If you’re blessed with your own backyard fig tree, you never have this problem.
But for those of us who are left with buying fresh figs at the market or through grocery delivery services these days, figs can be a bit confounding. You want them squishy-ripe so they’re at their sweetest — yet that’s also when they’re prone to go moldy in a flash. If you happen to find yourself with ones that are not soft at all, you wait with bated breath, checking them each day, in hopes that they will finally yield to the push of a fingertip.
But you realize soon enough that’s all in vain because figs actually don’t ripen much once they are picked. And if they are picked too early, forget about it.
However, less than ideal figs can be salvaged by baking or roasting them. Their natural sugars, no matter how modest, will exude and caramelize in the heat of an oven, rendering them enjoyable after all.
That’s what prompted me to bake a batch of “Ricotta and Olive Oil Muffins with Figs.”
This wonderful recipe more than rescued my less-than-perfect figs. It’s from the cookbook, “365: A Year of Everyday Cooking and Baking” (Prestel, 2019) by James Beard Award-winning Meike Peters, a food writer who splits her time between Berlin and Malta.
As the title implies, it features a different recipe for each day of the year. And yes, the fig muffins are featured in the “August” chapter, when figs are in season.
This muffin recipe has so much going for it. The batter, nearly as thick as cookie dough, features olive oil and ricotta, making for exquisitely fluffy and moist muffins. There’s only 2/3 cup sugar, so these are just sweet enough, not muffins masquerading as glorified birthday cake instead.
Half a fig gets centered on top of each muffin before baking. You’ll definitely want to push the fig into the batter well so it stays put as the muffins puff up quite a bit. A drizzle of honey goes over each fig half before baking, which further enhances the fruit, especially if they are less than impeccable specimens.
The muffins bake up with a crisp, crusty, golden top plus a tender, airy crumb.
These are perfection — even if the fruit you’re using falls a tad short of that.
Ricotta and Olive Oil Muffins with Figs
(Makes 12 muffins)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
9 ounces fresh ricotta, drained
2 large eggs
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons mild olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
6 fresh figs, cut in half lengthwise
3 tablespoons honey, for the topping
12 paper muffin liners
Preheat oven to 375 degrees (preferably convection setting). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a medium bow, whisk together the ricotta, eggs, olive oil, and orange juice. Add to the flour mixture and stir together with a wooden spoon until the batter is lumpy with a few bits of flour here and there.
Spoon the batter into the muffin cups then place the fig halves, cut-side up, on top and gently push into the batter. Drizzle with a little honey and bake for about 18 minutes (slightly longer if using a conventional oven) or until golden and baked through. If you prefer sweeter muffins, drizzle them with a little more honey. Let the muffins cool on a wire rack for 2 minutes before serving warm with butter.
From “365: A Year of Everyday Cooking & Baking” by Meike Peters
More Meike Peters’ Recipes to Try: Marbled Red Wine and Chocolate Bundt Cake
Plus Other Fig Recipes to Enjoy: Brown Butter Almond Tea Cakes with Figs
And: Fig Jam Bars
And: Fig Tart
And: Fig Compote
And: Fig Jam