Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Italian Ring Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

Smooth, creamy cottage cheese is the base for these crisp-chewy, chocolatey ring cookies. A sprinkle of coarse sugar adds crunch.

Italian Ring Cookies

I have a stepfamily with deep roots in Italy. Half of the adults were born in a small town in the Apulia region, and their traditions and culture are dominant (occasionally even oppressively so) in their lives here. No time is this more apparent than the holidays, where almost a whole week is dedicated to celebrations. First, there is my stepdad's "first" birthday (he has two... long story about escaping military service in the old country), where he and my mom go out for the day. Then comes Christmas Eve, the day of the Feast of the Seven Fish which is spent cooking, serving and agonizing over hostessing. While it's supposed to be a holy-based event, like Lent and "fish on Fridays" it's really more in ceremony than in substance, but observed nonetheless. Obviously, Christmas follows in all it's commercial wrappings and further feasting, and finally just around New Years we have stepdad's birthday #2. For each of these events we're guaranteed a minimum of 20 guests at the house, most of whom are proudly Italian by birth or marriage, while my sister and I are content with Rudolph and the Grinch.

I know I sound rather cynical about the holiday, and in a sense I am - I'm not a good "people person", especially in groups, and like a lot of other foodies I have little in common with anyone else. I do take solace in the fact that neither my sister nor I eat the "holiday meal", nor do we fit the "expected" mould of "married with kids". The other reason the Christmas holidays are generally not exciting for me is that there is an embargo on my cooking or baking being served at family functions. As a result, I really have nothing to do with the holiday.

While I may not be allowed to serve my treats on the actual buffet, nobody will stop me from giving out my cookies, candy and preserves as gifts. I try to pick a few things that have cultural ties for the Italians' baskets, and along with biscotti this year I chose these cheese-based, chocolatey ring cookies. The original recipe utilized ricotta in the dough, but I had none on hand at the time. What I did have, though, was an even creamier, richer tasting product: Nordica Smooth Cottage Cheese. Almost identical to the "extra fine" ricotta that costs $7 a tub, it was far easier to cream into a smooth dough and added the perfect amount of cakeyness to the inside of the baked cookies while their exterior gained a crisp, burnished shell. The ring shape is easy to hold and dunk in coffee, or stack up on a skewer for a fun presentation.

Everyone loves cookies at the holidays--no matter what holidays you are celebrating. And there are so many wonderful traditional cookies all over the world that we have decided to revisit this theme. Check out December 2014 for other choices from our first time doing it. And get inspired to get into the kitchen!

You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links.

If you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Italian Ring Cookies
Makes ~24
250 g Nordica Smooth Cottage Cheese or smooth ricotta
30 g butter, melted
130 g sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
50 g cocoa powder
pinch salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
100 g flour
100 g spelt flour
5g baking powder
1 tbsp egg replacer
Coarse sugar, to sprinkle
  1. Cream the cottage cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla. Add the cocoa, salt and nutmeg, beating well.
  2. Stir in the flours, baking powder and egg replacer powder.
  3. Cover and chill 1 hour.
  4. Roll into ropes with wet hands (this is like working with soft clay) and coil into rings. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar.
  5. Freeze while the oven heats
  6. Heat the oven to 350°F
  7. Bake, one sheet at a time, for 30 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 75.6
Total Fat: 1.7 g
Cholesterol: 3.8 mg
Sodium: 42.5 mg
Total Carbs: 10.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.4 g
Protein: 2.1 g

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