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Moravian Christmas Cookie Recipe

Molasses, cinnamon, cloves and ginger--these aromas will fill your house when you make these impossibly thin, crisp, spicey cookies.

These cookies are a holiday tradition in the Winston-Salem area, a part of our heritage from the Moravian community which settled Salem in the 1700's. The Moravians are a Protestant denomination which originated in part of Czechoslovakia.

The recipe below is from a baking class I took at Old Salem, a restoration of the Colonial village of Salem. It is reprinted with the permission of Old Salem, Inc. I have added notes from personal experience.

Grace Hines' Moravian Cookies


  • 1 lb. light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks margarine (the least expensive store brand) 3/4 cup 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) Red Band all-purpose flour 2 tablespoons ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger


  1. Put the sugar in a very large mixing container. (I use a large, oval enamel roasting pan.)
  2. Melt shortening and margarine (the shortening should be bubbly) and add to the sugar.
  3. Stir.
  4. Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water.
  5. Stir in the molasses and the baking soda water.
  6. Add a little water (less than 1/8 cup) to the molasses jar.
  7. Swirl it around to remove all the molasses.
  8. 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. The original recipe says "exactly 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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