Wednesday, February 24, 2010

52 Cookies - Chapter 8

I know I have mentioned before how I will select a new recipe based on a unique ingredient. That was definitely the case for this week's installment on my Cookie Journey. This recipe never even made it to the recipe binder either as I just tore it out of the March 2010 issue of Family Circle magazine that my Mom re-purposed to me last weekend. We swap magazines with each other when we are done with them. Sometimes the magazines will have pages ripped out of them and we will wonder what was so interesting that the other person needed that page so badly. I tear more out than she does and I sometimes feel bad about giving her a magazine with pages ripped out. But then I get over it when I remember that I paid for it and I'm entitled to do whatever I want with my magazines! Sorry Mom!

The intriguing ingredient in this week's cookie is ricotta cheese. I'll let you think about that one for a minute. Now, try and predict what you think ricotta cheese might do to a cookie. You know, I really should have gotten better grades in chemistry class because baking is very much a science experiment. Have you ever seen lemon juice and baking soda together?! It's fun to watch! The ricotta cheese helped to produce a very moist and tender, but not fragile cookie. They are very simple little cake-style cookies with even simpler glaze-type icing on top. I had a lemon on-hand and decided to add a little lemon zest to the glaze to give it some flavor. That lemon zest was just the ticket to convince Evan he wanted one of these otherwise ho-hum looking cookies and then he asked for a second one. Evan loves lemons, and cherries and chocolate, and cheeseburgers and tacos and milkshakes. And that's about it. So, most meals, he isn't very happy. At least these cookies made him happy. It was nice to have a simple tasting cookie this week after those obnoxiously rich (nearly candy) cookies from last week.

Ricotta Cookies
Here's what you'll need:
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons milk
You can add orange, lemon or lime zest to alter the flavor. You can use a little vanilla, or, a little coffee or maple flavoring; whatever direction you'd like to take these great little cookies. These are perfect with a cup of coffee or tea.

Here's what you do:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and whisk together. Set this aside. In a large mixing bowl, add your softened butter and granulated sugar. Blend that with your mixer until it's light and fluffy. A couple of minutes will do just fine. Now, add the egg, ricotta cheese and vanilla. Beat until completely combined, scraping down the sides of your bowl if necessary. Turn your mixer down to low and slowing add the flour mixture. The reason you want your mixer on low is so you don't end up with a face full of flower. Trust me, it's not fun when that happens. Beat until combined. I used my favorite little cookie dough scoop and lined the cookie dough up on a cookie sheet. I was conservative at first lining them up since I didn't know how much these cookies would spread out. Let's just say, they stayed in their exact little mound shapes and didn't spread at all. So that first tray looked almost like a bunch of ping pong balls when they came out of the oven. The next tray I decided I would smoosh (technical term) the dough down a bit before putting them in the oven. That worked out much better and helped them take on the universal cookie shape I was looking for. Bake the cookies for roughly 11 minutes or so. Start watching them at 10 minutes and see how it goes. Every oven is different. You'll know when they are done. You don't want any browning on top, but take comfort in knowing that if you have an oops! that you will be covering them in a glaze that will thankfully camoflage it. Let the cookies cool completely on a cookie rack before glazing them. While they cool, mix the powdered sugar, milk and any flavoring you might like to try out. Make sure your consistency isn't so thick it needs to be spread. These cookies are too tender for that. Besides, you want that nice and smooth, glossy finish that only a glaze can provide. I take that back, chocolate ganache has been known to leave a nice, glossy finish too! Once your glaze is ready, you take one cookie at a time and dip the tops in allowing excess to drip off. Then turn the cookie right-side-up and let the glaze set-up on the cookie on the cookie rack.

The plate these cookies are presented on in this picture comes from a huge collection of my Grandma Blue's enamel ware that she left me when she passed away almost 17 years ago. Grandma collected that blue spackled stuff for all of my life. Her kitchen was full of it and I just loved it and she knew it. It reminded me of what cowboys would eat from out on the trail. I loved the idea of scraping the tin pans to scoop out beans or cobbler that had been prepared over a campfire. I let each of my brothers choose a piece of the collection to have for themselves and the rest has been mine to use, display and store in my cedar chest. Everytime I take out a plate or bowl from her collection, I know Grandma is pleased to see them still being used.

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