By: Francesca Montillo
One of the few benefits of summer ending is the realization that as fall approaches so does baking season. While every season is “baking season,” in my household, the colder months are certainly the time of year in which my oven and stand mixer go into overdrive. Who wants to bake if it’s 100 degrees out? It seems as if by the time Sept. 1 rolls around, we’re given the OK by the baking gods to preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Being the Italian that I am, one item that I always have in my fridge is ricotta. Be it homemade to spread on a bagel or fresh Italian bread, or store-bought for baking or making a 3-cheese frittata. Ricotta is never missing from the fridge. It’s a super versatile ingredient to keep on hand. It can be used for breakfast, lunch or dinner, as a full meal in countless recipes, or as a cream-cheese alternative for bagels. Add a wee bit of sugar or honey and dip some fruit in it, or add some salt and a drizzle of EVOO for some pre-dinner crostini. I love baking with ricotta because it adds an undistinguished flavor that is very subtle.
These cookies are classic Italian. I mean, have you ever gone to an Italian wedding and not found these on the dessert table? They’re humble, not overly sweet, and delicate with their cake-like consistency and go well with a cup of coffee or tea, hot chocolate or even some nice limoncello. But they’re cakey enough that you could eat them on their own.
Yields 3 dozen cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest from 1 lemon
1 stick unsalted butter softened to room temperature
1 large egg
8 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
2 ½ – 3 cups confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar)
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 – 2 tablespoons milk
Sprinkles/nonpareils for decoration
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 – 3 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. (Alternative, you can spray the pans with non-stick cooking spray.)
- In a medium bowl, sift the flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.
- Using a stand mixer, or handheld mixer, add the sugar, zest and softened butter to the bowl and beat for several minutes, until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg and ricotta cheese and beat until well incorporated.
- With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture and beat just until combined.
- Using a small cookie scoop, scoop out the dough on the baking sheet. Place about 2 inches apart. (Alternatively, you can use a tablespoon, although the cookie scoop will give you more uniform cookies.)
- Bake cookies 13 – 15 minutes, until the bottom is darkened in color and the top is just slightly golden. Cool before glazing.
For the Glaze:
- Add all the sugar, lemon and milk and mix well using a small whisk or a fork. Adjust consistency as desired. For a thick glaze, add more sugar, for thinner glaze, add a few more teaspoons of milk. (It’s easy to go from thick icing to very loose icing with just a few teaspoons of liquid, so add milk judiciously.)
- Dunk the top of the ricotta cookie into the lemon glaze and place on a wire rack or some wax paper. Sprinkle with nonpareils/sprinkles of your choice. Allow glaze to dry before plating and serving.