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Facebook is a very good place to find recipes. I recently joined a Taste of Home Group on Facebook and, in checking out the many recipes, I found an interesting one from Bunny's Warm Oven — lemon ricotta cake.

I made the recipe for my husband Bill's birthday. He loves lemon desserts, and the idea of ricotta in the cake sounded interesting.

The texture was very moist. I added a lemon curd drizzle to enhance the flavor. Bill gave it a thumbs up!

Ricotta cheese is used in many Italian recipes. Growing up in an Italian family, we enjoyed lasagna, ravioli, manicotti and baked macaroni, all made with ricotta cheese.

Do you realize ricotta cheese is also used in desserts such as cannolis, cheesecakes, cookies and cakes? My family makes ricotta cookies. I am including a cookie recipe below for you to try. It is a very moist, tasty cookie. Anise flavoring is usually used, but any flavoring can be substituted, such as vanilla, lemon, almond or coconut.

My neighbor, Ruth Sullivan, shared the April 2015 edition of Better Homes and Gardens with me because it had scone recipes. I made the recipe with ricotta as one of the ingredients. The recipe for strawberry shortcake scones is included for you to try. They go great with a hot cup of tea.

Ricotta can be used in dips, sauces and mixed into egg dishes for breakfast or brunch.

Ricotta cheese originated in Italy. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the first known use of this white, unripened whey cheese was in 1877. Ricotta is a soft, fresh cheese that does not go through an aging process like many other cheeses. It is made by heating liquid whey, a byproduct of the cheese-making process. It can be used in many recipes.

According to www.food.com, ricotta cheese is believed to have been created in the Italian countryside when travelers cooked their food in big kettles over open fires. It was cooked twice to extract the cheese from the buttermilk and, therefore, the name is derived from the Latin word recocta, which means recooked or cooked twice. Ricotta was traditionally served to important guests. My mother, Palma, would make lasagna for holidays and guests.

Most of the ricotta sold in the United States is made from cow's milk. You can choose from whole milk, part-skim milk and fat-free varieties, and I used part-skim milk in my recipes. Ricotta does not have salt added to it. There are many brands to choose from, but I do not have a favorite and have often used the store brand.

The website http://foodreference.about.com says that artisanal ricotta, or ricotta made from sheep or goat's milk, can be found in specialty or ethnic grocery stores. It also suggests that it can be made at home. I have yet to try this!

Lemon Glazed Ricotta Cake

Ricotta cake:

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened

15 ounces whole-milk ricotta

1 ½ cups sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Lemon glaze:

2 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a bundt cake pan and set aside.

In a large mixer bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until well combined. Add the ricotta and blend until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mix in the eggs one at a time, incorporating well. Add the vanilla, lemon juice/zest and mix until fully combined.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients in two increments, mixing just until incorporated. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth as needed. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until the cake is set and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Drizzle the lemon glaze over the top of the cake and serve. I also drizzled lemon curd over the top.

Strawberry Shortcake Scones

1 cup chopped fresh strawberries

2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter

1 egg, slightly beaten

3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta (I used part-skim)

1/4 cup whipping cream (I used half and half)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl toss together the strawberries and 1 tablespoon flour. In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, ricotta, and whipping cream. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Add strawberries. Using a fork stir just until moistened.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough by folding and gently pressing it for 10 to 12 strokes or until dough is nearly smooth. Pat dough into a 10-inch-by-4-inch rectangle. Cut in half lengthwise and in sixths crosswise to make 12 rectangles.

Note: I used my Pampered Chef large scoop and made my scones round.

Place rectangles on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush with additional whipping cream. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden. Remove scones from baking sheet and serve warm.

Makes 12 scones.

Ricotta Cookies

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup ricotta

1 teaspoon vanilla, anise, or flavoring of your choice

1 cup sugar

1 beaten egg

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Blend butter with ricotta until creamy. Add flavoring, then add sugar and beat until well blended. Add egg and slowly stir in dry ingredients until well blended. Drop by teaspoons onto a lightly greased cookie sheet at least one-half-inch apart.

Bake for 10 minutes until lightly brown. Makes about 36 cookies.

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