Here’s part two of our peek inside just one of our NC communities rich in tasty traditions.
We hope your holidays are filled with sugar and spice and all things nice!
Joy & Deborah
by Matthew Lardie
Chances are you’ve tasted, or at least seen, the thin, ginger-snap-like cookies that show up in stores each holiday season. Moravian cookies are as famous for their supermodel skinny physique as they are for their highly-spiced taste; these cookies pack a punch! What you probably didn’t know is that many of the cookies loved the world over are made right here in North Carolina.
Winston-Salem has one of the highest concentrations of Moravians in the United States, and the city is home to companies that continue the Moravian baking tradition. Aside from the buns and sugar cakes, Moravians are still best known for their signature spice cookie. A descendent of the German Lebkuchen cookie (many Moravians fled Moravia, in the present-day Czech Republic, and settled in Germany before heading to the United States), the Moravian cookie combines a powerful and exotic spice blend with some unique baking techniques to produce a thin, crisp cookie that cannot be resisted.
Recipes for Moravian cookies abound; some call for molasses and an overnight rest on the countertop or in the refrigerator, while others are of the simple mix-roll-and-bake variety. In an effort to stay authentic I tracked down a true-blue Winston-Salem Moravian cookie recipe, and I would urge you to give it a try. It requires the dough to rest in the refrigerator overnight, so you’ll need to plan ahead. If you find yourself in a hurry a quick Google search will pull up many recipes for suitable alternatives that can be baked straight away.
In the 1950s and 60s Edna Spach and Pearl Edwards made and sold Moravian cookies in the Winston-Salem area. Both were members of the Trinity Moravian Church. This recipe first appeared in The Old Salem Museum and Gardens Cookbook. Note: This recipe makes a LOT of cookies – feel free to halve, or even quarter.
● 1 quart molasses
● ¾ pound brown sugar
● ¾ pound shortening
● 2 Tbsp ground cloves
● 2 Tbsp ground ginger
● 2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
● 2 Tbsp baking soda
● 3 ¼ pounds flour
1 In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the molasses, brown sugar, spices, and shortening over medium heat until the shortening is melted and the mixture is uniform. Do not let it scorch!
2 Add the baking soda and mix well until it is dissolved. The mixture will be very foamy. Remove from the heat, pour into a large, heat-proof mixing bowl, and let cool to room temperature.
3 When cool, add the flour. Mix until the flour is fully incorporated, roll into a ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
4 The next day remove the dough from the refrigerator, preheat the oven to 325 F, and prepare a large cutting board or countertop by sprinkling liberally with flour (flour your rolling pin too). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cut off a fist-sized chunk of the dough and return the rest of the dough to the refrigerator while you work. At this point it is important to work quickly while the dough is still cool. Roll the dough until it is uniformly thin – ¼ to ⅛ of inch thick; don’t be afraid to use more flour to prevent the dough from sticking to the board or the rolling pin. Cut out the cookies using whatever shape cookie cutter you wish, gently brush off any excess flour with a pastry brush, and place on the parchment-lined cookie sheet (a thin spatula will help to move the cookies). Bake at 325 F until barely browned around the edges, 7-10 minutes.
5 Repeat the process with the remaining dough until all the cookies have been baked, remembering to work quickly and keep the dough chilled. The dough keeps quite well in the freezer, so you can roll out the sheets and freeze them for up to 3 months for future use. Just remove from the freezer and let rest at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before cutting; bake as directed above.
The Shops at Old Salem <—– click here to order!
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
Matthew Lardie loves food! Check out his GreenEatsBlog and stay tuned for more from Matt in NCFood in the future.