Holiday cookie bake-off: Lidia Bastianich's Ricotta Cookies

If you’re like me, you’re on your umpteenth holiday bakeoff by now, and you need a recipe that makes you want to pull out the cookie sheets again. Look no further than these wonderfully light and sweet ricotta cookies, from the incomparable Lidia Bastianich and found in her newest book, Lidia’s Italy in America! It’s wonderful to use ricotta in baked goods, as it’ll make the dough even fluffier than usual, with a surprising sweetness that proves irresistible.

Makes 40-45 cookies

For the cookie batter:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp
2 large eggs
8 oz. fresh whole-milk ricotta, drained
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon zest

For the icing:
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

ricotta on spoon

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Sift together your flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl, and set aside.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream the sugar and butter in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium, and crack in the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions. Plop in the ricotta, vanilla, and lemon zest, and beat to combine. Add the flour mix, and beat on low until just combined, but do not overmix. (You don’t want your dough to get any more dense than absolutely necessary.)

finished batter

Drop the dough in heaping tablespoons onto the baking sheets. Place in oven and bake, rotating pans halfway through the baking time, until the cookies are puffed, golden, and cooked all the way through, about 20-22 minutes. Remove from oven, and cool on wire racks.

baked unfrosted cookies

When the cookies are completely cool, make the glaze. In a bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice to make a smooth glaze. Adjust the consistency with a little water or more sugar to make the glaze thick enough to stick to the cookies when dipped.

making the icing

Hold each cookie with two fingers, then dip the top of the cookie into the glaze and let dry on racks until all are done.

frosting the cookies

These little bites are a terrific option if you’re worried about pastry weighing down your party guests–these cookies are exceptionally light without being too sweet, almost like tea cookies. If you want to cut the sweetness even further, skip the frosting step, and add a little more zest to the cookie batter. There’s an old adage that says that Italian pastries are better to look at than to eat, but happily this recipe is an exception to the rule. I brought the cookies into the office for everyone to share…

cookies to share

And you can imagine how many were left just a few minutes later…

cookies 2 minutes later