Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Amish Church Cookies

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting and Sugar Sprinkles
who could ask for anything more?

Once more I have turned to the Amish for a large scale recipe to use for this weeks "Feeding the Homeless" project. I ended up a little pressed for time this week because I was busy with some other things. I'd hoped to have the cookies done on Tuesday when Karin dropped by to work on her website with me (check out the overhaul) and set up a Twitter account and Facebook page for her homeless project. Unfortunately, it just didn't work out that way. So here we are coming up on Friday and I'm just getting done!

The original of this makes 120 cookies (or more). I decided to halve it and using a 2 1/2-inch cookie cutter still ended up with 70+ cookies!

I found the story behind these cookies to be interesting. Undoubtedly, Amish church services must be rather long because these are often made to pass around in the middle of the service to help keep the children quiet.

Despite legends of all day church services in the South, my experience as a child was one hour tops. In fact, there's an old family story about "Grandpa Danielson" and a long winded preacher. Now, I have no idea if "Grandpa" Danielson is actually related to me. There are some Danielsons on my Daddy's side of the family and this happened long before I was born. Still, it was shared over many a Sunday meal in my grandmother's household.

My father's family were Southern Baptist and attended West End Baptist in Newberry, South Carolina. West End Baptist served the mill community around Newberry Cotton Mills where most of my relatives worked. My grandmother had been a member since the congregation formed and she remained a member until her death at 104 years old. (Trivia: She lived in three centuries! Nineteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-First.)

On this particular Sunday a new preacher had been called to serve the congregation and he was stretching his oratory abilities with the sermon. He exhorted the congregation to repent and heaped good old fashioned fire and brimstone on their heads. Eleven O'clock turned into Noon and when the second hand began to pass the half hour mark, Grandpa Danielson collected his Bible and belongings and stood up. He made his way into the aisle and with a curt nod to the new preacher marched toward the back of the church and the exit.

"Grandpa! Where you going?" the preacher asked from the pulpit.

"Preacher, it's half past noon. You been at us for over an hour. I figure if you ain't saved us in an hour you ain't gonna save us in two and I got biscuits on the table that's gettin' cold!" and out the door he went.

According to the story the new preacher kept a very close eye on the clock thereafter for fear of losing more of his congregation to good food and family which always seem preferable to hellfire and brimstone - even in a Southern Baptist church!

So, there you have Grandpa Danielson and the Sermon. Maybe if he'd had some Amish Church Cookies he might have hung around because these are really good. I opted to fancy them up a bit by using a cream cheese icing flavored with orange. They remind me very much of some cookies I used to buy at the Winn-Dixie bakery back in South Carolina. They're not too sweet and have a wonderful texture. The cream cheese icing with the orange is the perfect topping and I'm going to be hard put to get these to Karin intact - I'm craving another just writing about them!

Note: The original recipe calls for lard in these cookies, but I use vegetable shortening.

Amish Church Cookies

1 1/2 cups shortening, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
5-6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out dough

Preheat oven to 375°.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl.

In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time beating after each addition. Add milk and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix until a soft dough forms (add extra flour if needed to get soft but not sticky consistency). Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut with round or shaped cookie cutters. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment and bake for 10-12 minutes until edges just begin to turn golden.

Cool cookies on wire rack and decorate with Cream Cheese Frosting. These cookies will stay fresh for up to two weeks in a sealed container.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
5 cups powdered sugar
2 tbl. whole milk
2 tsp. orange extract
Orange food coloring (optional)

In bowl of electric mixture fitted with paddle attachment, combine all ingredients and beat at medium-high speed until frosting is creamy and smooth. Decorate cookies either by piping icing or frost using an icing spatula.

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