These Orange infused sweet ricotta peach cookies are a family favorite. Also known as Italian Pesche Dolci or Slovenian Breskvice, these are usually served for holidays and special celebrations (think weddings, birthday parties, etc). This is an impressive dessert made with two cookies, filled with whipped ricotta, rolled in liqueur and sugar and it looks like a mini bite-sized peach.
Out of all the recipes on this site, year after year these ricotta peach cookies win the popularity contest. You all love them so much and I can’t blame you, at all, because I absolutely love them too. It’s true, these are a labor of love. They will need some of your energy and time, but they are so worth the effort. Not only because they are precious to look at, but because they are so darn delicious.
A few notes on origin
Traditionally, Slovenian peaches are filled with a mixture of cookie crumbs, jam and ground nuts. Even our old family cookbook (more like a recipe notebook, ripped at the edges because it’s so old) has this version written in it. And if you find them at a store in Slovenia, that’s what you’ll get. In my opinion, this nutty mixture is a perfectly delectable filling. You’ll never see me say no to a peach like that, if I can get my hands on it.
But as I was flipping through Southern Italian Desserts, I found an Italian recipe for peaches. Forget about the nuts, the chocolate, the jam. Italian peaches are filled with ricotta (Pesche Dolci Sicilliane). RICOTTA! That was just the biggest revelation for me. Why not use ricotta? The thought alone made my mouth water.
Of course there are even more versions of peaches out there. If you search for a recipe for European peaches online, you’ll get many hits. Mainly from Central, Southern and Eastern Europe. That is completely understandable, because of our shared history. And food is a big part of culture and history. There’s nothing more personal than the food we eat.
What exactly is a peach cookie dessert
Peach cookies, or peaches as we like to call them, are like cookie sandwiches, when you really look at them. You have two cookies, their crunchy exterior, hiding soft and divine ricotta as filling.
The secret is in the hollow cookies. Part of the inside of every cookie is scooped out, to make room for the fluffy ricotta. This is what glues the halves together and what makes these cookies incredibly juicy and flavorful.
The ricotta is infused with plenty of orange zest, that gives the whole cookie an incredible citrus aroma. We also add vanilla and sugar to it, to make it that more delicious. If you know ricotta, you know it’s very mild in flavor. So adding a few of these things really brings it to life.
Than you take this round ricotta stuffed cookie sandwich, brush it with rum (or peach liqueur) and roll it in sugar. The shell is then coated with crunchy sugar crystals, that give the appearance of peach fuzz. At this point you no longer have an ordinary cookie sandwich. Instead it looks like a mini peach dessert.
I like to make mine pink, so they look like small white peaches. And they’re so good, they are gone in a bite or two.
Steps of making ricotta peach cookies
- Make the ricotta filling first: Whisk ricotta with sugar, orange zest and vanilla and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, as you make the cookies.
- Make the cookie dough: This process is simple and involves mixing all of the ingredients into a smooth dough. Let it rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
- Shape cookies: Roll the dough into two logs and slice each log into 44 pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball.
- Bake cookies: Place cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet (you need two), about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. Bake for 10 minutes, until bottoms are golden brown. As you take one sheet out of the oven, you place in the other one.
- Scoop out the cookies: Scoop out the center of the cookies while they are still warm. They harden as they cool, but as long as they are warm, you can make the holes without breaking the cookies.
- Prepare for assembly: First prepare your food coloring and mix it with your liquid of choice (rum, peach liqueur, peach juice). Have another bowl ready that is filled with sugar.
- Assemble the cookies: Fill each cookie hole with ricotta. Press two flat sides together. Brush each cookie with liquid, roll it in sugar and place on a large plate.
- Chill cookies for a few hours (or overnight) before serving.
Notes on baking and oven temperature
When I first shared the recipe for these, I lived in a different apartment with a different, much older kitchen and a wonky oven. I suspected for a long time it never worked right.
I mean, it worked, as in I was able to bake with it. But I always felt like it never held a consistent temperature. It wasn’t so much about the oven having cold or hot spots, it was more that the temperature would rise and drop and rise on its own. Without me doing anything to the oven! That’s what I suspected anyway, as I never tested this with a thermometer (which I now regret).
Why am I talking about this? Well, as I made these peach cookies in my new kitchen I FAILED. Seriously, the cookies came out of the oven all cracked! And I always say that a crack here or there is normal (it is). But these were all deeply cracked on top and I was stunned! What have I done wrong?
What to do when cookies crack on top
When a cookie cracks or when all cookies crack, there are a few things to consider. I tested them all.
1. Is the dough cold enough?
I refrigerated the dough for a few minutes only and for a few hours. The end result was no different for this type of dough.
2. Did I use too much baking powder?
Too much baking powder can make a cookie puff up which can make it crack. I made a batch of dough with less baking powder, which I now actually prefer, but the tops still cracked. So baking powder wasn’t an issue.
3. Did I roll the balls well enough?
Rolling smooth balls of dough is necessary. A crack here or there is normal and it’s hidden with sugar. But you don’t want cracks all over, especially deep cracks. And a cookie will split where the dough was not pinched together, so rolling a smooth ball is key. However I tried rolling them really, really well and they all still cracked.
4. Was the oven temperature too high or too low?
I tried baking them at a higher temperature, which only proved that they will crack 100%. And then I lowered the temperature and finally – SUCCESS! I cannot even begin to tell you how happy that made me.
But now what? So many of you have successfully made these over the years. You send me pictures and happy messages and in turn you make me happy, knowing that these were a success for you. But what if your oven is different too?
The correct oven temperature
In my original recipe, I tell you to bake these at 350°F (175°C) and that used to work for me in my old electric oven. I now have a more modern electric oven and while I haven’t had issues with other recipes and while I use a separate oven thermometer along with the oven… the peach cookie recipe needs an adjustment.
I now bake these peaches at a temperature between 320°-330°F (160°-165°C). Bellow are two photos. One of cookies baked at a temperature that’s too high and one (bottom) of cookies baked at 320°F.
The first photo shows cookies that are WAY too cracked, whiled the bottom are great. The few minor cracks are more a consequence of me not rolling the balls well enough, but those cracks are hidden with sugar. However, that doesn’t mean that 350°F wouldn’t work in a different oven (and it has for so many of you).
What to do if you’re making these for the first time
If you don’t have an oven thermometer and you don’t know how your oven acts, I advise you to bake a test batch:
Make about 6 balls and place them on a baking sheet. Scatter them all over, so that you cover all sides of the oven. Set the temperature to 350°F and bake them for 8-10 minutes. The bottoms should be golden brown, the tops pale and smooth. If they crack horribly, you’ll know to reduce the temperature. If they’re fine, you’ll know you can bake the rest of the cookies the same way.
There’s no way that I can be 100% sure about how your oven works. I’ll further test this recipe (possibly in a different oven too), but baking a test batch first is the safest way to go. In the end, you’ll still end up with plenty of cookies, whether the test batch bakes perfectly or not.
Because the cookie part is just the beginning of this peach dessert. You need a good base, before you start the assembly, so take your time.
Here are a few articles you can read that talk about oven issues:
- Food52’s take in cold spots in the oven,
- What’s so great about 350°F by The Atlantic
- 350°F article by My Recipes.
Tips for assembling cookies
As you’re scraping out the center, make sure you leave a small edge around the hole on the bottom of the cookie. These edges will be smeared with ricotta and that is what holds the cookie together.
As you fill the cookies, make sure you put in enough filling – it needs to reach that edge of the hole you made into the cookie. Once you press the two halves together, some of the filling will come out. This is good as it is the glue that keeps the two cookies together. You just need to wipe away any filling that sticks out of the “peach”. Just swipe your finger all around “the seam”.
Know that while you are filling and dying the cookies, the ricotta filling will get warm and consequently softer. This is why you need to chill these cookies before you serve them. The ricotta needs time to set. Once it sets, the cookies will hold together really well.
Put the mint leaves on right before you serve these, as they will wilt otherwise.
About food dye
Personally, for this recipe, I use a flavored dye that I buy locally (don’t think you can find it outside of Slovenia). It’s a vibrant coral pink that I dilute with water. You can achieve the same effect with your classic food dyes – go for pink, red, coral types.
You don’t need a lot of food dye for these cookies. Mix water, rum, peach liquor or peach syrup or juice with 1-3 drops of coloring, depending on the brand and intensity. You can also mix the coloring into a combination of water and different extracts (or flavorings), like strawberry or lemon or peach. All 3 fit this cookie well. (I’ve tried LorAnn oils which are extremely concentrated and a single drop already gives a lot of flavor.)
The food colors I most often use in all my recipes are from Rainbow Dust and Wilton. I hear people have great experiences with Americolor and McCormick too.
I like to use a small pastry brush to dye the cookies. It’s wide enough that I can paint a cookie in one or two strokes and that’s enough. You don’t want to soak the cookies too much.
The one thing I’ll say over and over is that practice makes perfect. Which doesn’t mean that you can’t make beautiful peaches on your first try. Just don’t beat yourself up if they’re anything less than perfect.
I find that a relaxed, peaceful approach is best. Don’t rush, just be reasonably quick because ricotta is temperature-sensitive.
I only lightly wet my brushes when painting. You don’t want liquid pouring from your brush onto the cookie. Light strokes let you have the most control. If I ever find that I’m not adding enough color, I add another drop to the mix and then do another gentle swipe over the area I just painted. By not using too much liquid at once, I can repeat layers and achieve that perfect look. So remember – light strokes, no dripping.
Making things ahead of time
You can make the sweet ricotta filling a day ahead of time. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator and stir it with a spoon before using.
You can make the cookies ahead of time too. You need to scoop out warm cookies. But once scooped out, you can store them in a bag or airtight container at room temperature for two days before filling.
How to store peach cookies
Filled cookies need to be kept in the refrigerator. Store them covered, so they don’t attract any other smells. They will keep for 2-3 days. For a more pleasant experience, leave them at room temperature for 15-30 minutes before serving. Decorate them with mint leaves right before serving too.
I hope that you find my wordy explanations helpful and that you successfully make these cookies. They take some time and definitely some practice, but they are so worth it. I know some people might find them a bit old-school, but I adore them so much. Peach cookies are truly my favorite.
If you want more cookies, try these
- Rose water lemon crinkles (The cookies that need to crack. Simple and really tasty.)
- Lemon strawberry cheesecake sandwich cookies (A classic sandwich cookie and they are absolutely delicious.)
- Walnut mushroom cookies (Another whimsical, traditional Slovenian cookie.)
Orange infused sweet ricotta peach cookies
- 2 heaping cups (500 g) ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup (110 g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 4 cups (540 g) all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup (155 g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) full-fat milk
- 1 stick (115 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
- small pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 cup granulated sugar, for coating the cookies
- liquid food coloring in red or pink
- 1 tablespoon rum, or peach liqueur or peach juice
- mint leaves or other leaf decorations
- In a medium bowl, whisk the ricotta with sugar until smooth and creamy. Stir in orange zest and vanilla. Chill the mixture, covered with plastic wrap, while you make the cookies.
Make the cookies
- Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until combined. Whisk in milk, melted butter, salt and lemon zest until smooth. Fold the dry ingredients into wet in 2-3 additions, until well incorporated.
- Finish mixing the dough with your hands and press it into a ball. If it's very sticky add another tablespoon or two of flour until it sticks together, but not more than that. The dough should be smooth and soft.
- Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes (or even a few hours), this makes handling it easier. As you get ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C – see notes for more) with a rack in the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Roll the dough into 2 logs, slice each log into into 44 pieces and shape each one into a smooth ball. Transfer them to the prepared baking sheets, placing them 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart, as they will rise during baking. Press down each ball slightly, so the bottom flattens.
- Bake the first round for about 10 minutes, until bottoms are golden brown (the tops will remain pale). Rotate the pan halfway through baking. As you take the first tray of cookies out, put the second one in the oven.
- While the cookies are still warm, cut a circle in the bottom of each cookie and scoop out enough of a cookie for it to hold some filling. (Be careful, don't pierce the cookie too deep or you risk breaking it.) Set the scooped out cookies aside.
- Repeat the process with the second tray of baked cookies. Next, find a pair for each cookie, you want the halves of the peach to be of similar size. Choosing them at this stage is easier than finding one mid-filling.
Assemble the cookies
- Combine rum (or juice) with food dye (follow instructions on the package) in a small bowl. Add a tablespoon of water (or juice) to dilute the mix a bit. Also put sugar in another shallow bowl.
- Fill each cookie hole with enough ricotta filling that it covers it completely (about a teaspoon). Press the two flat sides of each filled half together, so the filling comes out at the "seam" and swipe away the extra filling.
- Brush each peach with food coloring, gently roll it in sugar and place on a large plate. Continue with the rest of the cookies.
- Chill cookies, covered with plastic wrap, for a few hours before serving. This will harden the ricotta and moisten the cookies. Decorate the cookies with small mint leaves before serving, to mimic peach leaves.
- The cookies keep for about 4 days and taste best on the first two days. Leave them out at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes before serving.
About oven temperatureWhile I’ve always baked these at 350°F (175°C) without any issues, I now have a different oven and I need to bake these at a lower temperature to avoid all of the cookies cracking. I now bake them at 320-330°F (160-165°C). If you’re unsure what to do, bake a test batch first by baking 6 cookie balls at 350°F for 8-10 minutes. You’re good to go, if they come out smooth. But if all come out cracked, with deep cracks, try a lower temperature for the rest of the cookies.
About food coloring
- You don’t need a lot of food dye for these cookies. Mix water, rum, peach liquor or peach syrup or juice with 1-3 drops of coloring, depending on the brand and intensity. Dilute further with water.
- You can also mix the coloring into a combination of water and different extracts (or flavorings), like strawberry or lemon or peach. All 3 fit this cookie well. (I’ve tried LorAnn oils which are extremely concentrated and a single drop already gives a lot of flavor.)
- The food colors I most often use in all my recipes are from Rainbow Dust and Wilton. I hear people have great experiences with Americolor and McCormick too.
Keeping the shapeAs you fill these cookies, make sure you put in enough filling – it needs to go slightly over the edge of the hole you made into the cookie. It’s better to add too much ricotta, than not enough. Once you press the two halves together, some of the filling will come out. This is good as it is the glue that keeps the two cookies together and you just need to wipe away any filling that sticks out of the “peach”. Also know that while you are filling and coloring the cookies, the ricotta filling will get warm and consequently softer. This is why you need to chill these cookies before you serve them. The ricotta needs time to set.This recipe is adapted from a family recipe and from Southern Italian Desserts.