If you're Italian, this cakey, ricotta cookie may look like the Christmas cookies you grew up with, but it tastes more like the white part of those black and white cookies we love. While the dough is easy to make, I recommend making it the day before you plan to bake the cookies and to keep it chilled, which may mean forming and baking the cookies one cookie sheet at a time. Because baking is an exact science, I've included measurements in weights as well as volume, for those who prefer this.
Yield is 6-7 dozen
For the cookies:2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (425 grams) of granulated sugar
15 oz of ricotta cheese (whole milk)
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
3 teaspoons of good vanilla extract (these can be made with anise flavoring, if you prefer)
2 large eggs
4 cups (480 grams) of all purpose flour
3/4 tsp (4 grams) fine sea salt
2 tsp (10 grams) baking soda.
Using an electric mixer (I use my stand mixer), cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add ricotta, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat well. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl down with a rubber spatula, then beat in the flour, salt, and baking soda, combining well. Cover the dough and chill for at least 2 hours, though overnight is better.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line several baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick liners. Shape tablespoons of the chilled dough into balls. Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets--these cookies spread, so be sure cookie sheets are cool and put dough back in refrigerator between rolling out. Bake 15 minutes. Cookies will be pale golden on the bottom and will firm up a bit as they cool. Cool on wire racks while you make the icing.
For the icing:
1 tbs melted butter
4 cups (450 grams) of confectioners (powdered) sugar
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp good vanilla extract
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk, as needed to thin icing a bit-p
Melt the butter. Whisk the confectioners sugar to break up any large lumps, then whisk in melted butter, lemon juice, vanilla, and enough milk to make a spreadable icing.
To frost the cookies:
The easiest way to frost the cookies is to quickly dip the cookies and swirl off the excess. Do 6 at a time, then carefully sprinkle with nonpareils. It's best to set wire racks over th parchment covered cookie sheets to contain the excess icing and non-pareils. Let set for at least 20 minutes before serving or packaging.
These cookies disappear very quickly. They are like little clouds of cake, just sweet enough, and wonderful with a glass of milk or a cup of tea. They may look like those dry, crumbly Italian Christmas cookies, but they are a whole other thing.,