I still haven’t told you about the trip we took to Iowa last month, where we shopped at an Amish store and visited the Amana colonies. I will, I will! (This is what I say to Andrew.) The procrastination is strong with me. Because I am upset knowing my writing, my posts, will not be perfect. That’s a whole other thing to unpack, of course. For now, a FOOD post! But don’t bother scrolling to the recipe. As I told my friend Brenda last night, “There is no recipe.” This whole thing is just me rambling, and that’s pretty much it.
It all began many years ago, when our friend Mark invited us over, along with a few other people. I can’t remember who was all in the room. All I remember are the cookies. I ate them all. Quite literally. Could not stop, would not stop. At some point I figured I should address the fact that I was clearly consuming the entire plate of cookies all on my own, so I asked him what made them so good. He replied it was the cinnamon chips, which he purchased from an Amish store in Iowa. There was no other place he knew of where he could purchase cinnamon chips.
I paused, the last cookie in my hand, a bite already clearly missing. “Are you saying, you CANNOT make these cookies again?”
“Nope!” he joyfully replied. “These are the last of them and I’m glad you’re enjoying them.”
Horror and shame washed over me.
And then I shrugged and happily consumed what remained of The Last Cookie. (I mean, might as well, at that point. What’s done is done, just lean into it, is my motto!)
I have quietly remembered this, for all these years.
Thankfully, our friendship has continued, and this past summer when Andrew mentioned to Mark that we were heading to Iowa for a weekend in September, his eyes lit up. We had forgotten, he had attended university there — he had friends there, whom he would dearly like to see again. Andrew asked if he’d like to join us on our adventure and he said yes, so the plan was in place.
Sometime after we had crossed the border (my first time visiting the United States in at least half a decade!) Andrew was filling the car with gas and Mark and I discussed what we were hoping to accomplish on this trip. He told me he would sure like to visit the Amish store Stringtown if possible, as they carried ingredients he could not find anywhere else. Including… cinnamon chips.
“Mark!” I exclaimed. “Remember that time you made cookies with the last of your cinnamon chips AND THEN I ATE THEM ALL?!”
Apparently he barely remembered this.
“Finally I can make it up to you!” I declared. “We’re gonna get you to Stringtown!”
I did not know what Stringtown was. Mark told us it was an Amish store and that’s how we learned there are Amish people in Iowa, and apparently we would be driving through the region where they lived.
And so we did.
We finally arrived at Stringtown and learned it closed half an hour earlier than what Mark remembered, so time was tight. We had a few moments that felt very much like Supermarket Sweep (remember that show? I’m showing my age, which is 45 btw) and when we calmed down the three of us were standing in the baking aisle, staring at the assortment of baking chips. (Mark already had the cinnamon chips securely in his hands.)
“THEY MAKE LEMON CHIPS?!” I whisper-yelled in excitement. “What the heck?! This is amazing!”
I plucked a bag of the bright yellow beauties and carried my prize to the cash register. (Which only takes cash… so once again Mark helped me in relation to Amish baking chips.)
And that is how I came to be in possession of lemon chips from Stringtown.
As the cost-of-living has increased a fair bit, Andrew and I were on a bit of a budget at the end of this month and put a hard stop to spending, which meant my creative brain had to kick into gear. I also have RA and a slow Sunday is just the thing for me. So I puttered about the kitchen, deciding I wanted to bring something to contribute at our book group meeting later that evening. I decided it was time to use those lemon chips.
After googling “lemon chip cookie recipe” I couldn’t find one that exactly fit my situation, so my mind went back to a specific moment. In the days leading up to me and Andrew’s wedding, my aunts threw a bridal shower for me. One of the challenges they put me up to was to make a cake with no recipe. I quite enjoyed the challenge and didn’t feeling bothered at all. I assembled the ingredients, threw a bunch of stuff into a bowl, stuck it in the oven, and the cake turned out fine. My gut instincts are not so bad, and whoever follows a recipe to the precise measurements anyway?
So I assembled the ingredients I felt I would want to put into the lemon chip cookies: lemon chips were the first. Then the flours. I don’t bake too much, so I keep my flours in little containers in our fridge-freezer so they stay fresh. Every once in a while I purchase a one-pound bag of 100% whole wheat flour ground by the windmill at the Mennonite Heritage Village, and every once in a while I purchase a petite bag of white flour. Both are kept in clean one-litre soup containers that originally held chicken noodle soup from Main Bread & Butter. I had no idea how much of either flours I had left at this point. There was more white flour than whole wheat, but I put both on the counter. I also found a half-empty bag of organic almond flour. It too, went on the counter. So did baking soda, salt, eggs, butter, canola oil, Mexican vanilla, concentrated almond flavouring purchased accidentally from Stony Brook Pantry (accustomed to the cheap diluted Clubhouse version, I way overdid it with this one year with my sugar cookies at Christmas and ruined an entire batch), cream of tartar, lemon juice, and my treasured lemon chips.
To be honest, I had also purchased cinnamon chips from Stringtown and they were already gone. I’d thrown them into some kind of pumpkin muffin situation I’d invented, using up the last of our white sugar for that recipe, and… it was not good. Those muffins were total sugar-bombs. That’s how I’d learned that these Amish baking chips can stand on their own — no need for a cup of sugar yet. (And anyway, like I said, it was gone.)
I figured I should include some kind of sweetening agent in the cookie dough. I scoured my cupboards and found some cane sugar purchased from Ten Thousand Villages before the Steinbach location was closed. I figured a bit of that would be nice. But it’d be good to diversify. I went hunting again, and located an upside-down bottle of Roger’s Golden Syrup, a holdout from the last time we had roll kuchen. I cut open the bottle and used a spatula to collect what remained (probably a tablespoon?). Into the batter it went!
Ummmmmm… I THINK that was all the ingredients?
I stirred it up, and found it was too dry. This was when I added a second egg, a bit more melted butter, and another squirt of lemon juice. More stirring. A bit more butter and lemon juice. Another dash of salt just in case. I got out the mixer and made sure the batter looked right. Then I folded in a big amount of lemon chips.
I set the oven to 370 degrees (why not 375? I don’t know, 370 just felt right) and used the canola oil to grease the cookie sheets. Using a tiny ice cream scoop that had been gifted to me at a church bridal shower by a Pampered Chef consultant (I use this a lot!), I put the batter onto the cookie sheets and into the oven for ten minutes.
What emerged were very light, fluffy, yet crisp and delicious cookies!
How did I make them?
But those lemon chips from the Amish store called Stringtown? They’re everything.