Monday, January 25, 2010

Giada's Lemon Ricotta Cookies with a Lemon Glaze

Giada, it has been far too long.
How could I leave your cookbooks unopened when recipes like 'Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze' are just begging to be made?

Fortunately for us all, Giada's Kitchen was openend, Lemon Ricotta cookies were made, and my future with Giada looks bright.

Now about these cookies... I love these lemon-glazed lemon cookies. They are just brimming with sunshiney-lemony flavor. And I think of these as 'fancy' cookies. The ricotta gives the cookies a slightly cakey texture, and the lemon glaze looks and tastes great. So, if you are looking for a cookie that is easy to make, but a touch fancier than regular cookies... these are a ringer.

Nothing about these cookies is difficult. Thank you, Giada.

Start with a lemon assembly line. Zest a lemon.
Roll that lemon to release its juice and juice it. And juice more lemons until you get 3 tablespoons (this took me 1 1/2 lemons).
Now, mix your dry ingredients together: flour, salt, and baking powder.
In a large bowl, combine your room temperature butter and sugar.
Mix that for at least 3 minutes.
Now, add your eggs in one at a time.

Next up: add in your ricotta, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Mix that up.
It will not be smooth.
Now, put down your mixer and grab a spatula. You want to mix the dry ingredients in by hand: this way you don't run the risk of overmixing your batter and ending up with dense, chewy cookies.
Mix just until everything is incorporated.
Leaving some room between each cookie, you want to spoon about 2 tablespoons of batter per cookie onto parchment lined baking sheets.
(Just a hint: if you have a 2 tablespoon coffee scoop, use it. I have a 2 tablespoon coffee scoop. It would have been perfect... except I totally forgot I had it.)

Bake until the edges are just golden brown. The top of the cookies won't brown, so the edges are all you have to go by.
Now, let those cool for at least 20 minutes on the baking sheet. After they have cooled, you can move them to a wire rack. You should probably put some parchment under the rack (to catch any runaway glaze).
For the glaze, you need to zest another lemon and get 3 more tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. Stir that together with some powdered sugar.
And, there you have it: simple as can be lemon glaze. See how easy it is to make things fancy?
A note on the glaze: you want the glaze to be spreadable, so if it is too stiff, feel free to add some water. If it runs down the side of the cookies, that isn't a problem. You put that parchment paper under the rack, why not use it, right?

Get out a 1/2 teaspoon. Pour 1/2 teaspoon of glaze onto your cookie.
And use the back of the teaspoon to spread the glaze.
Let the glaze harden for 2 hours.
And then... enjoy!

Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze (from Giada's Kitchen)
Makes 44 cookies

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs (at room temperature)
1 15-ounce container whole-milk ricotta cheese (at room temperature, if you think about it)
Zest of 1 lemon*
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze:
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough onto the baking sheets using about 2 tablespoons for each cookie. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges.** Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

While they cool, combine the confectioners' sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a small bowl and stir until smooth.*** Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of the glaze onto each cooled cookie and use the back of the spoon to spread it to the edges. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. Pack the cookies in an airtight container.

*For this recipe, you need the zest of 2 lemons and a total of 6 tablespoons of lemon juice. I was able to get that amount from 3 lemons, but I would have 4 or 5 lemons on hand just to be on the safe side.
**When I made these in Colorado 15 minutes was perfect. But this time in California, it took more like 17-18 minutes. I think having all the ingredients at room temperature, should help keep the baking time around 15 minutes.
***If the glaze feels stiff and unspreadable, add a little water until it is the right consistency.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Surprisingly delicious: Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

If you are like me, you are probably thinking, banana bread... with chocolate chips? Banana bread with walnuts, fine. Banana bread with pecans, great. But why in the world would you add chocolate chips?

Then again, if you are like me, you are probably thinking, did someone say chocolate?

So, if you find yourself doubting the brilliance of chocolate chip banana bread, I understand. But, I'm telling you, get ready to be pleasantly surprised: this bread is completely delicious.

I generally mistrust things labeled banana 'bread': so often, it is really cake masquerading as 'quick bread'. But this banana bread is different: it is actually a sweet bread. You could eat it for breakfast. I did eat it for breakfast. And it was perfect.

Not only is this bread delicious, it is so easy to make. As with all quick breads, as long as you have two bowls and a spatula, you are in business.

Start by melting the butter, so it can cool by the time you add it to the other wet ingredients. And, I have finally found my favorite way to melt butter on the stove-top: cut it into 1/4 inch pieces or so. That way, it melts quickly, and you don't have to worry about any of it browning before the rest has melted.
Next, in a large bowl, mix up your dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. I didn't add any spices: I only wanted pure banana-chocolate goodness in this bread.
Now, grab your bananas.
Peel them, and put them into a different bowl.
Here's the fun part: mash them up. I like to use a potato masher, but a fork would do just fine.
Once those are well mashed, add in your melted butter, slightly beaten eggs, and vanilla.
Next, make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. The well helps you mix the ingredients together more quickly. And, have you ever started pouring a batter into a mold, when you realize that the dry ingredients on the bottom of the bowl, aren't mixed in? Well, the well-method helps with that too.
Pour in your wet ingredients.
Now, the next step is crucial: do not overmix the batter. Stir until everything is just combined. Then put down that spatula and walk away. If you stir it too much, your quick bread will end up chewy and dense. Keeping this in mind, I started to wonder why wait until everything is incorporated to add the chocolate chips? Isn't that just asking for the batter to be over-stirred? So, this go round, I started mixing everything together, and about half way through I added the chocolate chips.
But upon reflection, why didn't I just added the chocolate chips to the dry ingredients to begin with? Next time...

Gently stir that all together, until you can't see any flour. The batter will be lumpy, but that is how it is supposed to be.
Pour that into a greased loaf pan. And bake it off.
Let it sit in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing it.
And, there you have it, a surprisingly wonderful chocolate chip banana bread.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (adapted from
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 ripe large bananas, mashed well (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips or dark chocolate chunks*
1/2 cup toasted walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place oven rack to middle position. Grease 9 x 5 loaf pan, and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, chocolate chips, and nuts. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla. With a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon, lightly fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined and the batter is thick and chunky. (The important thing is not to over mix the batter. You do not want it smooth). Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake until bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes and then remove the bread from the pan.

Serve warm or at room temperature. This bread can be frozen.

*For chocolate chips, I like Ghiradelli 60% cacao