What's the function of the ricotta in this dough?

We made these this week, and love this dough! It's super simple, and ours came out surprisingly puffy and laminated. My sister would like to try and adapt this for restricted diets, and is trying to figure out if her non-dairy ricotta would work. She asked me what the ricotta did in this recipe, and I couldn't quite figure it out.

I'm guessing it provides most of the moisture for the dough, but I'm not sure what the milk solids are doing—structurally, or chemically—to the texture and rise. I can't find any other similar doughs (equal parts flour/butter/ricotta) anywhere that discuss it, so I'm very interested in what you think is happening.



Lori T. December 13, 2019
The ricotta is providing milk solids as well as liquid. The solids act with the proteins of the flour to provide strength to the cookies. Coating the flour particles with butter helps prevent the gluten from developing, which is why this sort of cookie is usually tender or "short" textured. But these cookies need to be rolled, cut and shaped- and that would not be possible if you didn't have something to help hold the dough together. I think you might have luck if you used a very soft tofu in place of the ricotta, but I've never tried it myself so I don't know how it would do. I'm not that familiar with the ingredients in a non-dairy ricotta either - but if it is soy based and not nut based, it might work. The worst scenario would be a cookie dough that could not be rolled and shaped, but it could still be sweetened and baked, and then cut into bars after cooling.
HalfPint December 13, 2019
I think the ricotta provides structure, texture, and moisture. The butter creates the lamination (the butter is cut into the flour much like pie dough) and the milk protein in the ricotta brings the dough together, providing structure for the rise (i.e. the puffy-ness). Your sister will need to keep that in mind if she wants to make this dairy free. If the DF ricotta has enough fat and protein, she might be able to make a comparable substitution.
Pastry sounds like a 'rough puff' variation with ricotta. Might be worth it to look into vegan rough puff recipes.
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