I can’t believe it’s February already! After the fun and festivities of the fall and holiday seasons, January seems like a very quiet month…but it turns out that’s a good thing, as it allows us to reset and recharge for the new year…and start planning for the holidays to come. First up – Valentine’s Day, and all the sweetness it brings. For this month’s Direct Magazine issue of The Recipe Box, I have a delicious Gingerbread Ricotta Cookie recipe to share with you. That’s right, gingerbread is not just for Christmastime!
They’re dipped in a delicious orange icing…lemon icing is a good match too, but when my adorable neighbors knocked on my door with a bagful of oranges they’d picked from their tree, there was no two ways about it – orange icing it would be!
This is the second time I’ve adapted the recipe for Italian Ricotta Cookies from my friend Shelby at Grumpy’s Honeybunch. The recipe makes lemon cookies that are so good, and last October I made a Pumpkin Spice version with a maple-apple cider glaze that was (forgive the Halloween pun, I can’t help it!) “to die for.”
Shelby makes a triple chocolate ricotta cookie, which I must try soon – chocolate is great for Valentine’s Day too! The ricotta cheese makes these cookies very moist and cake-like. They stay fresh for a good week if stored in an airtight container, and the recipe makes over 4 dozen cookies so you’ll have plenty to share, and you can even keep a few for yourself.
Molasses and warm spices – allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and pinches of white pepper and cardamom – give the cookies their distinctive gingerbread flavor. I like to make spice mixes for cooking and baking, so that I’ve got great flavors at the ready. My version of gingerbread spice is below. You can use it in recipes that call for the individual spices by adding up the measurement of the individual spices and using the total amount of the spice mix. (In the recipe below, the spices add up to 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. and a pinch of cardamom – so use that amount of the gingerbread spice mix. If you prefer a stronger spice flavor, you can use more.)
By the way, if you have never used a “Wonder Cup”, it’s one of the best buys you can make for your cooking and baking. It makes measuring and pouring molasses, peanut butter, honey, corn syrup, or any thick and sticky ingredient a snap. The inner cup pushes the ingredient out, leaving no trace (so no waste!) inside the measuring cup – I’ve had mine for about 20 years and it’s one of my absolute favorite kitchen tools!
The dough is very easy to make ind it has a nice consistency. Using a cookie scoop (this one is 2 Tbsp.) helps to ensure that your cookies are of uniform size and shape – they look nice and will all bake at the same rate.
Bake them on parchment-lined baking sheets. Allow them to cool – it doesn’t take long – and make the icing while you wait.
You don’t have to use the zest in the icing if you’d rather not, but it does amp up the flavor and aroma. You can also sprinkle some zest on top of the icing.
Dip the top of each cookie into the icing and then return to the cooling rack; sprinkle with your choice of topping -seasonal holiday sprinkles make them extra kid friendly, or for an adult version, a few pieces of chopped crystallized ginger will give a spicy zing – and let them set. Put some on a pretty plate, and wrap some up in bags and boxes for your special Valentines. Enjoy!
Make these Valentine treats for your someone sweet! Sue
- For the cookies:
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- ⅓ cup molasses
- 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
- 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 Tsp. each: cinnamon, ginger and allspice**
- ½ tsp. each: cloves and nutmeg * *
- pinch of cardamom (optional)
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ** OR substitute all spices with 1 ½ Tbsp. Gingerbread Spice Mix:
- 2Tbsp. each: ground allspice, ground cinnamon, ground ginger
- 1 Tbsp. each: ground cloves, ground nutmeg
- Pinch of ground white pepper
- Pinch of cardamom
- Whisk all spices together until well combined. Store in an airtight container. Use in cookies, cakes, pancakes, gingerbread, etc...
- For the Icing:
- 3 cups confectioner's sugar
- Juice of 1 fresh orange or lemon juice, plus additional as needed
- Zest of 1 fresh orange or lemon
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Cream together the butter and sugar.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until after each addition until well incorporated.
- Mix in the ricotta cheese and molasses. You may see small lumps of the ricotta; that's okay, they'll smooth into the batter when you add the dry ingredients.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients to the molasses-ricotta mixture, and mix until well-blended.
- Use a 2 Tbsp. cookie scoop to drop the batter onto the cookie sheets.
- Bake approximately 12 minutes, until the tops are just firm to the touch.
- Cool 1 minute on the baking sheet, then remove to a rack and cool completely.
- Make the icing by combining the confectioner's sugar, citrus zest and juice in a bowl.
- Whisk the mixture and add more juice, a little at a time, until you get the consistency you want.
- Dip the top of each cookie into the icing and allow the excess to drip off, then return to the cooling rack. Top the glaze with seasonal sprinkles, orange/lemon zest or thinly sliced crystallized ginger.
- Allow the cookies to set, then store in an airtight container.