Moravian spice cookies are a traditional kind of cookie that originated in the Colonial American communities of the Moravian Church. The blend of spices and molasses, rolled paper thin, has a reputation as the “World’s Thinnest Cookie.” They are related to German Lebkuchen; original recipes can be traced back to the 18th century.
The cookie is especially popular around, and usually associated with, Christmas in communities with a strong Moravian background such as Winston-Salem, North Carolina and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which still maintain the two largest Moravian communities in the United States. Although there are a few bakeries that still roll and cut the cookies by hand, some now use a mechanized process for making the cookies in order to meet the demand. While this does not affect the taste, the machine-made cookies have been criticized for not being as thin as their handmade counterparts.
Makes 4 dozen cookies
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated on a micro-plane
- 5 – 6 allspice berries, roasted and ground
- 3 fresh cloves, finely ground
- 1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon Diamond kosher salt
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1/3 cup dark molasses
- 2 ½ – 3 tablespoons ginger root, peeled and freshly grated on a micro-plane
In a large, deep, dry skillet roast 5 – 6 allspice berries of medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Watch carefully to keep allspice berries from burning. Turn off burner and let cool 10 minutes.
While the allspice berries are cooling use a micro-plane grate the nutmeg into a small bowl and set aside. Wash micro-plane to use again for the gingerroot.
Using a non-plastic pepper mill or a mortar and pestle grind the roasted allspice berries into a small bowl. Then grind the cloves into a small bowl and clean the pepper mill or mortar and pestle according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the nutmeg, allspice, cloves all-purpose flour, Kosher salt, ground cinnamon and cayenne pepper and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the unsalted butter and dark brown sugar for 3 minutes if using an electric mixer, 5 minutes if creaming by hand. Spray a 1/3 cup measuring cup with cooking spray, measure the molasses, and pour into the butter mixture. Mix until smooth.
With the concave edge of a spoon scrape away the ginger’s skin using firm, downward strokes. Scrape away only as much as needed from the larger root to keep the ginger fresh. Grate the ginger root using a micro-plane into a small bowl and then stir into the butter mixture until well incorporated.
Add half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture and beat until smooth. Add the other half of the flour mixture and beat until smooth.
Form dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Chill in the refrigerator overnight.
Move the rack to the upper-third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.
Divide the dough into four balls and wrap three in plastic wrap and return them to the fridge.
Quickly, roll dough to 1/16 of an inch thick on a well-floured surface. Cut cookies using a 2 ¾ inch round cutter or any shapes.
Work quickly to use dough before it become sticky and unusable. If dough becomes tacky roll into a ball and refrigerate it for 20 minutes and work on another ball of chilled.
Transfer to the prepared cookie sheet and bake 8 – 10 minutes.
Repeat cutting out cookies and baking with the rest of the dough. Re-flour the baking surface and change aluminum foil as necessary.
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