1stick(115g)unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
small pinch of salt
1teaspoonlemon zest, (from one lemon)
1cupgranulated sugar, for coating the cookies
liquid food coloring in red or pink
rum, or peach liqueur (optional)
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 options) 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
Prepare your food coloring. Follow the instructions on the package, as some need to be diluted in water. For an authentic peach cookie, add a teaspoon of rum to the coloring or simply dilute the dye in the rum. Also put sugar in a 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 temperature
While 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 320-330F (160-165C). If you're unsure what to do, bake a test batch first by placing 6 cookie balls on a baking sheet and baking at 350F. You're good to go, if they come out smooth. But if all come out cracked, try a lower temperature.
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. 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've experimented with natural (homemade) food dyes but none gave these peaches enough color. My goal was to make "white peaches" which are pinkish and white, while regular peaches are more red and yellow in color. The one thing I haven't tried yet is beet powder. Its vibrant pink color could do the trick, so you can always try this too instead of using artificial coloring (and I promise to update you all on this as soon as I try this version myself).
Personally, for this recipe, I use a strawberry flavored dye that I buy locally (don't think it's sold outside of Slovenia). It's a vibrant coral pink that I dilute with water, but you can achieve the same effect with your classic food dyes - go for pink, red, coral types.
Tip for melting butter
The fastest trick for me is this: I put the butter in a 500ml (1 pint) Pyrex measuring jug and melt it in the microwave in 10-20 second increments. Once it's almost completely melted, I take it out and keep stirring it with a spoon, until it cools to room temperature.
[update] Keeping the shape
As you fill these cookies, make sure you put in enough filling - it needs to reach the 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 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.
Calories per serving: 218kcal
Cuisine: European, Italian
Keyword: celebration cookies, holiday cookies, peach cookies, traditional dessert