By Kevin Williams
One of my favorite Amish destinations over the years was a tiny community near Whiteville, Tennessee. This is a settlement of conservative Beachy Amish, which means they drive cars and have electricity, but dress Plainly. It is here that Backerman’s Bakery churns on breads, rolls, pies, and more from its location about an hour northeast of Memphis.
There’s a small school there and near the school in an unassuming building (at least it was back when I was there) was a bakery than was turning out fried pies in an efficient assembly line.
“Baking emphasizes our family on family,” said Mark Yoder, the manager of the bakery back when I spoke to him. "Like gardening, farming and cooking, baking is something everyone can do together. We feel like it contributes to a healthier lifestyle, and gives you that feeling of well−being from doing it yourself," says Yoder, the manager of the bakery at Backermann's Bakery & Cheese Shoppe at 260 U.S. 64, (731) 254−8473.
Not much changes on this sleepy stretch of US 64 in Whiteville. But the one constant is Backerman’s churning out delicacies that come out of the kitchen every morning: cheesy herb French bread, sweet rolls, cakes baked from scratch and Yoder's favorite, Monster Cookies, which he describes as "having a little bit of everything, kind of like four cookies rolled into one."
The Whiteville community is not very large and you could drive by on 64 and never see any evidence it is there. Approximately twenty−five families live in Whiteville's Mennonite settlement. Several of its denizens work behind the scenes at Backermann's, baking more than 1,000 loaves of bread a week. Some of that bread is sold on−site; other loaves are delivered to Easy Way stores, along with a variety of baked goods and fried pies, which are also sold at Schnucks. Schnuck’s is a regional grocery chain which has stores in St. Louis primarily, but also Memphis and, I think, Evansville. So if you are near a Schnuck's look for the Whiteville fried pies!
Fried pies are a Whiteville specialty, it seems. Almost every family has their own variation.
Fried pies have been popularized in Amish literature and can found in my flavors: peach, raspberry, blackberry, and even grape. You can also get “chocolate” fried pies filled with a chocolate filling. Yum. (and, there seems to be some debate as to whether they are “fry pies” or “fried pies”, I asked an Amish man to settle it for me once and he said they use “either.” So, there you go.)
These are very popular, portable pies that show up a lot in Amish kid’s lunch boxes or husband’s lunch pails if they work somewhere like a factory. Of course, some Amish cooks also just pile them on a plate as an after-school treat for the scholars. Here is a recipe so you can make your own!
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup shortening, softened
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 13-ounce can evaporated milk
- 2 1 /2 cups any flavor pie filling
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
- Cut the shortening into the dry ingredients.
- In a separate bowl, mix the eggs and milk together and then add to the shortening-flour mixture.
- Mix with a fork just so it holds together and no more.
- Roll out rather thin, to about 1 /8-inch thickness.
- Cut out small rounds using a 7-inch saucer or circle as a pattern.
- Spoon some of your favorite fruit pie filling on one side.
- Be sure your filling is fairly thick and cold or it will run.
- Fold over and seal the edges well.
- Deep fry in melted shortening, about 2 inches deep, until golden brown on both sides, 2 minutes per side.
- Dip into the powdered sugar glaze and then put onto a baking sheet or cooling rack to cool before serving.
You can then add a powdered sugar glaze....this is what really makes the fried pie pop.
POWDERED SUGAR GLAZE
1 c. powdered sugar
½ tsp. vanilla
1 ½ to 2 tbsp. milk
⅛ tsp. salt
Put butter in 2 cup glass measure cup. Cook on high for 30 seconds or until melted. Add all ingredients. Starting with 1 ½ tablespoons milk, add more only if needed to get glaze consistency. Drizzle over cool cake. Yield: About ½ cup.