Why I Cook: The Hutch Oven’s Emily Hutchinson
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Blogger and baking show judge Emily Hutchinson always had a passion and talent for baking, but it wasn't until she experienced a personal tragedy that she made making and sharing cookies her life's work.
When Emily’s infant daughter, Jenny, passed away from SIDS in 2008, the kitchen was one of the few places Emily found solace and felt hope. With new faith and a reignited passion for baking that’d been largely dormant since her childhood, the home baker began her blog, The Hutch Oven, where cookies abound and Christmas-level cheer lasts all year.
Taste of Home: What are your favorite types of sweets to bake and eat?
Emily Hutchinson: My favorite type of sweet to bake is definitely cookies! I’m a cookie monster, so anytime I can bake and eat cookies, I will.
(Check out our top-rated cookie recipes.)
TOH: Which of your cookie recipes makes you proudest?
EH: My classic sugar cookie recipe. Many home bakers have created businesses using that recipe, and it brings me joy knowing that it’s loved. My most creative and delicious recipe, though, is my brown butter sugar cookie, coming out in my new book, Creative Cookie Decorating for Everyone.
Courtesy Emily Hutchinson
TOH: How do you get inspired to come up with new creative recipes and designs?
EH: I get inspired thinking of what I loved to bake in my childhood. The smells and flavors of peppermint blondies, pumpkin bread or apple pie can be turned into recipes for cookies that have similar tastes to what I remember making with my grandma.
(You’ll want these cooking and baking tips from Grandma in your repertoire.)
TOH: What are your favorite seasonal ingredients to incorporate into wintry or Christmas-themed recipes?
EH: I love using peppermint to bring in Christmas flavor. Note: Peppermint should not be mistaken for other types of mint. Peppermint is an extract that has a cool, crisp flavor, which gives buttery cookies a fresh holiday taste.
TOH: You’re now a judge on Hallmark Drama’s show Christmas Cookie Mashup. In your opinion, what makes a winning cookie?
EH: As a judge, I’ve gotten to eat lots of delicious cookies. In my opinion, the perfect cookie should be soft and flavorful—not a cookie with a snap and not one too brown on the bottom. I want sweetness with a hint of salt to enrich all the flavors of the cookie. Show me the best classic cookie, executed with a little flair or a secret ingredient.
TOH: What is your family’s most cherished Christmas tradition?
EH: My most cherished tradition is baking loads of cookie with my kids. We love sugar cookies with buttercream, chocolate crinkles, peanut butter blossoms, Russian tea cakes and brown sugar crinkle cookies. We bake all day, then give boxes to neighbors and family. Christmas music is playing, little hands—growing bigger each year—are rolling cookies, and faces are marked with flour,
Courtesy Emily Hutchinson
TOH: Do you have any cute packaging tips for when you gift your cookies?
EH: Individually package cookies in cellophane and tie them with a cute ribbon so they can easily be handed to friends and family or taken as to-go treats. When someone puts their heart into what they are baking, the gift is so much more special.
(Our packaging inspiration for food gifts is too cute to pass up.)
TOH: What is your favorite thing about cooking? The “why” of why you cook!
EH: Dessert is normally served after a meal, while you’re sitting and having conversations with family and friends. It’s the crowning moment of each holiday gathering and Sunday night dinner. I love that baking dessert brings people together, too. And making memories is my favorite thing about baking. Truly, the kitchen is the heart of the home and holds so much laughter and joy—it fills my heart. I find peace and a sense of purpose each time I pull out my measuring cups.
Emily’s Peppermint Sugar Cookies
Try one of Emily’s festive sugar cookie recipes, starring her most-loved holiday flavor: peppermint! The recipe makes two dozen.
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
- 2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and salt for 30 seconds. Add sugar and confectioners’ sugar; beat 1 minute. Add egg, vanilla and peppermint extract; mix to combine.
Whisk together flour, baking powder and cornstarch; add to butter mixture. Mix just until dough forms. Cover and chill at least 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-in. thickness. Cut with a floured 3-in. cookie cutter. Place 2 in. apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies puff up and are a dull matte on top but not browned, 6-8 minutes. Let stand 1 minute before removing to wire racks to cool completely.