Robin Wehl Martin opened her own shop, Hello Robin, after a conversation with her friend Molly Moon Neitzel, who operates Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream.
SOMETIMES YOU have to leave home to find yourself. That’s what happened to Robin Wehl Martin, owner of the successful Hello Robin cookie bakery on Capitol Hill.
When Robin was growing up on Mercer Island, she learned how to bake from her grandmother. Margot Wehl had moved to Seattle from Germany in 1948 and worked as a private chef. “She was known for her baking,” says Robin, adding that her grandmother made traditional German sachertortes, plum cakes and apple cakes that were rather sophisticated for young Robin and her brothers.
But the Wehl children all loved their grandma’s sugar cookies. “She would make them in October for Halloween and for Thanksgiving and Hanukkah,” Robin says. She has baked sugar cookies since, and even made them for her grandmother’s funeral.
It wasn’t until 2002, when Robin lived in Vienna, that she discovered her true palate and passion. “I was surrounded by dry Viennese sachertortes with apricot jam. It just wasn’t my palate whatsoever. I realized that what I missed was chocolate chip cookies. I realized my palate.”
After returning to Seattle, she married Clay Martin, and the couple remodeled their Capitol Hill kitchen. That’s when the baking really started. And the child-rearing. Robin’s close friend Molly Moon Neitzel would often visit. “Molly would come over and sit at my island, and I would make cookies. All new moms want cookies.”
Robin credits Neitzel with the idea of the shop on 19th and Mercer. “Molly was looking around my kitchen at the blue and white walls, and the island in the middle, and envisioned a shop that looked similar, where people could stop by and sit down for a cup of coffee and a cookie.”
Hello Robin opened in late 2013. Robin sells what she loves — chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles and, of course, sugar cookies. The tagline for the bakery is, “Cookies You Wish Your Mother Had Made.” Twelve kinds of cookies are usually available on a given day, and a Molly Moon’s ice-cream window shares the space in spring and summer.
“At home, we always have ice cream and cookies on hand at all times, because you never know,” Robin says.
She makes good use of her grandma’s wooden rolling pin, dishes and extensive collection of cookie cutters. She and her husband enjoy entertaining, and Robin bakes regularly with their three kids — ages 6, 8 and 10. “When we make cookies, there’s sugar and flour everywhere. It’s more about the process at home.”
Here she shares her favorite sugar cookie recipe, inspired by her grandma. At Hello Robin she sells them frosted, while at home she simply covers them with sugar or sprinkles. Either way, they are way better than dry sachertortes.
Robin’s Sugar Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen
12 ounces salted butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 egg yolks
4 cups flour
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar.
2. Add egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each.
3. Add flour 1 cup at a time. Mix until dough forms a ball, cleaning the bottom of the bowl. Don’t overmix.
4. Roll dough to a thickness of ¼-inch, and cut in desired shapes. Put cookies on parchment-lined baking sheet. To keep the shapes, chill for at least 30 minutes, or wrap and freeze for up to two days.
5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush each cookie with cream, and top with sprinkles or sugar crystals.
6. Bake on center rack for 10 minutes or until edges just begin to brown (although there’s nothing wrong with an undercooked sugar cookie).