Saturday, December 19, 2009

Moravian Spice Cookies

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...
Our Christmas celebration begins the day after Thanksgiving with the making of at least one dessert or treat to be served during the Christmas holidays. That first dessert is usually a cake that requires aging, but we've also been known to make cookies that fall into a category we call "keepers". A "keeper" in our parlance is a treat that will not stale before the official holiday begins. Moravian Spice Cookies fall into that category. When I was a child we called these glass cookies, not because of their appearance, but because they were so thin they'd shatter if you dropped them on the floor. They were brought to the United States by members of the Moravian church who settled in colonial American communities established by church elders in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. The highly spiced cookies are flavored with molasses and are arguably the world's thinnest cookie. When properly rolled, a one inch stack will contain 16 cookies. I still haven't mastered that challenge, though I continue to try. Over the years, I've made some changes to the original recipe to accommodate the tastes of family and friends. Not everyone appreciates the bold taste of full-flavored molasses and dark brown sugar, so, while the dark versions are more authentic, I prefer to use light molasses and brown sugar. The cookies are simple to make and they are wonderful keepers. Be forewarned that the dough must be refrigerated before it can be rolled, so you'll have to plan your time accordingly. Here's the recipe.

Moravian Spice Cookies...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite

1-1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup molasses, light or dark


1) Whisk flour, salt, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne pepper together in a small bowl. Set aside.
2) Using an electric mixer, cream butter in a small bowl. Add sugar and molasses and mix until combined.
3) Slowly add flour mixture and beat just until smooth.
4) Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 5 hours. Dough will keep several days if refrigerated.
5) Move a rack to upper third of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with foil. Set aside.
6) Divide dough into 4 parts. Work with 1/4 of dough at a time, keeping the rest refrigerated. Roll dough on a well-floured surface until it is paper thin - 1/16th of an inch thick. Work quickly because dough will become sticky and unworkable if out too long. Cut with a 2-3/4-inch round cookie cutter. Transfer cookies to prepared cookie sheet.
7) Bake until cookies darken slightly, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining portions of dough. Scraps can be reserved and rerolled following refrigeration. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container. Yield: 48 cookies.

This post is being linked to:
Pink Saturday, sponsored by Beverly at How Sweet the Sound


Martha said...

I've never gotten the nerve to make these cookies -- don't think I can give them that thing!

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Another fantastic recipe that I can't wait to try. Excellent!

Thank you Mary!


Deb in Hawaii said...

I have tried these cookies before--so good with tea but have not tried making them. I love how thin ad crisp they are.

pigpigscorner said...

I've never had this before. Love how thin it is and the spiciness.

My Little Space said...

Mary, that is a gorgeous photo! And the recipe sounds wonderful as well. Thanks!

KathyB. said...

I am not sure I am up to the challenge of such a cookie, and yet it does sound worth the effort.

My 'Wee Little Sheep' are created by me from an article I read in the 70's about these little sheep created for Moravian creches, and for a variety of reasons my husband and I have done a bit of research into Moravian history....very interesting.The Moravians had a big , but little known , impact on our history.

Penny said...

Mary, When we lived in Greensboro we used to go Old Salem where the Moravians had there village. They still make the Moravian cookies in the old wood fired ovens and the smell of molasses and spices is heady on a cool winter day.

George Gaston said...

Mary, this is a marvelous cookie filled with incredible spices and flavor. I usually have to make several batches due to breakage & eating them while they are still warm. Many thanks for reminding me about this old favorite.

Katy ~ said...

A spice cookie wins my heart every time. These are just lovely!

Cathy said...

This is my mother's favorite cookie and I haven't made it yet. Now I know what I'll be doing today. Thanks for this recipe, Mary.

The Quintessential Magpie said...

I have had these cookies before in NC, and they are FABULOUS. The remind me of the benne cookies in Charleston in terms of their texture and thinness. Your recipe sounds perfect, Mary. Thank you for sharing this. Now, I am craving this for breakfast! LOL!

Happy Pink Saturday!


Sheila :-)

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

I've never made these cookies but you've given me courage to give them a try.

Hope you have a happy holiday and a wonderful Pink Saturday.

Lynne (lynnesgiftsfromtheheart) said...

Another great recipe... anxious to try to this one..hugs ~lynne~

Unknown said...

I have never made these AWESOME!!! cookies before. I love the combination of spices. THANKS!!! for the GREAT!!! recipe.

Foley said...

Love molasses cookies..these sound really good!
One of these days you will have to take a photo of your recipe must be bulging!!

SnoWhite said...

my mom used to make these :)

Karen said...

A woman in our church used to make these at Christmastime. They're wonderful!

Glennis said...

Oh, I bet these are lovely! My mother used to make a dark spice cookie, and then she lost the recipe. I've been trying out recipes ever since to find one that came close.


Happy Pink Saturday!

storyteller said...

What a lovely tradition! When she's in town, my sister and I make tamales to give to our friends at Christmas time ;-)

My Pink Saturday is at Happily Retired Gal
Hugs and blessings,

Regina said...

Perfect! Thanks for sharing.
Enjoy the holiday season.

Inspired by eRecipeCards said...

wow... I am loving this... I don't think this sounds very Christmassy to me, BUT,,, I think this combination would compliment a rib BBQ dinner as dessert wonderfully. The molasses is a key ingredient in my beans, and the pepper ... well, the pepper is key in my rib rub...

People are always too full to really enjoy a dessert, but a wafer thin little treat passed around would be gobbled up

this is a keeper

Debbie said...

I've heard of these and they sound delicious. I love trying all different kinds of cookies....yours look so pretty!

La Table De Nana said...

Mary they look wonderful..I just saw your newest adorable cookie:) Congratulations!

Jhonny walker said...

allspice, ginger...I am making this now :)

Char said...

This makes me want to run and grab a cup of tea, they look so good, Happy Pink Saturday Mary and thanks again for a perfect recipe, Char

Donna-FFW said...

Oh they look so pretty. Kind of cookie you share with a girlfriend over hot coffee and tell secrets.

Barbara Jean said...

Just coming by to say hi on Pink Saturday!!

Christmas Blessings

barbara jean

Anonymous said...

these sound lovely never would have thought cookies could keep so well have a fab christmas loads of love Val

Claudia said...

These are gorgeously thin and crispy. I love these spices - I want them. These are perfect holiday cookies.

Beverly said...

Happy Pink Saturday and Happy Holidays to you and your family, Mary.

I love these cookies. We have been to Old Salem in Winston Salem, North Carolina, and the some yummy scents come from the bakery.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe you actually have this recipe. I am going to have to try this for my husband.

Susie Jefferson said...

Sorry I'm so late visiting you - I'm in for another eye op in January, so I'm having to keep computer stuff to minimum time and small doses, unfortunately.

Lovely, mouthwatering post as always!

I've got a family sherry trifle recipe on mine, if you'd like to add it to your collection.

Belated Happy Pink Saturday! And Happy Christmas (I won't be participating in the upcoming, Boxing Day one).

Gary near NYC said...

Thanks for making this recipe publicly available!

I hadn't heard of Moravian cookies until I stumbled across a small 3.5oz can of them by the Salem Baking Co., on sale at TJMaxx. The small container intrigued me, because the nutritional label said 12 cookies per serving, and that there were about 3.5 servings inside. How could over 40 cookies fit into this small container? Well indeed, they are about 1/16" thick!

I can't see making them that thin, but even at 1/8" that's still a reasonably thin cookie. The Salem Baking Company cookies are incredibly good, and I imagine these will either come close or match that. :-)

Mary Bergfeld said...

G, I hope you'll like these. They are a favorite of mine.

medinalakegirl said...

I made these last weekend and we love them. You quickly get the hang of rolling them. A couple of tips: 1) don't be afraid to use flour so they don't stick, but brush the extra flour off with a pastry brush before you bake them, 2) a bench scraper works awesomely to get the cookies off the counter after you've rolled them out. I was able to roll them until they were almost see-through and then scrape them up with the bench scraper and put them on the cookie sheet. They aren't so fragile to handle; they are more fragile to roll as they stick to the rolling pin and the dough tears if you roll too fast. Try them - you will love them too!

G.Schmackvoll said...

I love cookies .. Need to post something too. I have a few recipes you may like too :

PS:I foolow you :)

Anonymous said...

These sound like Lebkuchen (German) or Piernik (Polish) will have to try them out.

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