Editor's note: Columnist Philip Potempa is reporting from Indianapolis while on assignment this week.
The Indiana State Fair, which continues in Indianapolis this week and closes Sunday, is the sixth oldest state fair in the nation, with a history dating back to its launch in 1852.
It's been held every year, with the exception of 1861 during The Civil War and another hiatus from 1942 to 1945 during World War II.
But this year's Indiana State Fair Media Guide also reminds it hasn't always been held in the capital city of the Hoosier state. Lafayette hosted it in 1853 and Madison in 1854, with New Albany taking a turn in 1859 and Fort Wayne in 1865, along with Terre Haute in 1867. It was in 1892, when the Indiana State Fair moved to its current location at E. 38th St. and Fall Creek Parkway.
While strolling through the Home and Family Arts Building at the fairgrounds Monday, I happened to meet Mary Schuman of Indianapolis, a friend of one of my favorite cooking resources from our Region, Emily Remster, a familiar name and face to many from her years with the Porter County Fair Board and the Porter County Agriculture Extension Office in Valparaiso.
Mary and younger sister Nancy Schuman are Indiana State Fair Master Bakers-now-turned-cookbook authors.
Nancy still lives in Columbia City, to be close to the 300-acre Schuman Family Farm established in 1854.
The sisters are champion bakers with high-flying ribbon honors at the Indiana State Fair. In 2001, both were named Master Bakers at the inaugural Indiana State Fair Masters award ceremony. Mary earned her degree in home economics and family consumer sciences from Purdue University in 1957 and sister Nancy did the same in 1967.
In 2003, the sisters decided it was time to preserve and share their Indiana State Fair ribbon-winning recipes. They self-published their first cookbook, titled "Sharing Our Best: A Collection of Favorite Recipes from the Indiana State Fair Master Bakers" ($15 Morris Press 2003). And nearly a decade later, they did a new cookbook continuation titled "Sharing More of Our Best" ($15 Morris Press 2012).
Of all the recipes shared in the 160-page spiral bound books, two are favorite and famous cookie highlights. Nancy's Ginger Cookie recipe won top champion honors for the 1970 Indiana State Fair Archway Cookie Contest And in 1975, she did it again with her Rocky Road Cookie recipe. All in all, Nancy won the Archway Cookie Contest six times.
As a part of the competition entry rules, the winning recipes became the property of Archway, with the option to mass produce to manufacture and distribute the cookies packaged to sell. The Rocky Road Cookies still rank as the single longest produced cookie by Archway, now produced by Ellison Bakery in Fort Wayne.
"I know for Nancy's Ginger Cookie recipe, when it won in 1970, she received a $100 savings bond while Archway used the recipe to mass produce the cookie and make quite a bit," Mary said.
"But today, the ginger cookie is no longer baked and sold by Archway."
The Archway cookie tradition began in 1936, when Harold and Ruth Swanson began baking soft oatmeal cookies and doughnuts out of their home's garage in Battle Creek, Mich. By the late 1940s, they discontinued the donuts to concentrate on cookies. By 1949, they had 15 different varieties before licensing their cookie recipes by the 1950s to sell in Indiana, Wisconsin and Canada. To avoid confusion and a lawsuit because of the Swanson Frozen Dinner Company, the name was changed to "Archway."
At the top of production, the company baked and sold 100 different cookie varieties before being sold and changing ownership several times. By 2008, the company filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy and today, only 21 Archway cookie varieties are baked and sold.
But Mary says she still has personal Archway favorite cookie memories. Her Lemon Pecan Cookie recipe finally beat out her sister Nancy's entry and was named Archway Cookie Champion in 1995, which she says was one of the last years Archway held the contest at the Indiana State Fair.
Today, the sisters are kind enough to share the recipe for the two most acclaimed and requested cookie recipes from their cookbooks, which are also available by mail for $19 each (which includes the tax, postage...) by sending a check or money order payable to "Schuman Cookbook" and mailed to Schuman Cookbook, 3834 Wilderness Trail, Indianapolis, Ind. 46237.
Nancy Schuman's Ginger Cookies
(Indiana State Fair Archway Cookie Contest Champion 1970)
1 cup granulated sugar (and plus a little extra), divided use
3/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
DIRECTIONS: Melt shortening in saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and allow to cool. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Sift 3 times and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine melted shortening with sugar, egg and molasses and beat well until blended. Add the dry mixture to the sugar and shortening ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined and dough is formed. Cover dough and chill at least 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and pinch off pieces of dough to make 1-inch balls, rolled in hands and then rolled in white sugar before placed 2-inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake in this moderately hot oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool cookies for 2 to 3 minutes before transferring to cool further on a wire rack. Makes 3 1/2 to 4 dozen cookies.
• Recipe courtesy of Nancy Schuman and "Sharing More of Our Best: Recipes from the State Fair Master Bakers" ($15 Morris Press Cookbooks 2012)
Nancy Schuman's Rocky Road Cookies
(Indiana State Fair Archway Cookie Contest Champion 1975)
1 (6-ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided use
1/2 cup margarine
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt 1/2 of the chocolate chips and the margarine over low heat and then cool. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Add chopped walnuts and remaining chocolate chips to flour mixture to coat them with flour dusting. Set aside. Beat eggs; then add sugar and mix. Add cooled chocolate mixture, vanilla and flour to egg mixture. Mix until ingredients are blended. Drop by rounded teaspoonsful 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes or until no imprint remains when touched with finger. Immediately remove from baking sheet. Makes 3 dozen.