Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Lemon Cookie Bake-off - Two recipes go head to head!

Hi all!

My favorite dessert of all time is definitely those Italian, lemon cookies with the sugar glaze. I've been searching for the recipe for a while. I finally got the recipe from a friend of my grandmother's and to my dismay the recipe had no quantity indicated for the flour. It just said "quando basta", meaning "when its enough"...lol...To me, this means nothing...How am I supposed to know "quando basta"?! I made them that time but they were too floury..They were good but you needed coffee or a glass of water to wash them down. *cough-cough*

So recently, my lovely sister-in-law, Johanne gave me a recipe that she got from a friend...It was for Lemon cookies, much like the traditional ones except they are made with Ricotta cheese. Then at work, my buddy David gave me his grandmother's more traditional recipe. (or rather, his Nana, which he affectionately calls her :) Both recipes had clear instructions - no guesswork! YAY!

Anyway, from having no recipe, I now had two. What to do?  Both David and Johanne said that their recipes were amazing. So, I decided to have a lemon cookie bake-off to determine which was, in fact, the best. I planned to make both types and have family and friends vote on their favorite.
So, this weekend I made both types..36 of each! (The recipes were supposed to yield between 45-50 cookies..lol but I made mine huge!! I always do that..cookies, meatballs...HUGE!)

I got some small pastry boxes to distribute and the race was on!

The Lemon-Ricotta cookies came out great. They were light and fluffy with a pronounced lemony flavor, which I loved. I looove lemon!

David's Nana's also came out great, they actually looked a little better because they held their shape really well. They had a subtle citrus flavor, thanks to the use of orange juice and zest and only a little bit of lemon in the glaze. They were also a little more dense and floury. They were like the ones I remembered from childhood...awwww.

Main recipe differences : In the Lemon-Ricotta recipe, the cookies themselves contained no lemon. The lemon juice and zest was only added to the glaze. Whereas, in David's Nana's recipe, there was orange juice and zest in the cookie and lemon juice in the glaze. Also in the Lemon-Ricotta recipe, it called for 3 cups of flour and 1/2 a pound of butter vs. David's which required 5 cups of flour and 1 cup of oil. (both recipes will be posted, starting with the winner)

First, my vote...I loved them both and couldn't decide which I liked best..but after much pondering and  ingesting many, many cookies I decided on David's Nana's cookies. It must have been those childhood memories, because both recipes were excellent. My fiance, Andre loved the Lemon-Ricotta ones. Bianca, my sister, liked the subtle flavor of Nana's cookies.

My friends, who are also followers of Vanilla Bean, were really into the whole voting thing, which I was really excited about. They were judging based on taste, texture and looks. So, they'd take a bite, look up, savor it..and then provide detailed commentary...Aftertaste, no aftertaste, tangy, sugary, floury....
Iron Chef judges over here! lol ...but it's just what I wanted.

The verdict! Johanne's Lemon-Ricotta cookies won!!!! Congratulations!!

Most commented that although both cookies were good, these had a lighter, softer texture.
It was so close..11 to 7! It was a little suspenseful :D At first I was sure the Lemon Ricotta ones were winning, then a few votes came in putting Nana's cookies ahead..lol.. and then, well, you know...

Here are some pics thanks to my poor IPhone which is always by my side, full of flour and dough ...No joke! I'm sure there's flour in there!

Cookie making in progress

Orange zest being added to Nana's batter.

For the shape, take a heaping teaspoon of dough, put a little flour on your hands and roll out, like this.

Then join the two ends together and....

Do the twist!

Here I just wanted to display the consistency the confectioner's sugar should be.

Dip your cookie, and let the excess drip 

Enjoy with a coffee!


  1. I'd love to make them! some of the best cookies I've tasted! Will you post the recipe?

  2. I just posted it Jen! I'm also posting the runner up, tomorrow.

  3. Hi Stephanie,

    The Lemon-Ricotta is actually my recipe!!!Johanne had told me that she had given it to you. If they did not hold their shape it might be because of a little over-cooking. It happens to me sometimes too. The consistency is not always the same, to my great dismay!!! I will know as soon as I start rolling the balls if the dough is perfect or not. I dip my cookies when still a bit warm and the icing sugar has to be quite thick. I then put then on a cooling rack.I'm glad everyone liked them.

  4. I loved these cookies. both were good, but if I had to choose, I liked the Ricotta ones.

  5. They are always a big hit!!! Made them for fund-raising events, Christmas parties and engagements parties too!!! I saw that you made them in a large twist. I do them as small balls, the size of a Timbit basically. They will flatten a bit when cooking but stay round on top. Then I dip them in the glaze (I love to put a lot of lemon rind, gives the glaze a beautiful look). This way they are bite-size...

  6. Hey Marie! So happy you commented!
    Yes I know its yours but I wasn't sure if you'd be ok with me mentionning your name on-line :) Thank you for passing on such a great recipe and for the additional tips. If you have any other great recipes to share - feel free.

  7. Oh yeah, I forgot...Congratulations Marie on winning my little baking competition :)

  8. Oh thanks... I'll look for others recipes that you might like. Do they have to be italian specialties or anything sweet will do?