italian ricotta cookies
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Biscuits or cookies? I’m all for the British definitions: cookies are flat, chewy and squidgy and have chocolate chips in them; biscuits are – just about everything else. But seriously, the American biscuits served with gravy notwithstanding, I usually think of things cakey or jammy or crunchy as biscuits. They never actually are true to their name: biscuits derive from ‘biscotti’, twice cooked. Those Italians – chips are cooked twice, not cakes! Joking aside, Italians are clearly more precise: biscotti are indeed baked twice, hence hard and thoroughly dunkable.
But clearly even Italians, masters of food naming (priest stranglers; trousers’ legs et al) show some flexibility to biscuits, calling thus confections that visit the oven just once. And these, biscotti alla ricotta, prove me right: soft, tender, melty and barely sweet.
And yet they are called cookies but purely because the recipe I followed comes from NY Times Cooking and I wanted to give Melissa Clark her credit. Truly though – they are not cookies as described above. Soft and pillowy, the icing is optional and the sprinkles even more so. So lovely they turned out in fact that it got me thinking what other cooking implementations ricotta has, apart from the very obvious.
italian ricotta cookiesServings: 3 dozen cookiesTime: 25 minutes plus chilling
- For the cookies:
- 110g (1 stick) butter, softened
- 110g (1 cup) caster sugar
- 100g (½ cup) light brown sugar
- 200g (7 ounces) ricotta cheese
- zest grated from 1 lemon
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 240g (2 cups) plain flour
- 1 tsp bicarb of soda
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- For the icing:
- 3 heaped tbsp. icing sugar
- juice squeezed from ½ lemon
- 1 tbsp. butter, melted
- a little cold milk
- sprinkles (hundreds and thousands)
1. Beat the sugars with the butter until fluffy. Beat in the ricotta, zest and vanilla; beat in the egg. The mixture might curdle a bit at this point but ignore it. Add the flour with the salt and baking soda and beat until smooth. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours, overnight or up to a week.
2. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Scoop teaspoons of dough and shape roughly into balls the size of a walnut. Place them on the sheet spaced well apart. Bake for 15 minutes, transfer to a wire rack to cool. Let the baking sheet cool down before placing the next batch for baking on it.
3. To make the icing, stir the melted butter and lemon juice into the icing sugar. Beat until smooth; add enough milk to have drizzling consistency.
4. Drizzle the icing over cooled down cookies or dip them in; decorate with sprinkles if using.