Did you know that for many years, in all Amish churches, it had been a tradition to pass crackers and cookies midway during the church service? The mother of the house where church was being held, in an effort to abate restlessness in young children, passed a plate of snacks. In some churches the snacks were passed only on the women's side of the church because the women cared for the younger children. In other Amish churches, cookies and crackers were passed across the isle to the men's side for children up to about 5 years of age. My husband, Paul, here at the Millersburg, Ohio Barn Inn Bed and Breakfast, recalls from his childhood, that when children got older, at about 5 or 6 years of age, they considered it too juvenile to take a cookie; and to yield to the temptation may have resulted in snickers by their peers. According to my father-in-law, Emanuel Coblentz, in Hartville, Ohio, the West Old Order church continued this practice until about 1955. Today Old and New Order Amish Churches in Holmes County, Ohio provide, for children, upon entrance, small baggies with pretzels and cracker snacks.
My mother in law tells me that our very strict Amish relatives in Berne, Indiana, to this day continue to pass crackers and cookies in their church services. My mother, from Geauga County, Ohio, said that their "gmay" (church) cookies usually had one raisin pressed into the middle. This Amish "gmay" cookie recipe, originally my great aunt's, for generations, was served at many Amish services in Fredericksburg, Ohio.
Amish Church Cookies
1 cup white sugar
2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups shortening
1 1/4 cups cream or evaporated milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. baking powder
Approx. 5 cups flour (don't make dough too stiff)
Raisins for garnish
Cream together sugars, shortening, and eggs; add vanilla. Add baking powder and salt to flour. Add cream or milk alternately with the flour to the butter mixture and blend for a soft dough. Chill the dough for a few hours. When rolling out, put plenty of flour on the counter, roll out dough and sprinkle white sugar over the top and roll the sugar in very lightly. If desired, press a raisin in the center and bake about 10 minutes at 350 degrees. This makes about 5 1/2 dozen 4" cookies. These are some of my favorite cookies.
I thank my cousin, Katie, for this recipe. Katie is the "Marble Lady" who sells the book, Born Amish, a delightful recollection of Amish life as seen through the eyes of an Amish child. She also sells traditional amish children's toys and brain teasers.
Submitted by Loretta Coblentz
March 21, 2011