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Food: A Tough Cookie

November 26, 2010

3 perfect cookies (47 not so perfect)

I don’t know why I decided today was the day I should give baking another shot. But I do know that it is not a good sign when you are baking, someone calls, and your first words on the phone are “I fail at cookies.”

It must be the season- my mother is a fabulous baker and when I’m home we bake together (read: she bakes, I measure things and crack eggs for her), especially during the holidays. So I guess I thought, hey, I can do that too. But instead of trying to bake something simple like chocolate chip cookies, I went on a hunt for the recipe to one of my favorites, Italian Christmas Cookies.

The recipe below made 5 batches*, and thank god. The first batch was dismal- too big, too flat, and I hadn’t added enough ricotta. The second batch was only marginally better and still had fork marks in the top since I hadn’t gotten the timing down. The third batch was promising until I dropped it on the floor (see below- this was about when I answered that phone call). The fourth batch was almost there, but the fifth batch- that one was the winner. Did they taste the way I remember them, or like the cookies you can buy in the North End? No, not at all. But I did take batches 4 and 5 (and the non-floored half of batch 3) with me to work and got the following comments:

-“I’m really not trying to kiss-up, these are actually good.”
-“You made these?”
-“These are way better than those cupcakes you made last year.”

So, I’d say they weren’t a total disaster. Below is the recipe, should you feel inspired to try a little baking this season.

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
15 oz ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons anise extract
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each.

one-handed, my only baking skill

Beat in ricotta and vanilla. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl, then gradually add to butter mixture.

my favorite part of baking

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment paper, on baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10  minutes.

batch #2

Should you decide to lift up the parchment paper and transport your cookies from your oven to your kitchen table, try really hard not to drop them on the floor. But if you do, que sera sera.

batch #3. FAIL.

Compare batches before deciding which are worth frosting.

too big, too small, just right.

To make the icing:
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp anise extract (or almond)
3-4 tbsp milk (or enough until icing reaches right consistency)

Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add milk until frosting is spreadable. Frost cooled cookies by dipping tops into bowl. If you are decorating, do so immediately before icing hardens.  Store cookies in fridge. Voila.

batch #5

*Actually there was enough dough for 6 batches, but after the fifth I put the rest in a container in the fridge. I may not be able to make good finished cookies, but the dough was delicious and makes an excellent snack.

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