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Amish Wedding Nothings (or Knee Patches/Elephant Ears)

July 4, 2016



On summer holidays like Memorial Day, July 4, and Labor Day, many times I would treat my family to a batch of Funnel Cakes because of the long lazy morning when we didn’t have to go anywhere. The children looked forward to those summer holidays when no one got them out of bed, and norms for healthy breakfasts were thrown out the window. We pretended we were at the county fair or a lawn party indulging in deep fat fried pastries dribbled with powdered or other sugared toppings—without paying $3 a pop. (Earlier I shared the funnel cake recipe we made for Stuart’s 60th birthday.)

This July 4 weekend I made a similar type “treat” that is frequently found at Amish weddings, I’m told, depending on where you live, and northern Indiana apparently is one of those areas (where I grew up).

I got this recipe from Lovina Eicher, with whom I work (from a distance) in my job at MennoMedia/Herald Press, and was privileged to visit in her home last fall.

Lovina’s second oldest daughter, Susan, is getting married this summer and Lovina is pondering making these for an extra treat at Susan’s wedding and because it a family tradition that Lovina kept at her own wedding. Lovina hasn’t made the final decision yet, but I also wanted to test them for the cookbook we’re working on with Lovina.

If it was my daughter getting married, I don’t think I would have time to fry Amish Nothings on the day of the wedding, and these are the most delicious when eaten fresh. But then, I’ve never been to or cooked for an Amish wedding, but I know that in addition to all the foods made ahead of the day, there are various cooks or crews assigned to make “the mashed potatoes” or “the dressing” or making the barbecue or fried chicken the day OF the wedding—so I imagine it could work if they had an Amish crew doing nothing but “nothings.” After all, the Amish are famous for raising barns in a day. The community strength of “we can do this” is part of what increases the fascination, respect and admiration for these faithful Christians.

At any rate, I enjoyed making these and sharing them with our neighbors since our kids were not home. If you love pie dough, you’ll love these, because that’s basically what it is: deep fat fried pie dough with sugar on top, very similar to “Elephant Ear” pastries made at lawn parties here in Virginia. I may have not rolled them as thin as I should have, looking at another photo of this delicacy. It reminds me of the little rolled up scraps of dough my mother used from pie baking, adding melted butter and cinnamon sugar and rolling them up for little pie dough cinnamon rolls. This treat is about making memories and keeping family traditions!

Amish Wedding Nothings

(The first item on each list is exactly the way the recipe was given to me, which Lovina got of course from her own mother; the additions in ( ) came from online sources that gave some exact quantities, along with the step-by-step directions. Thank you very much, Internet.)

3 large “cook spoons” of heavy cream (3/4 cup cream)
1 egg well beaten
Flour (2 cups)
Sugar (for topping only)

Shortening (for cooking)


Free-range egg

Beat egg and stir in cream, salt, and enough flour to make elastic dough.

MixCreamAndEgg MixingDough

Make 6 or 7 balls out of the dough.


Roll out each ball of dough very flat and thin, about 1/16″.


Cut three-inch or so slits, one above the other, in the middle of the circles.


Heat shortening in a large kettle over high heat (or use an electric frying pan with a temperature control.) When the shortening is 365 degrees F, try testing a piece of dough to see if it cooks or sizzles; put the rolled out “Nothing” into the kettle or fry pan (fry one at a time, unless you have a huge kettle). Turn each piece over with two forks or large spatula once it turns golden on the bottom. Remove from oil and place on plate covered with paper towels to drain.


Sprinkle powder sugar over top while warm. Stack all the nothings on top of each other to serve.

P.S. We tried these with plain white sugar, powdered sugar, cinnamon powdered sugar, and white sugar with cinnamon. All go well with milk or coffee!

Source from The Amish Cook: Recollections and Recipes from an Old Oder Family—compiled by Lovina’s mother, Elizabeth Coblentz.


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  1. There is a lot of something in these nothings. Great photos too!

    • Later in the day I discovered a chapter in the cookbook by Lovina’s mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, that notes the Nothings are usually made two days before the wedding. So scratch what I said about making them the day of. She also notes that the pastries are decorative–kind of like dishes of tortilla chips in a Mexican restaurant or my husband compared them to fortune cookies in a Chinese. Certainly not a main dish or even dessert, but something just for fun–and likely something to munch on while waiting for the actual meal to start. I know you would be concerned about the flour and cream fried in shortening, topped by sugar here …. 🙂

  2. Athanasia permalink

    They look tasty but not what we call elephant ears. I’ve never fried pie crust dough. We just roll the scraps and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake.

    Our elephant ears are yeast dough, rolled and rolled again with cinnamon, sugar, butter and nuts ,rolled really thin and baked till they are crispy and crystallized. You want them as big as you can, 9-10 inches across. I’ve had knee patches when visiting my father’s mother. The dough was more egg-y. I have had the Amish nothings. My sisters in laws make them.

    Yes, the pictures are nice…a red white and blue theme for your holiday?

    • I did not purposely pick the colors for the July 4 holiday, but rather because I thought that type of Currier and Ives plate (I guess that’s what you call them, I only have one, please correct me) would be a style that some Amish would have. And maybe the red checked tablecloth would NOT be Amish, but yes, for a pop of color, that’s what I felt like. Thanks for sharing your experiences of your family. Great comment!

      • Athanasia permalink

        Well, from what I can see, it is not a Currier and Ives as I know them. The edging is wrong, too bright of a blue and the swirls are wrong. But it still could be a CI picture in the middle, I just can’t see it. I have quite a large collection. My mother started getting them back in the early 60s at the grocer and with stamps. Then one day we stopped at an estate sale oh 25 years ago and they had an entire set with all the serving dishes and gravy boats, butter dish, sugar…on and on …all the pieces that had broken in use over the years. So bought it for a very decent price. For my mother, they were everyday dishes, but I save them for special days.

        I can see a red checked cloth in an Amish home. My husband’s parents had a lovely set of dishes that were their wedding china and many pretty bowls and platters and glassware. His sisters divided everything up…We received the set of cut glass water glasses, several cut glass bowls, a set of stainless flatware, among other things. I love family items.

  3. Athanasia, I think these are called Blue Willow pattern. Thanks for affirming that red checked could be in an Amish home. As I cleaned my hutch this morning, I thought about where each dish came from, or who gave it to me, or whose it was in my family’s history. Dishes are good for such memories, I agree!

    • Athanasia permalink

      Oh, Blue Willow …that sounds right. Do you remember reading the book BLUE WILLOW by Doris Gates when you were in grade school?

      • No, I don’t remember that book, although it sounds vaguely familiar. Glad my update “sounds right.” 🙂

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