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Tender, cakey Ricotta Cookies with a lemon glaze
A time-tested recipe for lemon Ricotta Cookies from our friend and fellow baker, Julie G!
We love to hear from our SRFD readers. Some of our favorite followers share tips and tricks and occasionally send pictures and recipes, too. I love hearing about your successful bakes and all the new recipes you’ve tried. Such is the case with Julie from Scranton, PA.
Julie and I have become “email-pals” over the last few years and she recently shared one of her all-time family favorite holiday recipes for Ricotta Cookies. She is a phenomenal and talented baker and if Julie recommends a recipe, I’m going to do everything I can to try it.
We have a similar baking style so her friendship is extra special and sweet. She also likes to try new recipes and shares with co-workers and family. A blogger in the making! Got a special birthday? Julie may just bake up your favorite 🙂
Thank you Julie for sharing this wonderful, easy recipe for delicious, tender cake-like Ricotta Cookies!
Ingredients needed to make Italian Ricotta Cookies:
For the cookie dough:
- all-purpose flour
- baking powder
- baking soda
- unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- granulated sugar
- ricotta cheese – good quality, thick, full-fat
- vanilla extract
- lemon zest or almond extract
For the icing:
- powdered sugar
- hot water
- fresh lemon juice
- sprinkles or nonpareils for decorating (optional)
How to make this Ricotta Cookies recipe:
To make the cookies:
- First, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
- Next, in a separate bowl beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending until the yolk disappears. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon zest and vanilla extract. Blend until combined.
- Add half the flour mixture to the butter and sugar and blend on low until incorporated. Now add the remaining flour, but fold it in by hand using a stiff spatula or wooden spoon. Don’t overmix at this point!
- Scoop out balls of dough using a small (1 tablespoon) cookie scoop and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until the cookies are just set and lightly browned around the bottom.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
To make the icing:
- Whisk together the icing ingredients. Add more powdered sugar, lemon juice or hot water as needed for the desired consistency.
- Working with two or three cookies at a time, spoon a heaping 1/2 teaspoon of icing on top of each cooled cookie. Decorate with sprinkles, if using, before the icing sets.
- Allow the icing to set completely before storing.
TIPS for making the BEST Ricotta Cookies:
1. This recipe makes a lot of cookies!
These cookies are easy to make but yield about 9 dozen two-bite cookies. If using a small cookie scoop, which is about 1 tablespoon, you should have about 100 cookies. Since you don’t have to roll the cookie dough into balls, the process goes pretty fast.
Use a good amount of pressure when scooping out the dough so it packs into the cookie scoop.
This recipe is easily halved, if desired. If you cut the recipe in half and have leftover ricotta cheese, use it to make our Easy Lemon Ricotta Pound Cake. You can also make these light and fluffy Ricotta Pancakes with the remaining ricotta.
2. Don’t over-beat the cookie dough
Once the wet ingredients are well blended, add half the flour mixture. This can be done with your electric mixer set on low. However, once you add the remaining flour, mix gently with a stiff spatula or wooden spoon just until blended. Don’t over-mix the cookie dough as the cookies will not puff up as well.
Make sure your baking soda and baking powder are still active. If the leavening agents are old, the cookies may not rise properly.
3. Flavor variations
Julie recommends using almond extract in place of the lemon zest in the cookie dough. Simply reduce the vanilla to two teaspoons and add 1 teaspoon almond extract. Omit the lemon zest but still add lemon juice to the icing.
Some people prefer using anise extract in place of the lemon or almond flavors. Let us know if you give it a try!
This is a mildly flavored cookie so be sure to use plenty of vanilla and a good amount of lemon zest.
4. What kind of Ricotta cheese should you use?
Julie recommends the Galbani brand full-fat ricotta for this recipe. Galbani is my favorite as well and easily found in large grocery stores. It is a firm ricotta cheese and has a great consistency. If using a cottage cheese-like watery ricotta the cookies may spread too much when baked.
5. Make the icing in two batches
PRO TIP: If making the full recipe as listed, I recommend making half the icing to start. The icing hardens quickly but can be thinned with a few drops of very hot water or lemon juice if needed. I find it easier to make the icing in two batches, using the same bowl, whisk, etc.
It takes a while to put icing on 100 cookies and you don’t want the glaze to harden before you can use it all.
Will the icing set completely so these Ricotta cheese Cookies can be stored in layers?
Yes, the icing will harden enough to stack layers of cookies between pieces of wax paper. You can also refrigerate these lemon Ricotta cookies for longer storage.
Over several days, the sprinkle colors may bleed a little into the icing. This does not affect the taste or flavor of the cookies.
Can you freeze Lemon Ricotta Cookies?
Absolutely yes! Since the cookies are soft and cake-like, I recommend freezing before you ice them. They’ll keep for several months if well sealed and stored in the freezer.
Where did Ricotta Cookie recipes come from?
Ricotta Cookies are sometimes known as Italian Ricotta Cookies, Italian Christmas Cookies, Ricotta Cheese Cookies and are occasionally called Lemon Ricotta Cookies.
These pillowy soft cookies may have originally been based on the popular Italian Anise Cookies which do not include ricotta in the recipe. The cookies look almost identical with the same lemony icing and sprinkles on top.
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- Small Cookie Scoop
- Cookie Sheet
For the cookie dough:
- 4 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (566g) plus an additional 1/4 cup if needed. Do not to exceed 4 1/2 cups total
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened (226g or 16 tablespoons)
- 2 cups granulated sugar (445g)
- 2 large eggs
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese, full fat
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- fine zest of two lemons, yellow rind only - no white pith
For the icing:
- 5 cups powdered sugar (530g)
- 3 tablespoons hot water, more or less for desired consistency
- 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
To prepare the cookie dough:
- In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and blend again. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until the yolk disappears. Add the ricotta, vanilla and lemon zest and blend on low until combined.
- Add half the flour to the butter mixture and blend on low just until combined. Add the remaining flour and fold together using a stiff spatula or wooden spoon. Don’t over-mix the dough!
- Using a small cookie scoop (about 1-tablespoon) firmly scoop a dough ball and place on the prepared baking sheet. Space the cookie dough balls about 2-inches apart. Once filled bake for 9-12 minutes (10 minutes is perfect in my oven) or until the edges are light golden brown. Take care not to over-bake!
- Remove to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.
To prepare the icing:
- Whisk together half the icing ingredients. Blend until smooth. Place a heaping ½ teaspoon of icing in the center of the cookie. Spread around using the bottom of the measuring spoon. Immediately top with sprinkles, if using. Repeat until all icing is used. Make a second batch with the remaining icing ingredients. Thin the icing with a few drops of hot water or lemon juice or add more powdered sugar for desired consistency.
- You can start by using 4 1/4 cups of flour and add up to 1/4 cup more if needed for consistency. Do not exceed 4 1/2 cups of flour.
- For almond flavored Ricotta cookies reduce the vanilla to 2 teaspoons and add 1 teaspoon almond extract. Omit the lemon zest in the cookie dough. Lemon flavored icing is still good on the almond flavored cookies.
- Iced cookies keep for about 5 days if well sealed in an airtight container. Refrigerate if desired.
- Cookies can be frozen before icing for up to 2 months.
- Recipe adapted from Julie C
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