Not Amish? Try whoopie pies anyway.

You don't have to live in Lancaster, Pa., to enjoy Amish desserts - or those catchy names

Long before comfort food became all the rage, the Amish were making simple, honest foods without fanfare.

Thankfully, these foods can be found beyond the borders of their communities. The oldest Amish group is part of what's known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, which includes people of German, Welsh, English, Scottish, Swiss, and French ancestry. The Amish first arrived in Lancaster County, Pa., in the 1720s and now number about 18,000. Other Amish groups have settled in 22 US states.

Amish desserts, in particular, are often front and center at farmers' markets or seasonal festivals across America. Sweet treats with catchy names such as Whoopie Pie, Shoofly Pie, or Wet Bottom Pie accent these events with a taste of Amish country.

Family, friends, and a set of rules called the "Ordnung" are central to the Amish way of life. Meals are shared in fellowship and in celebration of life's blessings. Desserts are especially popular at gatherings, where several tempting choices of pies, cakes, and cookies are laid out in abundance to feed a large crowd.

These delicacies fit well into the Amish tradition of basic yet delicious recipes that allow plenty of time for chores and household tasks.

The origin and name of the Whoopie Pie, just one of many Amish desserts, is shrouded in mystery. No one seems to know when someone first decided to smear creamy filling between two chocolate cookies. But we do know this delectable dessert is a characteristic Amish treat.

Whoopie pies also come in various flavors of filling, such as mint, peanut butter, and pumpkin. Chocolate-chip cookies are a scrumptious variation. They can easily be frozen and packed into picnic baskets or bag lunches.

Whoopie Pie

2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon hot coffee
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1-1/2 cups vegetable shortening
1/4 cup water

To make the cookies, mix eggs, sugar, vanilla, hot coffee, and vegetable oil. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add dry mixture to wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Using 1/4-cup scoop, drop batter on greased cookie sheets 2 inches apart. Batter should make 18 cookies. Bake about 7 minutes at 350 degrees F., or until cookies are firm enough to spring back when pressed lightly at the center.

Cool and set aside.

For the filling, combine all ingredients except water. Then add water gradually, beating well until mixture is fluffy and spreadable.

Assemble pies by spreading about 3 to 5 tablespoons of the filling on the flat-side halves of 2 cookies. Then put them together, like an Oreo cookie.

Makes 9 pies.

- Recipe adapted from the Amish Market in Annapolis, Md.

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