Besides being so much creamier and silkier than the store-bought version, homemade ricotta is surprisingly easy to prepare. Daniel Patterson likes to use it in this highly versatile lemon-accented pudding, which can be served as a starter with a cherry tomato-and-basil salad or at the end of a meal with honey or strawberries. Any leftover ricotta is excellent spread on toast.
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1/2 gallon whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon white vinegar, plus more if needed
3/4 cup heavy cream
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
How to Make It
Line a strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth and set over a large bowl. In a large saucepan, heat the milk and cream over moderately high heat to 180°. Remove from the heat and slowly add the vinegar until you see the milk separate; add more vinegar as needed. Cover the saucepan and let stand for 2 minutes.
Pour the contents of the saucepan into the strainer and shake vigorously to remove the water (a.k.a., whey). You should have about 2 cups of ricotta; let cool.
Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter four 1-cup ramekins. In a large bowl, whisk 1 3/4 cups of the ricotta with the heavy cream and lemon zest, breaking up any large ricotta curds; season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the eggs.
Pour the pudding into the prepared ramekins and set them in a baking dish. Add enough hot water to the dish to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for about 55 minutes, or just until set. Let the puddings cool to room temperature or refrigerate until chilled. Serve the puddings in the ramekins.
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