It’s that time of year again…the county fair.
We spent days talking about what each of the kids wanted to enter. Our son started with a cake, then was certain he wanted to enter biscotti, before finally settling on cookies. Our daughter wanted to enter fudge, but decided on brownies.
I was going to submit biscotti. I couldn’t decide what kind. My husband said to pick something I’ve made before that I know is good. Probably sage advice, but I didn’t follow it. As I looked at the Biscotti Bin, I noticed quite a few orange flavored items I’ve been waiting to try. I settled on Orange Pistachio Biscotti.
So early Saturday morning my daughter, my son, and I got a glimpse of the county fair before the gates even opened as we submitted our baked goods to be evaluated. They were equally exited about the rides…the yo-yo or those swings that make me dizzy just by looking at them, the freefall ride that I’ve always associated with the Demon Drop at Cedar Point in Ohio which I’ve never ridden only wondered how crazy you had to be to get on it, and the ferris wheel, which exacerbates my very slight fear of heights. Anyone who knows me knows I despise amusement parks.
We returned to the fair Sunday to check out the livestock, tractors, and of course find out if any of us had ribbons on our entries. We had the “we are all winners” conversation as we got out of the car and walked through the gates. And we had the “it doesn’t matter if we win or not, we had fun doing it” conversation. Yet, all our son kept saying was “I hope I won the fair!” I have to admit I was a bit nervous walking into the building that housed all the baked goods, not quite sure how all of this was going to play out.
We came across the “ethnic cookie” category first. I shared with you the outcome of my county fair entry last year. This year was perhaps even more comical. I again entered my biscotti in the “ethnic cookie” category. No ribbon. Not earth shattering and I realized I set a good precedence for whatever was to come as a result of our kids entries. While I got a hug from our daughter and an “it’s okay mom.” I was somewhat relieved and curious at the same time. As I looked at the other four entries, I realized each of them had gotten a ribbon. My biscotti came in last place. But the best part is that someone’s Italian Oatmeal Biscotti actually won first prize! My husband and I were laughing so hard we could barely read the tags to find the kids’ entries.
We found our daughter’s brownie container. No ribbon.
Then we found our son’s cookie container. A blue first place ribbon was attached to the top. I’ve never seen him more excited! Out of all the 5-11 year old entries in the “hand-formed cookie” category, he won first place. We congratulated him, took pictures, and shared a round of hugs.
He made these cookies all by himself. While I told him what to do, he got out the ingredients, measured, mixed, and hand-rolled each cookie. He whisked the frosting, dipped the cookies, and gave each a healthy sprinkle of nonpareils. Way to go my man!
We picked up our boxes and walked to the exit, only to be stopped by the baked good police who were shouting at us as if we were trying to smuggle a newborn out of the maternity ward. Apparently all entries need to remain at the fair until the final day. Who knew!
We quietly replaced the boxes and explained to a rather frustrated little guy that he had to wait to take the ribbon home. We promised to find a prominent place in the kitchen for him to display his award…when we finally get to bring it home. He is my big kitchen helper.
While I could share my recipe for my entry, Orange Pistachio Biscotti, the real show stopper is our son’s Lemon Ricotta Cookies. We make these during the holidays and although there are several steps involved, they are perfect cookies for little hands. There are plenty of recipes for ricotta cookies online and in Italian cookbooks. The cookie recipes are relatively the same, but the frosting recipes can vary greatly. We used a family recipe that has been handed down through the generations and wanted to share it with you here.
Lemon Ricotta Cookies
½ pound of butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 pound ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
4 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and salt.
3. Add the eggs, ricotta cheese, and lemon zest.
4. In another large bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, and baking powder.
5. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
6. Dip your hands into a bowl of cold water and shape small, no bigger than golf-ball sized balls, and place on parchment lined cookie sheets.
7. Bake for 10 minutes of until the edges are lightly browned. Let the cookies cool completely.
8. Dip the dome of each cookie upside-down into the frosting, and let all of the extra frosting drizzle off.
9. Immediately sprinkle each cookie with nonpareils.
5 tablespoons milk
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1. Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.