Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Chocolate Ricotta Muffins: An easy, low-fat Coffeehouse recipe from Cleo Coyle

A Brew to A Kill:
A Coffeehouse Mystery
Cover art for the paperback
edition, releasing Aug. 2013
My readers might recall these light, chocolaty muffins from my recent Coffeehouse Mystery A Brew to a Kill

As the story opens, Greenwich Village coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi not only attempts to expand her business with a coffee and muffin truck, she also hires a sweet-natured dietitian to help lighten some of the higher calorie items on her menu. 

When Lilly is brutally struck by a hit-and-run driver, Clare’s outrage propels her into tracking down the culprit; and once again, Clare is sleuthing her way into and out of trouble. 

For today's recipe, I attempted to channel Lilly and duplicate one of her menu makeovers. May you eat it with joy--and in good health! 

~ Cleo

Cleo Coyle's 
Chocolate Ricotta Muffins 
With a mocha variation 

To download this recipe in a free 
PDF document that you can print, 
save, or share, click here.

A few quick notes...  

The star of today's recipe is, of course, the ricotta cheese, which brings creamy moistness to these muffins along with protein and nutrition. 
The fat component comes not from butter but canola oil. An even healthier option for the fat is one I sometimes choose--extra virgin, cold pressed, unrefined coconut oil. (If you've never used coconut oil before, a helpful post on particulars and brands can be found here.) 

Natural cocoa powder adds flavor but also structure to the muffins, which allowed me to reduce the amount of refined white flour in the recipe. To make these muffins even healthier, you can swap in “white whole wheat” flour instead of all-purpose, which brings more dietary fiber to your snack table. Finally, gluten-free flour is always an option for those who need it. 

And now for the recipe...

Makes 6 large muffins or 8 small


1 large egg
½ cup ricotta (whole or part-skim)
½ cup light buttermilk (shake before measuring)
3 Tablespoons oil (canola, vegetable, or extra virgin coconut)
¼ cup granulated white sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup + 1 Tablespoon natural, unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 pinches of table salt
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup + 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour 

Variation: For Mocha Muffins, add 1-1/2 teaspoons instant espresso where indicated in Step 1. Instant espresso is freeze-dried espresso and not ground espresso roast beans. I use this brand (Medaglia D’oro), but you can certainly use any you like. 

Chocoholics: Feel free to fold in semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips before baking (1/3 to 1/2 cup, according to your own taste). You can even “go nuts” and add finely chopped hazelnuts or walnuts. 

Step 1 – Make muffin batter with one-bowl mixing method: Using a hand whisk or electric mixer, beat the egg until slightly frothy. Measure in the ricotta, light buttermilk, oil, white and light brown sugars, cocoa, vanilla extract, salt, baking powder, and baking soda (if making mocha muffin, add your 1-1/2 teaspoons of instant espresso now). Whisk well until fully blended. Measure in the flour. Mix only enough to make a smooth batter. Do not over-mix at this stage or you’ll develop the gluten in the flour and your muffins will be tough instead of tender. 

Step 2 – Spray the papers: Line muffin cups with paper holders and spray the papers with non-stick spray. This is a low-fat recipe, so if you do not spray the papers, the muffins will stick.

Step 3 – Bake: This recipe makes about 1-3/4 cups of muffin batter. You can make six large muffins or eight small ones. Divide the batter among your muffin cups. Bake in a well-preheated oven at 375° F. for about 20 minutes, depending on your oven. Do not over-bake. Muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into a test muffin comes out clean (with no batter clinging to it). 

TIP: Muffins will be fragile when they first come out of the hot oven. Allow them to cool in the pan for about ten minutes and transfer to a rack. If muffin edges are sticking to the paper, simply allow them to cool a bit more.

Optional frosting: 
If you like, finish cooled muffins with a dollop of my Chocolate “Buttercream” Frosting (without butter or cream). What is the mystery ingredient in this "healthified" chocolate frosting? (Followers of this blog already know. :))

Get my healthier chocolate frosting recipe by clicking the link above or clicking here


F   o  o  d  i  e 

P h o t o s

To see more recipes from 
A Brew to a Kill, click here 
for the illustrated guide, and...

☕  ☕  ☕  ☕  ☕

Eat with joy! 

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries 

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 
To learn more, click here. 

The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name
Alice Kimberly

To learn more, click here


  1. Wow that is great recipe. I like to add this for my food collection. It can make different of my taste.

  2. They look so yummy Cleo! When you've used white whole wheat, how have your baking results been? I tried one cake with it and it was flatter than usual. Wasn't sure if it was the flour or the oven...

    1. The only white whole wheat flour I know of comes from King Arthur Flour. Check their website and give them a call. They will help you figure out what happened to your cake.

    2. Thanks Libby - yes, King Arthur flour is exactly what I use. It works very well in this recipe. When you first mix it up, the white whole wheat flour will absorb a bit more liquid than the all-purpose flour so the batter won't be quite as loose, but it doesn't matter in the end. The muffins rise and are just beautiful.

      White whole wheat flour is one of those things that works in some recipes and not others. In brownies, cookies, quick breads, muffins, and pizza, bread, and flat bread doughs it works very well. (Not so much in cakes or finer pastries.)

      My two cents (flour-wise, anyway)...

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  3. A winner as always! Great tips, too. I think I'm going to have to indulge.

    1. Thanks again, Libby, and thanks especially for taking the time to drop by the Kitchen. It's always a pleasure to *see* you here.

      Have a delicious week,

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  4. Now why can't I concentrate? Oh yes, thinking about these chocolate muffins! Terrific recipe and great photos (including the one of the photographer)!

    It's been added to the list of 'must makes'!

    Thanks, Cleo!

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  6. Cleo, fabulous, from the new story to the recipe. And the photos are divine!!!

  7. Okay, who got to take the bite? These look heavenly, and I can just imagine how they smell! I love the thoughtfulness of the ingredients, and, as always, I love the photos. Love seeing your smiling face, Alice!

  8. Those look incredible, Cleo! Yum. Pass a muffin and I'll have a cup of coffee, too. Wish I could stop by Clare's coffeehouse for one of these!


  9. These sound so good! Love the photos, - anything chocolate makes me smile. =)