My Favorite Christmas Cookie

When I was a teenager, I met my friend Linda.  She lived a few blocks from my house, and we met in high school.  I still talk to Linda, and she lives in Georgia now with her husband and two (now teenage) boys.  Her mom did something my mother didn’t, she made plates and plates of Christmas cookies!  My mom leaned more towards making Irish Soda bread and these awesome Yule logs with holly from the trees in our backyard, so don’t get me wrong she didn’t slack!  There was one cookie that Linda’s mom made that I absolutely fell in love with, and as an adult, I now made them every Christmas.  My version is a little different, I add lemon to mine, both the cookie and the icing.  The recipe is fairly easy, but oh so delicious!

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
15 oz ricotta cheese, preferably fresh
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 grams fine sea salt (about 3/4 teaspoon)
450 grams confectioners’ sugar (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup milk, as needed

Using an electric mixer, cream 2 sticks butter with sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add ricotta, lemon zest and 2 1/2 teaspoons 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 flour, baking soda and salt. Cover dough and chill for at least 2 hours and up to a week.

Heat oven to 350 degrees and line several cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick liners. Shape tablespoons of dough into balls. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets and bake until pale golden on the bottom, about 15 minutes.  They will spread a good deal, but when I say golden I mean the merest coloring.  Ideally they should be very pale.

While the cookies are cooling, melt remaining tablespoon butter. Whisk confectioners’ sugar to break up any large lumps, then whisk in melted butter, lemon juice, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and enough milk to make a spreadable icing. Spread icing on cooled cookies, then let set for at least 20 minutes before serving.  I find dipping them in helps and makes it a great deal less messy.

Linda’s mom used to put a little piece of candied peel on each of the cookies, and it really does look and taste fabulous, but I just let them dry completely and then I stack them on a plate.  You might want to put some parchment or wax paper between the layers.


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