What is the Difference between Parchment Paper and Wax Paper?

The main difference between parchment paper and wax paper lies in their special coatings.  Parchment paper is lined with silicon, while wax paper is coated with wax such as soybean or paraffin.  Since wax melts when exposed to high temperatures, wax paper cannot be used in the oven.  On the other hand, most parchment papers can withstand temperatures up to 420 degrees Fahrenheit.  As a result, parchment paper is perfect for lining cookie sheets and cake pans.  Similarly, non-stick baking mats, such as Silpat, are made of fiberglass and silicon.  They can be used in the oven just like parchment paper, and can be washed and reused over and over again.

In reality, parchment paper was originally used for writing, not cooking and baking.  Invented around 150 BC, Egyptians created parchment paper to replace their expensive papyrus paper.

Parchment paper was made from animal skins such as sheep and cows.  First, hair and fat were scraped off of the skin.  Then, the skin was soaked in water with chalk or flour and salt.  This gave the skin a smooth surface perfect for writing.  Lastly, the skin was soaked in tannin made from oak-gall, which preserved the paper.  After stretching, drying, and cutting, the paper was ready for use.

parchment

Ironically, parchment paper was more expensive to make then papyrus paper, so it wasn’t used much by the Egyptians.  By 105 AD, the Chinese had invented paper, which was much cheaper than both papyrus and parchment.  Although it took over 1000 years for it to reach Europe, Chinese paper eventually became the most popular resource for writing and bookmaking.

Even though parchment was costly, it was widely used in the Islamic Empire and Medieval Europe.  Overall, parchment was more valuable than paper due to its durability.  Paper was easily torn, while parchment was strong and stiff.  This was very important when making religious paintings and books.  As a result, many Islamic and early Christian documents were written on parchment paper.  Muslim scribes created beautiful copies of the Holy Qur’an while Christian scribes produced equally intricate illuminated manuscripts.  The production of both books required immense dedication and concentration, and the results are absolutely breathtaking.

 

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7th century Qur’an at the University of Birmingham

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Opening from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, 1440

To celebrate Christmas, I baked sugar cookies and decorated them with royal icing.

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The recipe is very simple and easy to follow.  I added extra vanilla and cinnamon for more flavor.

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Easy, tender, delicious cookies.  Enjoy!

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 cups butter

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 Tbsp vanilla

6 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add in the eggs and vanilla. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 400º F.  Roll out the dough on parchment paper.  Use cookie cutters to create various shapes.  Place on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges are golden.  Let cool on a wire rack.

Once the cookies have cooled, decorate with royal icing.

Makes 40 cookies.

 

Thanks to these websites for the information on parchment paper.

Martha Stewart

Chow Hound

Silpat

Candels

Quatr.us

Parsomen

America Aljazeera

 

 

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