How to Make a Healthier Muffin

I once spent a summer making muffins. This is an exaggeration. I was actually a prep cook; and I made many other things. Nevertheless, everyday I made a different muffin.


I would never describe myself as a baker. My wing-it, experimental nature is much more suited to cooking. However, I find muffins forgiving to alteration.

Lemon Zest

As a devoted foodie I often choose rich food. I balance my indulgence by limiting the white flour and sugar I eat at home. Fortunately, I find the lightness of whole – wheat pastry flour a worthy substitute for all – purpose in almost any muffin.

Whole – Wheat Pastry Flour

My recipe is inspired by Zoe Nathan’s lemon cornmeal muffins with lemon glaze, from her cookbook Huckleberry. I omit the sugary glaze, but I think the addition of ricotta cheese to the batter sheer genius! See what you think.


Ricotta Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Serves: 24 small muffins

¾ cup room temperature butter
¾ cup + 3 Tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons sea salt
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons
2 eggs
4½ tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1¾ whole – wheat pastry flour
2¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoons baking soda
1¾ cups skim ricotta cheese
¼ cup poppy seeds

Position two racks in the center of the oven and preheat it to 350F. Line 2 12 –cup muffin tins with paper liners.

Stir together the flour, baking powder and baking soda and set aside. Remove the zest from the lemons before cutting and squeezing out the juice.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, salt and lemon zest on medium, until the butter looks fluffy. Slowly incorporate each egg, one at a time. Make sure to continuously scrape down the sides of the bowl into the batter.

Slowly add the lemon juice, olive oil, maple syrup and vanilla. When thoroughly incorporated, alternate the premixed dry ingredients and the ricotta. Be careful not to mix more than necessary. Mix in the poppy seeds.

Fill the muffin cups ¾ of the way full. Bake for approximately 18 minutes, rotating the muffin tins in the oven after 10 minutes, to insure even baking. The muffins are ready when they just barely spring back.

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