desserts, general information and events

dear library: day three (I made you sugar cookies.)

piece of cake sugar cookies.

Dear Library,

I don’t love to admit this, but there was a time in my life that I didn’t think I needed you; I was wrong about that. After high school, and a few half-hearted attempts at college classes, I thought maybe living my life was way more important than learning things from books. I kept working full-time; no college for me, at least not at that point. I was burned out, needed a break, and if there was one thing I was sure of, it was that I had zero ideas about what I really wanted to do with my life.

Looking back, I don’t think that was a bad move on my part. I still don’t understand how most kids know at the wee age of 18 what they want to do with the whole rest of their time on the planet. Some do: I have a friend whom I’ve known since middle school who always wanted to be a veterinarian, and she is – you guessed it – a veterinarian now. But it seems like most kids have roughly the same idea of their future at 18 years old as they did at 8, when their hearts were set on being astronauts or race car drivers.

So library, I didn’t mean to forget you; certainly I read books during our time apart, but not in the way that I used to, because I just didn’t make the time for it. But because of your earlier influence, I found my way back to school; on my own time, in 2002. I chose to major in English Literature with an almost-minor in Political Science. It was exactly what I wanted it to be: a degree where I would be challenged, forced to read endless amounts of material, research until my eyes dried up like the Sahara, and then write about it coherently. Yay!

And so it was that I found my way back to you, too; that absence made my heart grow fonder. You looked good, Library; really good, and I could tell you had really taken care of yourself. You had updated your material, just opened a new branch, and had rolled out the beginnings of what would be one of my most-frequented places on the internet: your online catalog and ordering system. It wasn’t as streamlined as it is now, but it was incredible to see how far you had come.

Library, that online ordering system saved me countless hours of drive time. Not only could I locate where my books were, I could have them delivered to my nearest branch. I lived within walking distance of the Weber Road branch during college, and would scoot my way up there to collect my often massive amount of books needed for papers. I wrote so many papers, Library; many of them inside your walls. My favorite writing branches were Tesson Ferry (also near my house, larger, and nice to aimlessly wander through when I took breaks from my gigantic laptop) and Headquarters (my ultimate branch, and an excellent choice for my Poly Sci research and papers.) You made it easy to focus; something about the smell of thousands of books really inspires me to work.

You may be wondering why I did so much actual book research when by this time, sites like Wikipedia were well-established and the internet was a veritable treasure-trove of information. Well, Library, I still think it’s the best way to research. In books, you can’t just type in “Earl Warren” and get someone else’s summary of Earl Warren and the critical part he played in history. When you use books to research, you have to look up first which books mention him; chances are, that’s quite a few books. Then you narrow down what specifically you want to know, find references in those books, and grab them. Then you need to find the index, locate the specific reference, and read near the mention until you find what you’re looking for. How is this better? Because while you’re finding the information you need, you’re reading through information; things you may not have found online with a directed search. You gather things in your brain, and they stay there; maybe they make you want to find out more about them.

Confession time, Library: I almost stole a book from you during this era, but I didn’t. It was a brown-covered book on the Kent State Massacre, written and published just after the shootings had occurred. It was, I believe, a first edition. Often times those first editions still contain so much raw emotion resulting from the topic; another thing so valuable to have in this age of near-constant revision. I hope you still have it: I may search for it to see if you do. I wish I could remember the exact title or author. If you ever want to part with it, please let me know. It was one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Library, this may have been when I figured out your biggest value. You speak to my long-term memory, where the internet speaks to my short-term memory. I read and forget information found online hundreds of times a day, but I learn things from books. I have to dig around in books; comb through them and really think about what I find. Don’t get me wrong, I think online research is a spectacular companion to book-based research, but it is certainly no replacement.

So I made it through college, in three years; I was mega-full time and always carried a full load through the summer, and you were a big part of me getting through the journey as quickly as I did. During those years, I remembered how much I loved you outside of school, and I started reading more and more on my own time. It was difficult during school, because there was so much else I was required to read, but I made myself do it. By the time I graduated, I was reading through books at the speed I used to in elementary school, and loving every minute of it. You cared for me during college, Library; your endless supply of material and comforting low hum while I feverishly wrote essays were two of the biggest reasons I was able to stay the course in school. Thanks, Library. There are those who say my English degree is useless; I beg to differ. College should be more about finding what you’re passionate about and going for it, and less about getting what everyone assumes to be a “practical” degree. At least in my opinion.

Remind me I said all of this around 15 years from now when I have a child thinking about her own college plans, okay? Okay.

piece of cake sugar cookies.

Libraries are like sugar cookies: always there for you. It is simple, yet complex. Some are fancy on the outside, some are just very basic, but inside? Always wonderful, comforting, and present. Probably you have loved the humble sugar cookie since you were little; such is the case with me and my library.

These are from another perfect cookbook I borrowed from the library for this week. If you like style and sensibility of the Baked guys, then this would be a great one for you to check out. It’s filled with homestyle treats, some with a twist, others just the best possible versions of themselves. This sugar cookie is a good example of the latter: it couldn’t be more simple, but it’s fluffy, and light, and has incredible flavor. Bonus: evidently the authors are responsible for bringing the whoopie pie to Britain; a pretty epic claim to fame.

One of the pitfalls of having a “go-to” recipe for a certain type of cookie, or cake, et cetera, is that you forget there are other versions out there to try. Such is the case with sugar cookies for me: I have a great recipe which everyone loves and that is perfect for cutouts and decorating, as it stays put when you bake it. These are the opposite of the ones I normally make, and are delightful: big, round, and unashamedly puffy. I love them, because now I have not one, but two perfect sugar cookie recipes that I can switch out depending on my mood. Feeling like an exact, royal-icing ready cookie? Use my classic sugar cookie recipe. Feeling like diving into a giant, sprinkle-laden puffball? These are the ones for you.

piece of cake sugar cookies.

Adapted (just barely) from Piece of Cake: Home Baking Made Simple by David Muniz and David Lesniak. Bakers, this is your dream book, especially if you enjoy American dessert classics. Non-bakers, you’ll enjoy this too; the recipes are straightforward and decidedly un-finicky, with some really lovely results. These two are also the owner of a beautiful bake shop in London called “Outsider Tart,” which is my imaginary nickname.

Note: I halved this recipe when I made them, mostly because I didn’t need a pile of delicious, Saturn-sized cookies lying around my house. I’m giving you the full recipe, which using my 2-ounce ice cream scoop, makes around 20 gigantic cookies. If you don’t need that many, or are making them smaller, it’s easily cut in half.

Classic Sugar Cookies

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (scant)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil (a favorite of mine for vanilla things, as there is zero flavor)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • so many sprinkles (for rolling; you could use the non-pareils, the bar-shaped sort, or sanding sugar)*

*I realized for perhaps the first time with these that sprinkles can slightly alter the way your cookies bake. My bar-shaped classic sprinkles got a little melty in the oven, but hardened once the cookie cooled; leaving a bit of color bleed. The non-pareils hung on to their shape and didn’t melt or soften one bit, and made for the roundest domes, while the sanding sugar yielded a flatter, slightly more spread out cookie. It’s a science thing probably having to do with heat which I’m going to try and explore later. For now, cookie away.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes until fluffy. Turn down the mixer to low and stream in the oil, then pour in the sugars, crank up the speed to medium, again, and beat for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating on medium until fully incorporated.

Add the flour mixture in three parts, beating on low just until each addition is incorporated, about 15 seconds per addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed , and be careful not to overmix. Once your final addition has been incorporated, remove the bowl and stir with a spatula, making sure your batter is homogenous and there are no dry patches.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight; your batter will be soft but will firm up with some chill time.

When you’re ready to bake them, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a 2-ounce ice cream scoop (or larger, if you dare), scoop out balls of dough, flattening the bottoms with your hand. Dunk them into the sprinkles, covering all sides except the bottom, and place 4 at a time onto the prepared sheet pan. Use the palm of your hand to flatten them slightly (which also helps to press stray sprinkles firmly into the dough.)

Bake for 13-15 minutes, until edges have just started to turn a light golden color. Your middles will be soft, so leave them on the baking sheets to cool for 10 minutes or so. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

These store well in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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  • Reply Faygie April 17, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Tova was standing next to me when I opened this page, and as soon as she saw the picture she said she wants sprinkles. She is sooo my kid.

    This recipe looks great, and is probably one that is good for making with the kids (much easier and less time-comsuming than cutouts, and they could each choose what sprinkles they want to use). Maybe over their summer vacation.

    Oh, and I totally just put this book on hold, too πŸ™‚

    • Reply shannon April 17, 2013 at 6:16 pm

      There’s a part of me that wants to apologize because you obviously in the midst of an epic cake construction (and i doubt you need one more thing to make!) but would it help to say that they’re super easy? So maybe Tova gets her wish; you can have one too. PS: i think Tova and Stella would be BEST FRIENDS. πŸ™‚ I caught stella using her Inspector Gadget-like arm move to grab one of these the other day from the countertop.

      Kid-approved! Stella actually mixed the dry ingredients with me and helped plunge them into their sprinkle bath (squeals of excitement, might i add). So that would be really fun, i bet, for the girls. prepare to peel them off the ceiling if they eat more than one, though.

      YAY! You, most of all, will love this. I threw that Baked reference in there to you as code. *get it Faygie, get it*

      • Reply Faygie April 17, 2013 at 6:54 pm

        Haha! Oh, you are a bad, BAD influence! All too often I get a cookbook from the library, and then I HAVE to buy it. And if I have to buy one of these, it’s going to be ALL YOUR FAULT! πŸ™‚

        I will definitely make these, but they’re going to have to wait. Not only do I have my super awesome epic cake to finish making, but I’m making a bunch of stuff for some family events next week (for all the family coming in for my sister-in-law’s wedding. I’m going to send you an email as soon as I get a chance to tell you about it all–I know you’ll appreciate how insane I am for doing it!

        • Reply shannon April 18, 2013 at 7:26 am

          Ha! I’ll say your also a bad influence, so it works both ways. between the two of us, we will have our own library soon. πŸ™‚

          you are doing so much! And i saw your email come in this morning (and yes, i had read this comment prior to, so i did know it was coming). I made myself promise to get my post out before i dug into it, but now that i have, i’m excited to read all about what you’re making. Seriously, yes, you’re insane for doing so much, but i love you for it. I would do exactly the same because secretly (not so secretly?) I find it thrilling, as I know you do. i’m emailing you back later today. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Ashley April 17, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Seriously, your life through the lens of the library…so thoroughly eloquent and loving! I’m loving it too, and notice some similar behaviors/sentiments. Though you definitely win for continuous library love! πŸ™‚

    I’ll definitely check out this book! I’m a huge fan of the Baked books (though sometimes I get a little snitty at their insistence on a long and convoluted protocol).

    Outsider Tart may just be one of the best nicknames ever. Just sayin.

    • Reply shannon April 17, 2013 at 6:12 pm

      Ashley, thank you. you know what i’m loving? Hearing all of your library stories in the comments. For serious, i knew that lots of you had similar interests and sort of very similar personalities as i did, but your love of libraries? impressive. it makes me feel like there’s hope for libraries forever, no matter what anyone says about the eventual takeover of electronic media. bull, i say! πŸ™‚

      i should thank my mother for the continual love of libraries: she really was the one who started it all by taking us there so often. i think developing my love for it was a natural next step. Do check out this book! it’s beautiful; i hate to use the word “rustic” but that’s what i think of, because none of it is that “exactly done/precise” baking you see in a book like Bouchon or the like. Beautiful in a decidedly unfussy way, and you have to love that, right?

      ha! had to laugh at the Baked comment; it’s true, i love them dearly, but more often than not i’ve read through a recipe and thought “GUYS: now come on.” One of them is like, extremely detail-oriented. Probably both.


      • Reply Ashley April 18, 2013 at 10:41 am

        It’s so crazy and awesome that we’ve got so many similar behaviors and interests! My mom was responsible for my love of books and reading too. Apparently (because I don’t clearly remember it), she’d read me several books each day. She’d take me to the library and the bookstore often. I looooooved the summer reading challenges (I know there weren’t winners, but I say I totally won!), and I know my love of reading made me a better student in school. Not to mention pretty killer when I play along with Jeopardy. ha. Now, my mom and I now swap book recommendations and share our own home library, which is something I treasure.

        I bet both the Baked guys are fussy pants. But I will certainly check this book out!

  • Reply Sue/the view from great island April 17, 2013 at 10:22 am

    I’m actually feeling sharp pangs of jealousy after reading this post. It’s beautifully written, has a real message to it, the theme is woven artfully throughout, it is entertaining to read, ends with a great recipe, and oh my god don’t I wish I had taken that top photo? Damn you for being so good!

    • Reply shannon April 17, 2013 at 6:07 pm

      oh my goodness thank you!! truth: i just let this one flow out, because i had a headache and was really trying to like, encapsulate my feelings and not sound dumb. it makes me feel good that you think it’s well written, because honestly (and you know how it is when you don’t feel great) you never can tell. so thank you for that. πŸ™‚

      fact: you always take better photos than me, so you must be delirious. πŸ™‚ but thank you for that too, Sue. Someday, you come visit and i’ll take you to my library and make you sugar cookies.

  • Reply Emma April 17, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    I want sprinkle-laden puffballs, I do, I do!

    Interestingly enough, college is when I least used the library. I wasn’t a very big believer in studying, which seemed to be why most people went to the library in the first place. And then in grad school, I didn’t even visit the library more than three or four times total. Weird, I know. When I did go, though, I didn’t really find what I needed, so I guess there’s that.

    But much more important than studying or whatnot, is cookies. Cookies cookies cookies. It’s dinner time, and there are no cookies in my cabinnnnnnnnnn:(

    • Reply shannon April 17, 2013 at 6:02 pm

      i would totally deliver sprinkle-laden puffballs to the woods, if i could. but you know that. πŸ™‚

      i’ll say i wasn’t big on studying either, but i had massive amounts of things to write and turn in, which seemed less like studying (like for tests or whatever) and more like fun. or graded fun. i am surprised, though! Did you not need excess material for your degrees, or was it just that you did lots of online research?

      cookies cookies cookies. *yes*

      • Reply Emma April 18, 2013 at 3:28 pm

        I needed tons of stuff – – but it was all just articles that I could easily get online. So I could stay in my office ALWAYS and never see anywhere else on campus! :/

  • Reply Jen @JuanitasCocina April 17, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    So, I’m in the middle of typing my comment and I think we had an earthquake. And I had a little freakout. But, I”m okay now, because I read your calming words and looked at your cookies. So, these cookies basically saved my life.

    • Reply shannon April 18, 2013 at 7:22 am

      so oh my goodness, I saw on your FB page about that huge explosion! I don’t know whether to be happy about it not being an earthquake or to worry about that it WAS an explosion. I hope everyone is okay. My cookies do what they can.

  • Reply natalie @ wee eats April 18, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Beautifully-written. See? That english degree was a great investment! I took the “passionate” approach to college, too. I entered with a practical degree plan (major in business, minor in spanish) and then switched in my second year after taking a couple psychology classes because, well, they were interesting. They were exciting. Unlike econ which I slept through every day. (the professor actually put loud noises into his powerpoint presentations for the sake of startling people awake).

    Also, may I please have some cookies? πŸ™‚ Thank you <3

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats April 18, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    FINALLY getting to read your blog posts. I have so much work to do before I leave my job…i’m commenting as slowly as I will be at my new job πŸ™ I guess maybe it’s a good way to wean me into the real world (i.e. normal workplaces).

    I want your other sugar cookie recipe! Is it on the blog? These are super cute πŸ™‚

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog April 19, 2013 at 7:09 am

    I was lost at age 18. I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I, too, took a break. There were so many choices, and I wanted to do them all. Well, that wasn’t possible; I was forced to choose. At ae 28, I’m still in school. I’m a bit behind. I love your ode to the library series, and these cookies are calling my name. It’s the fancy sprinkles.

  • Reply Miranda April 19, 2013 at 11:58 am

    This has been such a fun series to follow this week. Meanwhile my job, as Reference Manager at a public library, has been jammed up with awesome patrons and numerous programs celebrating this happy week of library love.

    Ps. I didn’t *know* I wanted to be a librarian until I was one. Go figure.

    • Reply shannon May 14, 2013 at 6:50 am

      miranda: please accept my apologies for the delayed response. somehow this ended up in the wrong comment folder and i’m just now seeing it. I’m so happy you liked the library series! I loved doing it, and will most likely do it again next year. It’s great to hear your library week was filled with amazing patrons and programs – just underscores how much people love and need their local libraries.

      i think that’s awesome: what a great way to fall into something you love. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Monica April 20, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Love that you said libraries are like sugar cookies. It’s like my husband says – you might not necessarily “crave” a sugar cookie but when you have one, you are amazed and reminded by how good they are!

  • Reply Katherine {eggton} April 22, 2013 at 11:03 am

    Non pareils are just gorgeous. Your pictures here do them justice. I want to pour them into glass bottles and put them all over my house–they’re just that pretty!

  • Reply movita beaucoup April 22, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    One day, I will sell these cookies at Sprinkle Toes, my bakeshop. And you will come to the ribbon cutting, make a speech to little kids about the value of libraries and sprinkles, and then join me in the kitchen for some serious bake time.

    • Reply shannon April 23, 2013 at 10:01 am

      you can consider my blog, from this point on, just a really colorful online resume and application for Sprinkle Toes Bakeshop. I’ll do whatever you want me to do.

  • Reply almond cupcakes with chocolate ganache + a word about ice cream parties. | A Periodic Table October 25, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    […] of Cake cookbook. You remember that one: a few of you have purchased it by now, based on these gloriously be-sprinkled sugar cookies and these incredibly fun chocolate chip cupcakes. It’s a fabulous book, and these cupcakes […]

  • Reply Katherine {eggton} December 5, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    I made these today and they’re just delicious! Truly a great sugar cookie recipe. I made mine smaller because they’re for a cocktail party. I shaped the dough into little balls about an inch and a half across. Then I flattened the balls a little between my palms, so they were like fat little disks. I rolled one side in sprinkles and baked for much shorter time since they were a lot smaller. I also left some plain and they were great, too. Thanks for the tip about the sprinkles. I used a couple different kinds and agree with you that the little non pareils bake well and give the cleanest look for these.

    Merry merry!

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog December 22, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    I’m making these for Christmas!!! I’m so excited for the sprinkles.

    • Reply shannon January 9, 2014 at 11:21 am

      since i’m backwards-working through my comments, i’m retroactively excited that you made these. I too was excited for sprinkles, as we are both prone to be. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog December 24, 2013 at 9:26 am

    These are amazing, guys! I made them last night for my family to enjoy on Christmas. They’re so soft and fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I added a touch of almond extract for good measure. Thank you so much, Shannon!

    P.S- You’re not going crazy. My site just had a major makeover. I’m so happy you love it. Happy holidays!

    • Reply shannon January 9, 2014 at 10:59 am

      thanks, Jennie!! I was so thrilled you included me in the holiday baking this year, seriously. So nice of you to think of these cookies; i almost made them myself (as a big thing of holiday sprinkles *ahem* “fell” into my shopping cart accidentally), but then got too busy. They deserved some holiday attention, and i’m happy you gave it to them.

      i do love your site: i’m just thrilled that i wasn’t asking you that like, 93 weeks after you had redone it. I’m always there commenting, but it’s like i get so busy reading/drooling that i’m not always looking at the big picture. πŸ™‚ happy holidays/new year to you also!

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