Lemon Ricotta Cookies
My friend brought lemon ricotta cookies to our cookie exchange party in December. Never one to turn down a lemon treat, it was the first cookie I picked up. I tasted ricotta cookies once or twice before and they always left me unimpressed. Soft, yes. Cakey, yes. Boring, yes. But I never had any quite like this one. It was light. It was moist. It danced on my tongue like a spritely sugarplum fairy dressed in a yellow tutu. It was like the vanilla part of a black and white cookie, but soaked in sweet lemon.
I suppose you could say that at first bite, rivers parted and the heavens opened as I experienced one of the best cookies to ever hit my tastebuds.
Dramatic? No way!
Long gone are the days I turn up my nose at cakey cookies because lemon ricotta cookies, in all of their fragrant cake-like beauty, have completely stolen my heart. Dense and chewy cookies are great and all, but these little rays of sunshine take the cake. 😉 Add lemon ricotta cookies to your to-do list this week because you NEED to experience this too!
First, these cookies do not taste like cheese. The ricotta lends less of a flavor and more of a texture. Think: creamy, moist, soft, and airy. Pick up some ricotta or make some yourself. I’ve never made homemade ricotta and definitely didn’t trust myself to begin. The higher the fat percentage, the creamier the ricotta will be. I used 2% milk ricotta in this recipe and loved how the cookies turned out.
I wanted to use the entire 15 ounce container of ricotta, so this recipe yields a decent amount of cookies. If it’s too many for you, feel free to halve the recipe or you can bake them all and freeze half of the cookies for another time. Unglazed lemon ricotta cookies freeze and thaw beautifully.
Ricotta cheese is really the only “special” ingredient here– the rest are pretty basic like flour, butter, sugar, eggs. Creamed butter + sugar is the base. You’ll add eggs, lemon zest and juice, vanilla, and almond extract. I suppose we can call the almond extract another special ingredient. I *loved* it paired with the creamy cookie texture and light lemon flavor.
Want to try something else? Swap orange or lime for the lemon. Y-U-M.
You’ll have a cake batter / cookie dough hybrid on your hands. At this point it will spread all over your baking sheet, so it’s crucial to chill the batter/dough (datter? bough?) in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before baking.
Use your Tablespoon to measure out 1 Tablespoon of cookie dough/batter. You can use a cookie scoop, but I found that anything larger than 1 Tablespoon yielded particularly flat ricotta cookies. Or let me reword that… ricotta pancakes. And not like the delicious ricotta pancakes you’ve tasted before. These were ricotta cookie pancakes with gnarly crisp edges and undercooked centers.
I tried reworking the recipe by adding more flour to help prevent excess spreading, but it was useless. Chilling the cookie dough/batter and measuring 1 scant Tablespoon per cookie prevents cookie pancake woes.
Let’s move onto the glaze. Easy stuff here: just confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice. For color, toss some zest in there too. You can dunk the cookies into the glaze or spoon it on top. The glaze will set on the cookies after a couple hours so you can easily stack, store, or transport the cookies.
Look at these sparkly lemon gems! They’ve got a little tang, a little sweet, a little tart, and lot of creamy. They’re like miniature lemon cakes and I know you’ll instantly fall in love too. Sugarplum-fairy-in-a-yellow-tutu and all.
Lemon Ricotta Cookies
- 2 and 1/2 cups (310g) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick; 115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 and 2/3 cups (335g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 15 ounces (425g) ricotta cheese, at room temperature*
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
- 1 Tablespoon (15ml) lemon zest
- 2 and 1/2 Tablespoons (37ml) fresh lemon juice
- 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1/4 cup (60ml) fresh lemon juice
- optional: sliced almonds for garnish
- Make the cookies: Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
- With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer running on low speed, add the eggs one at a time, then add the ricotta cheese, vanilla extract, almond extract (if using), lemon zest, and lemon juice. Beat on medium-high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients. Beat everything just until incorporated. Do not overmix. Dough will be very creamy, sticky, and thick. Cover dough tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour and up to 2-3 days.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. (Always recommended for cookies.) Set aside.
- Remove cookie dough from the refrigerator. Measure cookies to be 1 Tablespoon of dough each-- just use a Tablespoon measuring spoon and your finger to release it onto the sheet. Place 3 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake for 13-14 minutes or until a cookie springs back when lightly poked with your finger. (That's how I test them!)
- Remove from the oven and allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.
- Make the glaze: Whisk the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice together until smooth. Add more confectioners' sugar to thicken or more lemon juice to thin, if desired. Spoon over cookies. Top with a sliced almond, if desired. If applied lightly, the glaze will set within a couple hours.
- Glazed cookies will stay fresh covered at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Make ahead tip: You can chill the cookie dough in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (see step 2), but you can also freeze it for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before baking. Unglazed and baked cookies freeze well for up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before glazing and serving.
*I tested and enjoyed this recipe using 2% milk ricotta cheese. You can use any fat percentage. Keep in mind that whole milk ricotta is the creamiest. If your container is 16 ounces, no worries-- just use it all. The 1 extra ounce won't make a difference.
Why room temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information. It really makes a difference!
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