Sunny-lemony ricotta cookies, because we cannot live on bread alone


January came with an avalanche of green juice blogging. Even this wee blog, untrendy as it is, got with the zeitgeist and talked about bird seed bread, kale, Burmese salads, and accidental trendiness healthiness.

Then, I bought far too much ricotta. For the past week, our diet has been full of ricotta-laced pesto and ricotta mustard tarts (the tarts adapted from the great Dorie herself). And these ricotta cookies.

These cookies were light, cake-like and fluffy. I added as much lemon zest and lemon juice as I dared, with a fat pinch of crushed lavender buds. And the taste? Creamy and primly sweet from the ricotta and castor (granulated) sugar, but thanks to the lemon zest and lavender, each cookie was a sparkling, sunny mouthful.

Compared to the excesses of December – such as the darkly spiced Sri Lankan Christmas cake lurking in some of the photos – these lemony ricotta cookies seemed positively fresh and sober. Like calisthenics early morning yoga.


I wasn’t planning to post about the cookies. They were a quick weeknight dessert that used up some pantry staples. But when we both went back for seconds, I decided to salvage some photos for the blog. Hence the liberal handful of icing sugar to hide cosmetic sins (I dropped the cookie dough rather unceremoniously on the baking tray, resulting in lumpy cookies).

Recipe notes: I have had a few recipes for ricotta cookies bookmarked forever. This time, I used the recipe from Giada de Laurentiis, because it uses up to twice as much ricotta as other recipes (and less butter to compensate), thus suitable for our rather luxurious ricotta glut. Other than the amount of ricotta used, it is similar to other recipes for Italian ricotta cookies, though some Italian recipes flavour the cookies with aniseed or arak, which sounds intriguing and would be an excuse to buy arak.

Giada’s recipe includes a glaze for the cookies. I thought the cookies were sweet enough on their own and did not add a glaze, but I’ve added it below in the recipe. I would consider reducing the amount of sugar in the cookies themselves if I was going to add a glaze.

The cookies had a slightly crisp outside and a soft inside on day one. On day two, after being in an airtight container, the cookies had softened so they became even more cake-like. We thought they were best eaten just out of the oven or within 24 hours, though they kept for about 3 days.


About that Sri Lankan cake lurking in photos

Even though it’s way past Christmas and we have had enough of fruit cakes and mince pies for another 11 months, I just want to say – make the Sri Lankan Christmas cake in 2014. At the Christmas table, it set off a number of dreamy-eyed reminiscence about travelling around the subcontinent and finding dark, spiced fruit cakes. Cakes that remind one of English Rose fruit cakes, but richer, more moist, more mysteriously and excitingly spiced, and therefore redolent of all that was memorable about those journeys. And that was before people got to the cashew marzipan icing.

Actually, if you like darkly spiced fruit cakes and want a reason to make this cake before December 2014, a Sri Lankan colleague tells me they are also served at weddings, which makes them year-round celebratory cakes.

I used the recipe from Three Little Halves blog this year, because I found the same types of preserves. Another tried-and-true recipe comes from Charmaine Solomon’s The Complete Asian Cookbook (and is reproduced on the ABC website).


Ricotta cookies

(barely tweaked from Giada de Laurentiis, Food Network)



1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar (I used 160 grams of castor/granulated sugar)
15 ounces (425 grams) whole milk ricotta cheese
Zest of 2 lemons
3 tablespoons lemon juice (you could sub in a teaspoon of vanilla extract)
2 tsp culinary lavender buds, crushed
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups (325 grams) AP / plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt (I used coarse sea salt)

Glaze (I did not use the glaze as I thought the cookies were sweet enough)

1 1/2 cups (about 225 grams) icing / powdered sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
Optional: coloured or chocolate sprinkles


1. Preheat the oven to 375F / 170C.

2. For the cookies: In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. (Optional step: rub lemon zest into the sugar with your fingertips until the sugar is fragrant with lemon oils)

3. Beat together butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating the mixture until it’s incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest (if not already rubbed into sugar), and lavender, mix until everything is combine, then stir in the flour mixture.

4. Line 2 baking sheets or baking trays with baking paper. Spoon the dough (I used 1 tablespoon for each cookie, Giada’s original asks for 2 tablespoons per cookie) onto the tray. Note: I ended up with quite a thick mixture, so my cookies didn’t melt and spread, though they did puff up a little. The picture on Food Network showed a slightly flatter cookie though.

5. Bake for 10-12 minutes (or 15 minutes if using 2 tbsps of dough per cookie). The cookies won’t brown on top, mine became light golden or medium brown at the edges, and light brown on the bottom. Remove from the oven and let cookies cool on a cooling rack for 20 minutes before adding the glaze, if using.

6. For the glaze: Combine the icing/ powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Add sprinkles, if using. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours.


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17 thoughts on “Sunny-lemony ricotta cookies, because we cannot live on bread alone

  1. Coffee and Crumpets 12 January 2014 at 3:53 am Reply

    The thing about Giada, I wonder if she eats anything she makes? She’s a little too thin for a pasta making, ricotta cookie baking person.
    Your Sri Lankan cake sounds wonderful and then you mentioned cashew marzipan??? Yum!
    As are these cookies! I love anything with lemon and the addition of lavender probably added such a lovely floral hint. Gorgeous.
    So, are we still on a healthy eating kick? Yeah, I stopped with that years ago.

    • saucygander 12 January 2014 at 8:33 am Reply

      Hahaha re Giada, maybe she has fabulous genes or the metabolism of a 12 year old (like a friend of mine, who eats like a whole restaurant but never gains weight).

      We are only being sort of healthy because it’s humid and hot in Sydney, and salads and light meals are much more weather appropriate than triple-choc-nutella-fudge-brownies. And I’ve already had colleagues ask about baked goods, so probably end of health kick this week.

      Oh and the cashew marzipan, it is brilliant. Cashew, rosewater, and optionally cardamom and saffron. I’ll do a post about it as part of other pastries, even if it’s too late to write about the Christmas cake.

  2. lovinghomemade 12 January 2014 at 6:25 am Reply

    They look amazing and your photos are wonderful. Ricotta cookies sound quite healthy!

    • saucygander 12 January 2014 at 8:35 am Reply

      Thank you! they are a bit healthier than brownies that are just butter, chocolate and sugar barely held together by flour and eggs. And lemon makes it taste lighter… 😀

  3. Gather and Graze 12 January 2014 at 9:31 am Reply

    Oh yum! These look great and full of flavours I love. Bookmarking this for next time I have ricotta in the fridge. Happy Sunday! Cheers, Margot

  4. Ada ~ More Food, Please 12 January 2014 at 11:12 am Reply

    Such delicious treats! I love Giada’s recipes–these ricotta cookies look so yummy! The Sri Lankan cake looks beautiful 🙂

  5. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella 12 January 2014 at 12:10 pm Reply

    Hehe and here I am buying the ingredients to make your bird seed bread. I should also make some ricotta to make these! 🙂

  6. Joanne T Ferguson (@mickeydownunder) 12 January 2014 at 12:47 pm Reply

    G’day and looks great Saucy, true!
    I wish I could come through the screen and try one right now too! Great photo!
    Cheers! Joanne

  7. Johnny Hepburn 12 January 2014 at 1:09 pm Reply

    So pleased you went with the link for Charmaine Solomon’s recipe. I used to have her book, but gave it to my neighbour when I went travelling five years ago. Still kicking myself! And must make her dry saffron chicken curry this year. That was always my favourite. Anyway, chow chow? And melon and ginger jam?? Intrigued by the latter. Your cake must’ve tasted amazing.
    And these cookies as well. So much ricotta. Although I could adapt that by halving the recipe. Although, I still have my lemon cheesecake to finish. Only the base made as yet. Have just finished a large bowl of oat crumble – that’s healthy, isn’t it? I’m like your friend that can eat the restaurant and stay thin!

  8. yummychunklet 12 January 2014 at 3:07 pm Reply

    What great looking cookies!

  9. Liz 12 January 2014 at 3:19 pm Reply

    “each cookie was a sparkling, sunny mouthful”–ok, then. I’m sold 🙂 The Christmas cake seems the cookies’ polar opposite–dark where they’re light. But both delish!

  10. The Novice Gardener 12 January 2014 at 3:48 pm Reply

    Beautiful photos, Saucy! Never made ricotta cookies before. Probably ’cause ricotta never lasts that long in the house; I’ve been known to eat it as is by the spoonfuls! What a glut! Next time I buy ricotta, I swear I’ll give these a try! 🙂

  11. lapetitecasserole 12 January 2014 at 5:34 pm Reply

    how we can survive without ricotta? being italian means to eat ricotta at least one time a week but, trust me, I’ve never tried biscotti with it! great to know!

  12. tableofcolors 13 January 2014 at 4:27 am Reply

    Such a delightful post…the photos are wonderful and the lurking cake seems so enticing as do the ricotta cookies.

  13. Butter, Basil and Breadcrumbs 14 January 2014 at 12:56 am Reply

    Love this post. The cookies look amazing…and while you say that we cannot live on bread alone, I’m quite certain I could live on these cookies alone! And the cake? It looks wonderful!

  14. Michelle 14 January 2014 at 12:46 pm Reply

    I don’t know how to choose. May I please have one of each?

  15. Victoria 16 January 2014 at 4:06 am Reply

    Pictures are worth…a thousand bites, right? Looks delicious!

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