeezed orange juice (I used 6 organic Valencia oranges…save the peel from one!)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (organic, pure cane)
  • 1 Tbsp. zest of orange (from the peel you saved)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter (organic, unsalted)
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • Fresh blueberries, ~1 cup
  1. Combine juice, sugar, and orange peel in medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium/high heat, stirring to dissolve all sugar
  2. Reduce heat to a low boil and cook until thick, aiming for a ~50% reduction
  3. Add butter and almond extract, then whisk to combine
  4. Optional step for thicker syrup: Make a ahead of time and allow to cool completely
  5. Stir in berries immediately before serving

Note: Syrup recipe was an amalgam of various ideas I encountered in cookbooks and on the web. Cakes recipe was culled from http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/lemon-ricotta-pancakes.html


2 Responses to “Lemon Ricotta Cakes with Orange Blueberry Syrup (or, The Griddler’s Redemption)”

  1. Amber October 8, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    A+. Great job, these were stellar! The combo of flavors was a breakfast party in my mouth.

  2. Susan October 13, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    My favorite part of this entire post is that mascarpone is now casually thrown about with jam as a spread idea!!!

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