Moravian Treats From Old Salem
Members of the Moravian Church, also known as the Unity of Brethren, came to the Winston-Salem, North Carolina area in 1753 to escape European religious persecution. Their legacy is apparent today, particularly in the sweet baked goods that have found their way into our Christmas traditions, and onto our tables.
For instance, there are the spicy ginger-molasses cookies traditionally served at Christmas. That tradition lives at Old Salem, the authentically restored Moravian settlement near Winston-Salem. The crisps are rolled out ultra-thin and cut into various festive shapes.
Visitors to Old Salem can buy the cookies, and other Moravian delicacies on site, or see the items made at the recreated Winkler Bakery. The bakery staff still rises early to wood-fire the brick oven and start baking bread, sugar cake, and tea cookies. You’ll also find Old Salem cheese petites, fruit preserves, baking mixes, and world-famous, paper-thin Old Salem Moravian ginger, lemon, sugar, and black walnut cookies.
There are other places to purchase Moravian goodies, like Dewey’s Bakery and Mrs. Hanes Moravian Cookies. Dewey’s is famous for its Moravian cake, what some call "sugar bread." The traditional Moravian cake can be eaten warm or cold, as a dessert or breakfast. Butter, cinnamon and brown sugar make these 8x8 inch cakes highly popular.
Meeting to break bread signified unity and equality in the early church. These meals evolved into the Moravian Lovefeast, which spawned the Lovefeast bun. Now these buns are used in everyday life as sandwich bread and hamburger buns. During Christmas you are more likely to find them enhanced with sugar, nutmeg, mace, fresh oranges and lemons.
Although you can find them year-round, it is also during Christmas when the Moravian cookies hit their zenith. And Mrs. Hanes does her part by making about 10 million Moravian crisps every year. The company’s work has achieved a good deal of fame in the bargain. Its cookies have been featured in Bon Appetit, Mid-Atlantic Monthly, Eating Well, Southern Living, Food & Wine, Town and Country, and the Los Angeles Times, just to name a few. Flavors include ginger, sugar, lemon, and black walnut.
The Moravian Cookie Shop has a similar repertoire of excellent cookies, as well as their award-winning cheese and shortbread straws. Or, try making a Moravian treat yourself.
From the 'Heart-Healthy Recipes from an Old Salem Kitchen' brochure. The brochure also contains recipes for Winkler Moravian Sugar Cake, Lovefeast Buns, Winkler Sugar Cookies, Moravian Ginger Cookies, Winkler Gingerbread, Winkler Honey Wheat Bread, and Winkler White Bread.
2 cup all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 tsp EACH: salt, ground ginger, ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/3 cup raisins
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup low-fat (1 percent) milk
4 egg whites OR 1/2 cup egg substitute
1 cup canned pumpkin
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Add raisins and stir to coat with flour. In another bowl, mix sugar, oil and molasses; add milk, egg whites and pumpkin; blend well. Stir in dry ingredients, blending only until flour disappears. Fill greased muffin pans. Bake at 375 degrees for 16 to 18 minutes.
Moravian Spice Crisps
Yields about 3 dozen cookies
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tbsp margarine or butter, softened
1/4 cup mild molasses
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease large cookie sheet.
2. In large bowl, combine first 8 ingredients; set aside.
3. In another large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat brown sugar with margarine or butter until blended. Increase speed to high; beat until creamy, about 2 minutes. At medium speed, beat in molasses until blended. With spoon, stir in flour mixture.
4. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons, about 4 inches apart, onto cookie sheet. With finger, press each into a 2-inch round. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until cookies spread and darken. Let cookies remain on cookie sheet on wire rack 3 minutes to cool slightly. With pancake turner, remove cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough. Store cookies in tightly covered container.
Moravian Molasses Cookies
Recipe courtesy of Evelyn Sellers, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
This recipe makes an enormous quantity of cookies – up to 8 pounds. Read through all the instructions before attempting it.
1 qt unsulfured molasses
1 lb light brown sugar
12 oz (3/4 lb) lard
4 oz (1 stick) margarine
About 4 lbs all-purpose flour
4 tbsp fresh ground cloves
4 tbsp fresh cinnamon
2 tbsp fresh ground ginger
3 level tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Melt the margarine and lard together and set aside to cool to lukewarm.
Put the molasses in a very large and heavy smooth-bottomed pot. Stir in the cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and the brown sugar. Turn to medium-high and start stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture is warm, the sugar has dissolved, and all the spices are incorporated – 5 to 10 minutes. Do NOT bring it to a boil.
Put the salt and soda in a cup or small bowl and mix it with about 3 tablespoons of flour in a cup. Add that to the molasses mixture. Stir until completely dissolved, mashing any particles of soda against the side of the pot so that every bit is incorporated.
Pour in the cooled margarine and lard, and beat with a wooden spoon until completely blended. Allow the whole mixture to cool before adding the flour, or the dough will absorb more flour. Add about one-third of the flour mixture and stir well with a wooden spoon. Add the second third of flour and continue to mix.
Take the remaining third of flour and sprinkle a work surface thickly with some of it. Scrape all the dough out onto the floured surface, and begin to knead, flouring your hands frequently while you incorporate the remaining flour.
When the dough has become stiff and firm and far less sticky, roll it into a long tube and cut it into eight pieces, which will weigh roughly one pound each. Shape each ball into a disk, slapping the surface with your hands to smooth it (you'll see the lard rise to the surface, making each disk kind of shiny).
Put four disks of dough in each of two large plastic bags and seal. Allow to sit overnight on the countertop. The dough will swell some and the spice flavors will mellow and blend.
When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Cover a pastry or rolling board (or a square piece of plywood) with bleached muslin that's been washed several times, tacking it tightly around the edges. Flour the muslin and rub the flour into the cloth to coat it deeply. Roll the cookies as thin as possible, 1/16 to 1/32 of an inch. Cut with any cookie cutter you like, using tiny cutters such as hearts or circles to cut out little cookies in the spaces between larger cookies. (You can also gather the scraps and re-roll, but these cookies won't be as tender.)
Lift the cookies onto an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Watch them, and don't let the cookies brown around the edges. Allow to cool on the pan for several minutes before lifting them onto cooling racks. As soon as they're completely cool, pack and store in an airtight container. If you're using cookie tins, seal the lid of the tin with masking tape. Any air creeping in will cause the cookies to soften. Yields about 7 or 8 pounds of cookies
Moravian Lovefeast Buns
1 cake yeast
1/4 cup tepid water
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup soft butter
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup warm mashed potatoes
2 cups or more lukewarm water
Melted butter or cream for glazing
Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. Add sugar to beaten egg, then softened butter, salt, warm mashed potatoes, and yeast mixture. Add alternately flour and warm water to make soft but firm dough. Knead until smooth on lightly floured board or in hands.
Cover with clean, warm cloth and set in warm place to rise until double in bulk. When dough has risen, punch down and make into buns 3 to 4 inches in diameter. (If preferred, any other shape may be made with this dough.) Place so they do not touch on greased sheets. Cover with warm cloth and let rinse again.
Place in 400 degree oven and bake until brown, about 20 minutes. Brush with cream or melted butter just before removing from stove. Makes 18 to 20 buns.
added: January 4, 2009
updated: October 9, 2009
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