Even with her day jobs as an online education administrator and an adjunct professor at Brigham Young University, Erin Mylroie often has her mind on cooking and feeding people.
“I was one of those kids you see all the time that want to help in the kitchen. I never really lost that,” said Mylroie, vice principal of Utah Online School and an adjunct humanities professor at BYU, teaching Western civilization courses that focus on beauty and creativity.
Mylroie said her Italian mom, who made everything from scratch, handed down all her culinary skills to her. When her mother would come back from a trip, she’d re-create the dishes she loved while traveling — freestyle.
“I grew up knowing you didn’t really need a recipe,” Mylroie said. “You could taste something, and recreate something based on what you tasted. I’ve always cooked that way. I like to read recipes for inspiration, but I rarely use them. I like to create my own, because I’m pretty particular about the kind of taste and texture and experience that I want.”
Mylroie drew on those recipe-creation skills, and wrote her first cookbook, “101 Greatest Cookies on the Planet.” The book, she said, runs the gamut “from your traditional chocolate chip cookie to molten-centered Nutella lava cookies to an upscale Rice Krispies treat with a little bit of maple and sea salt. … Basically any treat you can hold in your hand with a napkin and enjoy.”
She gets the most feedback, she said, on the cookies that are more basic, because people feel comfortable baking them — like the Patriotic M&M Cookie (the name comes from the fact she first baked them on the Fourth of July, using M&Ms because they don’t melt as quickly as chocolate chips).
She also featured a recipe for the original “cookie war” cookie: The Utah-style pink frosted sugar cookie.
“The original Utah-style cookie started about a mile from my house,” she said, at the Dutchman’s Market in Santa Clara, Utah. “It’s this little gas station that sells phenomenal cookies. They released a pink sugar cookie, a fluffy cookie that has sour cream in the dough, so it’s soft and a bit tangy, not overly sweet, with pink frosting. It’s a pretty significant-sized cookie. It’s almost like a teacup saucer size.”
According to Eater, Swig sourced its pink cookies from Dutchman’s before it started making a similar cookie in 2012, and the “dirty” soda chain mainstreamed it across the state.
“Since then, there’s been several other cookie stores that have entered into the fray and into the competition, and they all make what I call a Utah-style sugar cookie, because it’s really different from all other sugar cookies that you might get,” she said. “It’s a very specific type of sugar cookie, and it always comes with pink frosting.”
The secret, she said, is to add oil and butter so it doesn’t dry out. Mylroie said she likes to do a variation around the holidays using peppermint and crushed candy canes in the dough and on top of the icing. (If you don’t wish to bake your own, or want to try something different than Swig’s, you can still get the original sugar cookie at Dutchman’s.)
Mylroie grew up in Los Angeles, attended BYU-Hawaii, then transferred to the Provo campus, where she graduated in the same class as her husband. The couple lived in New York for a spell, and returned to Utah 18 years ago to raise their children.
In the early aughts, when her kids were still small, she started getting into recipe and cooking competitions, and “I won quite a few. I’ve taken my family to Disney World three times,” she said. “Food Network was just starting to reach out for recipe competitions. I did a few for Food Network, and so one of them was with Guy Fieri. I have also been on Rachael Ray’s show — I won her burger contest.”
Right after her appearance on Ray’s show, she flew to South Beach, Miami, where she won the burger category for Food Network’s Food and Wine Festival, and ended up cooking about a thousand burgers for attendees.
After writing her cookie cookbook, Mylroie has followed up with “101 Greatest Soups on the Planet: Every Savory Soup, Stew, Chili and Chowder You Could Ever Crave.” (The book, from Page Street Publishing, will be released on Dec. 13.)
The book starts with a chapter on broths, including instructions for converting a Thanksgiving turkey carcass into broth. There are cold soups (avocado soup with crab and mango), classic soups (clam chowder, borscht, chicken noodle, and three kinds of tomato soup) and fancy soups (such as a jalapeño and acorn squash soup with candied bacon). The book also includes several vegetarian and vegan adaptations, and instructions for preparing soups in a slow cooker or InstaPot.
Mylroie said she made sure to include healthy soups, and soups that are easy to make.
One time-saving tip Mylroie suggests: Don’t stress out about making your own broth.
“You don’t have to use homemade broth to make a really fantastic soup,” she said. “A lot of busy cooks will stop there if they feel like that’s what’s needed, or if you give the impression that’s the only way to get a good soup. There are a lot of great broths out there, and a lot of great shortcuts.”
Mylroie said she prefers to use broth packaged in box-shaped cartons, rather than in cans, which she said give the broth a metallic taste. She said she favors chicken broth for its full flavor, and uses low-salt versions so she can add salt to taste. She often will simmer the broth with vegetable cuttings, to add some more flavor, she said.
Mylroie often posts recipes and tutorials on her Instagram account, which she started in 2017. The account originally was designed as a way to share recipes and meal plans with her sisters, she said — and she called it Undercover Weight Watchers because she didn’t want it to be a public account. She kept the name because she found herself with more than 50,000 followers, and people knew the name already, though her kids still tease her about it, she said.
Being an influencer was never a goal, she said. But she enjoys interacting with her readers, including the ones who have been cooking and baking their way through “101 Greatest Cookies,” and who share pictures and stories (which she reposts).
“I never started my Instagram to be a moneymaker or to be, like, you know, something big and slick and full of advertising,” she said. “I’ve tried to keep that smaller feel, where you can just come and if you write me a message, I’ll write you back. Anyone who writes me a direct message will get a message back from me. … No matter how busy I am, I always will do that.”
Utah-Style Pink Frosted Sugar Cookies
From Erin Renouf Mylroie’s “101 Greatest Cookies on the Planet.”
“I moved from the Los Angeles area to Utah — in the bitter cold of January after spending a semester in Hawaii — for college when I was 18. I was amazed to see my roommates running to gas stations — and later soda and cookie shops — for fountain sodas and big, fluffy sugar cookies frosted with a thick layer of pink frosting. It’s a Utah thing. It didn’t take long for me to join in with my roommates for late-night runs to devour these tender, chubby pink cookies. No matter what state is home, homemade pink sugar cookies are always best.”
Makes 24 cookies
1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, softened.
¾ cup (154 g) vegetable shortening or (180 ml) vegetable oil.
2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar, plus more for flattening the cookies.
2 tbsp (30 ml) sour cream.
2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla extract.
1½ tsp (9 g) salt.
1 tsp baking powder.
½ tsp baking soda.
5½ cups (688 g) all-purpose flour.
½ cup (114 g) unsalted butter, softened.
1 tsp vanilla extract.
¼ cup (60 ml) sour cream.
⅛ tsp salt.
4 cups (480 g) powdered sugar, divided.
2 tbsp (30 ml) heavy cream or milk, plus more if needed.
Red or pink food coloring.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
To make the cookies, in a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the sour cream, vanilla and eggs, and beat for 1 minute. Sprinkle the salt, baking powder and baking soda over the dough.
Beat for 1 minute. Add half of the flour and beat until just combined. Slowly add the remaining flour, being careful not to overbeat. Stop as soon as the flour is incorporated in the dough. Shape the cookies into 24 large golf ball-sized balls.
Arrange evenly on the baking sheets. Dip the bottom of a drinking glass into the granulated sugar and flatten the balls gently in the center,to about ¾-inch (2-cm) thickness. The edges should be ragged. Dip the glass in the sugar between each cookie and repeat until all the cookies are flattened. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the cookies are beginning to become golden brown on the edges. Be careful not to overbake — they should be nice and soft. Let the cookies cool completely on the cookie sheets.
Prepare the frosting while the cookies are cooling. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the butter, vanilla, sour cream and salt until light and fluffy. Add 2 cups (240 g) of the sugar and beat for 2 minutes, or until well combined. Add the cream and food coloring and beat until combined. Add the remaining sugar and beat the frosting until light and fluffy, adding more milk as necessary. Frost the cooled cookies generously.
To make them just right, frost only the centers to leave a ½-inch (1.25-cm) unfrosted rim to expose the bare, ragged edges. Now you’ve got a real Utah cookie!
Autumn Spiced Pumpkin Soup with Maple Cream
From Erin Renouf Mylroie’s “101 Greatest Soups on the Planet.”
“I dream of autumn nights with a tureen full of this roasted pumpkin soup, subtly fragrant with warm autumn spices. Pumpkin pie spice works so nicely in this soup, but you could use cinnamon and ginger with a dash of nutmeg, in a pinch. However, this soup is not a place to use canned pumpkin. You need a real pumpkin, like the one growing in Cinderella’s garden that her Fairy Godmother turned into a carriage. Not a pumpkin for carving, but a pumpkin for baking. A pumpkin that is meant to have brightly colored, sweetly flavored flesh. The maple cream is the soup’s crowning glory, drawing out the pumpkin and spice flavors. It can be a beautiful addition to use candied pumpkin seeds as a garnish, so I’ll include my recipe for them below.”
Yield: 4 servings • Freezer Friendly • Vegetarian/Vegan Option
1 (4 to 5-lb [1.8 to 2.3-kg]) baking pumpkin, such as a sugar or pie pumpkin, or substitute other hard winter squash.
2 tbsp + 1 tsp (35 ml) olive oil, divided.
Salt and pepper, as desired.
1 large onion, thinly sliced.
A generous pinch of cayenne pepper.
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice.
1 tbsp (14 g) brown sugar.
¼ cup (60 ml) orange juice, freshly squeezed or bottled.
2 cups (480 ml) low-sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed.
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray. Using a large knife, very carefully cut the top and stem off the pumpkin. Cut the pumpkin into quarters, and remove the seeds and the stringy interior. Rub the cut sides of the pumpkin with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of the olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.
Place the pumpkin on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 35 minutes, or until almost tender. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, and scoot the pumpkin pieces to one side of the sheet.
Arrange the onion on the baking sheet with the pumpkin. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Return the pan to the oven and roast for 15 minutes, or until the pumpkin is very tender and the onion is softened and browned in places.
Remove the pan from the oven and let the pumpkin cool for a few moments. Hold the pumpkin pieces in one hand, and using a spoon, scrape the flesh out of the skin.
Add the pumpkin flesh and the onion to a large pot. Heat the pot over medium heat, add the cayenne and pumpkin pie spice and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the brown sugar, orange juice and broth. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, adding more broth if the soup becomes too thick.
Season with salt and pepper. Using an immersion blender, process the soup until mostly smooth. (You can also use a traditional blender.)
Maple cream topping
½ cup (120 ml) heavy cream.
3 tbsp (45 ml) pure maple syrup (use B-grade for the strongest flavor).
Candied pumpkin seeds, for serving (optional).
In a small microwaveable bowl, heat the cream in the microwave for 1 minute, or until warm. Stir in the maple syrup. Season the maple cream with salt and pepper. To serve, divide the soup equally among four mugs or bowls.
Spoon 2 generous tablespoons (30 ml) of maple cream into each serving, and garnish with the candied pumpkin seeds (recipe below), if desired.
Spicy Candied Pumpkin Seeds
Preheat the oven to 250°F (120°C). Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray. Arrange ¾ cup (104 g) of clean, dry pumpkin seeds on the foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of melted butter, and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons (42 g) of brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice and a generous pinch of cayenne and salt. Stir it with a wooden spoon to distribute everything evenly. Roast the seeds for 45 minutes. When cool, break the candied pumpkin seeds into pieces and serve in the bowls of soup.
Vegetarian/Vegan Option: Substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth. Substitute cashew cream for the dairy cream, if needed. For the seeds, substitute 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of vegetable oil for the melted butter, if needed.
Creamy Dill Pickle Soup
From Erin Renouf Mylroie’s “101 Greatest Soups on the Planet.”
“I know it sounds crazy, but pickle soup is a real thing. If you’re a pickle lover, and most likely even if you’re not, you’ll find it to be delicious. Pickle soup has Polish roots, but pickles are having a big moment in America. We love our pickle pizza, fried pickles, pickled grilled cheese and even pickle corn dogs. Add this creamy soup to your pickle-love collection.”
Yield: 4 servings
3 tbsp (42 g) butter.
1 medium onion, chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced.
3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces.
2 cups (325 g) chopped dill pickles, plus more for garnish.
3 tbsp (24 g) all-purpose flour.
½ cup (120 ml) pickle brine from the jar.
5 cups (1.2 L) low-sodium chicken broth.
1 cup (240 ml) full-fat sour cream, plus more for serving.
2 tbsp (6 g) fresh dill or 1 tbsp (5 g) dried dill, plus more for serving.
Dark rye bread slices, for serving.
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the potatoes and pickles and stir to combine. Sprinkle with the flour and cook for 1 minute, or until the flour is no longer white and powdery. Stir in the pickle brine and broth.
Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender. Reduce to a very low simmer and stir in the sour cream and dill. Remove from the heat. Ladle the soup into four bowls, and serve with a dollop of sour cream, a few chopped pickles and a sprinkle of dill with dark rye bread on the side.
Vegetarian Option: Substitute low-sodium vegetable broth or water in place of the chicken broth.
Slow Cooker Instructions: Follow the recipe as directed through adding the broth. Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 2 to 3 hours or on low for 4 to 6 hours. Stir in the sour cream and dill. Replace the lid and cook on low for 30 minutes to warm through. Proceed with serving as directed.
Instant Pot Instructions: Set the Instant Pot to Sauté mode. Follow the recipe as directed, using the Instant Pot, through adding the broth. Close the Instant Pot and pressure cook on high pressure for 10 minutes. Use the natural release method. Stir in the sour cream and dill and let sit, covered, to warm through. Proceed with serving as directed.
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