Monday, February 7, 2011

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

I threw the best dinner party yesterday.

Jeff and I love to cook for people. We keep making delicious food that we'd love to share with other people. Unfortunately, we live over an hour from any of our relatives and most of our friends. It takes a lot of planning to get anyone down here. So we don't throw parties as often as we'd like.

The last dinner party we threw was in December, for a group of close friends. We decided to make several of the most delicious recipes we had in our repertoire. Unfortunately, we planned things poorly. Our guests began to arrive just as I started the b├ęchamel sauce for my roasted vegetable lasagna. I ended up being tied to the stove until dinner was ready, and Jeff had to be in the kitchen for most of that time, too. The food was delicious, we had fun, but we made it very stressful for ourselves at the beginning.

When I decided to throw a collective birthday party for my parents and my brother (all within two weeks of one another - my birthday's the odd one out in my family), I knew we had to do things differently. I decided to make an entree that would just sit on the stove for hours and be ready whenever I needed it: I settled on beef stew (after some negotiation with my brother, who is food-critic picky - he agreed with this on the condition that the meat wouldn't be tough). I did three side dishes, one of which was a casserole that we had prepared before the guests arrived and could pop in the oven whenever. I made biscuits the day before. My only duties once people arrived were two side dishes, one of which was just roasting in the oven, that took about 20 minutes. So I actually had time to go out and talk to people, which was lovely. I definitely plan on going this route again.

The other great thing was the food, which got rave reviews. I'm sorry that I'm not posting about the beef stew - I will someday - because that went over extremely well. First of all, it was a good entree for a crowd with different needs. There were multiple requests for bowls of stew with no meat in them. Meanwhile, my brother wanted extra meat but few potatoes. And he ended up having three servings and leaving us with a few tiny vegetables at the bottom of an empty pot. The side dishes went over equally well, since there's almost nothing left (and I tend to overcook). It's a wonderful feeling to know that you've worked hard to make something delicious and that everyone really enjoyed it.

But I digress, since I'm here to tell you about dessert. I really restrained myself here. Last year when I did this, I made a layer-cake (since it was a birthday party). But everyone on my family seems to be on some kind of diet and not want that kind of sweet. So this year, I went with some apple pie bars and lemon ricotta cookies. The lemon cookies are becoming a staple in my kitchen. I actually am not a huge fan - I prefer my baked goods with chocolate, not fruit. But my mom, grandma and brother love them, so I find myself making them a lot. This is the first time, however, that they have not been devoured! I chalk it up to the amount of food everyone ate at dinner, though - the cookies themselves were light (because of the ricotta) and absolutely packed with lemon flavor. The lightness makes them a nice change for this time of year, when we've begun to turn back to the heavy, chocolate-laden Valentine's Day sort of desserts.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies
I actually got this recipe from a cooking class at Rutgers, but I think it's originally from Giada.

for the cookies:
2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 stick butter
2 c sugar
2 eggs
15 oz whole milk ricotta cheese (I started using organic ricotta, which seems to be a bit more watery than the regular kind - this made my cookies spread a bit more than usual)
juice from one lemon (~ 3 tbsp)
zest from one lemon (if you end up with long strips like I did, chop them a bit to break them into small bits)

for the glaze:
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
juice from one lemon (definitely use fresh lemons - the flavor will be much better!)
zest from one lemon

Preheat the oven to 375°. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down sides after each one. Add the cheese, lemon juice and lemon zest and stir until combined. Stir in the dry mixture until just combined.

Spoon the mixture in tbsp increments onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake about 15 minutes, until the middles are set and they're just golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let rest on the baking sheets for about 20 minutes.

When the cookies are ready to glaze, combine powdered sugar, lemon juice and zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth (I might reduce the amounts next time, because I only used about 2/3 of the glaze). Spoon about 1/2 tsp glaze onto each cookie and spread it gently with the back of the spoon. (I find it easiest to glaze the cookies while still on the parchment, to reduce the mess - I used to do it with the cookies on cooling racks and it was a drippy disaster!) Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours (I did this, and then put the cookies into a tupperware which allowed the glaze to re-moisten. I think the only solution is to not make these too far in advance, so you can keep them out).


  1. Jeff brought them into the office and they were DELICIOUS!!!!!

  2. I'm glad you guys liked them! I'll have to send things in more often.

  3. That ricotta cheese must give them a great texture and wonderful flavor. Sounds like a good recipe and your cookies look fantastic. I have a sweet treat linky party going on at my blog called "Sweets for a Saturday" and I'd like to invite you to stop by this weekend and link your cookies up.

  4. I love lemon and ricotta cheese together. I think these look great. I saw your link on "Sweets for a Saturday."

  5. What a lovely marriage of cookie and lemon! Yum!