Remember those old commercials for Dunkin’ Donuts? There’s this one lonely guy up at a god-awful hour, heading to work (or maybe he’s already there) – it turns out he works at Dunkin’ Donuts, of course – and the oft-repeated phrase became, “It’s time to bake the donuts.” Well, it didn’t get to be “time to bake the cookies” this year until really, really close to Christmas; which meant I was putting it off until almost too late. Still, I managed to come off with six kinds of cookies, some brownies and a chocolate confection (that almost failed but I managed to save it). All the cookies but one were old favorites, and the non-oldie came from a writer friend I’ve never met in person (that story will come with the recipe later on). The brownies wound up coming from a Ghirardelli box mix, with some additions to it.
No wonder that, after the bake-rush, I had to take a break from even the thought of cookies and chose to first post recipes for the main dish, Christmas Eve buffet items! But now, “It’s time to post the cookies,” starting with the one that’s probably most people’s favorite. At least it’s #1 with my husband.
This recipe originally came from a woman with whom I used to work, Annette. She brought these treats into the office sometime in the late 1970s (or maybe early 80s) and we all asked for the recipe after just one taste. There was even a time when it was a big deal in that office for a few of us to bake for weeks before Christmas to pile up individual gift plates of cookies for our supervisors and their families. We’d bring in our cookies and sort them to plates or tins early in Christmas week, before folks started to take holiday time off. I recall starting the baking process in mid-November, making cookies that freeze well (including some to be frosted when thawed). I can’t imagine doing all that now, since I remember working through something like a dozen different recipes most holiday seasons– it seemed I felt compelled to ensure a variety of tastes, textures and colors! (That was a great office in which to work, except for the calorie intake.)
A few years later, my hubby came home from work one night and told me the women in the office were organizing a cookie exchange and, if they wanted to, the HVAC techs were also invited to participate. Since he can be quite literal sometimes, Bill decided he had to be the one to bake, that spouses weren’t supposed to do it for them. Even though he’s not much for cooking and he’d never baked before, he said he was going to make his favs, Risotto Cookies. It helped that he knew they were easy to make, along with the fact that the recipe produces a large batch of goodies! Not surprisingly, they were a great hit; however, no one believed that he baked them himself. He was the only MAN who’d baked his own cookies – one of the few men who even participated in the exchange.
I have no idea why these rich little cookies came to be named “risotto” since Italian recipes dubbed “risotto” are labor-intensive rice dishes which acquire their creaminess through almost constant stirring. No rice here. Perhaps the baker of origin started out calling them “Ricotta Cookies” and a typist somewhere misread and thus renamed it. As far as I’m concerned, either label could evoke an instant response when I hear or read the word – taste buds begin to crave them (how much more “Pavlov’s Dog” can one get?). They’re especially sweet and yummy if you ice them with buttercream frosting.
Oh yeah—you use your hands for the final mixing, so be prepared for a slightly messy end-procedure (have a towel on hand). This is not dough—it’s moist!
Yields a huge number of cookies, depending upon size. Minimum of 50-60.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 sticks butter, melted and cooled (my original recipe calls for margarine; I don’t cook or bake with margarine any more)
- 1 lb. ricotta cheese (I usually can only find a 15 oz. container in stores, which works fine)
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt and sugar.
- Separately, in another bowl, mix eggs into the cooled butter, one at a time.
- Add butter/egg mixture to the dry mixture, stirring in well.
- Add ricotta to the bowl, combining it well with your hands.
- Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. (I’ve been known to do larger dollops.)
- Bake for approximately 12 minutes, until bottoms are lightly browned (you can lift one with a spatula, to check it, when you begin to see browning around the edges against the cookie sheet).
- Remove from oven and allow to rest on pan for a couple minutes before removing.
- Cool completely.
- Whether to frost them or not is the baker’s choice. I like them with a standard buttercream frosting and then I’ll add different colored sprinkles to half of the batch. I’ve been known to simply sift confectioner’s sugar over them. I’ve never done it, but a confectioner’s-sugar-and-water icing would work as well.