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Moravian Cookies

1 lb light brown sugar
3/4 cup margarine (the least expensive store brand)
3/4 cup vegetable shortening such as Crisco (plain-not the butter flavor)
1 quart molasses (preferably Puerto Rican dark molasses)
2 rounded tablespoons baking soda
1/2 cup boiling water
4 lbs (about) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground cloves
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground ginger

Put the sugar in a very large mixing container. (I use a large,
oval enamel roasting pan.) Melt shortening and margarine (the
shortening should be bubbly) and add to the sugar. Stir. Dissolve
the baking soda in the boiling water. Stir in the molasses and
the baking soda water. Add a little water (less than 1/8 cup) to
the molasses jar. Swirl it around to remove all the molasses.
Add to the mixture.

The flour will be added one large sifterful at a time. Add the
spices to the first sifterful of flour. After each addition, mix
the flour thoroughly into the dough. At first, you will be able to
mix the dough with a large spoon. As more flour is added, you will
have to discard the spoon and mix with your hands. It is helpful
to have a friend sift while you mix. Continue to add flour until
you have used about 4 pounds from a 5-pound bag. You may have to
add more, depending upon the humidity, the flour, the molasses,
and how much extra water you used to rinse the molasses jar. The
dough should be almost stiff enough to roll. If you gently push
on the dough, you will leave an indentation. The dough, when you
have added enough flour and mixed it in well enough, takes on a
shine. Cover the dough. Let it sit out on the kitchen cabinet
overnight to blend the flavors. DO NOT put the dough in the
refrigerator. It can sit out two nights, if need be.

On Cookie Day, start baking early. Tape down a rolling cloth on
a hard surface at a comfortable working level, or wrap a board in
a rolling cloth. No rolling cloth? Use a heavy, lint-free tea
towel. Sift all-purpose flour onto the cloth. Rub it in to form
a smooth, floury surface. Take a walnut-size lump of dough and
place on the floured surface. Roll it out to a thickness of 1/8
inch or less. This dough is incredibly elastic--you can roll it
until you can almost see through it. Use your favorite cookie
cutters to cut out shapes. The early Moravians used tin cookie
cutters made by the village tinsmith in geometric shapes such as
circles and diamonds and in designs from nature, such as leaves
and animals. Place cookies on greased pans. Bake in a 275 degree
oven for 8-10 minutes. Remove cookies from oven. Cool for a few
minutes. Remove from pan. Cool on a cloth-covered surface. Store
in airtight containers.

This recipe makes 7 or 8 pounds of cookies, about 700-800 medium-sized
cookies. If you can not bake them all the same day, do not worry.
The dough will keep, sealed in a plastic bag, for 2 1/2-3 months
on the shelf. Seal it air tight for storage. A group of four
friends can complete the baking in one day. There are enough cookies
for everyone.


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