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Moravian Spice Wafers

Updated February 23, 2016
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The Moravians were a Protestant sect that settled in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. They were well-known for their belief in the spiritual rejuvenation that comes from breaking bread with loved ones. (Their religious services were called “love feasts,” and lasted so long that refreshments of coffee and buns had to be served.) These plain-looking but delicately crisp wafers have been baked for generations by families in the Winston-Salem area, and they are one of my absolute favorite cookies for gift giving. Bakers who enjoy the zen of rolling dough should try these cookies, because the dough is rolled quite thin. Even if you don’t consider yourself a master “roller-outer,” the dough is very easy to work with. And don’t let the large yield scare you off. When you get into a rhythm, you’ll knock out the entire batch in no time, and you’ll have a mountain of cookies that store very well.

Make Ahead: The dough must be chilled for at least 4 hours or overnight. The cookies can be baked up to 2 months ahead.

Cooking Methodbaking

CostInexpensive

Moderate

Total Timehalf-day

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Cocktail Party

Recipe Coursedessert

Equipmentelectric mixer

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Mealdinner, tea

Taste and Texturecrisp, spiced, sweet

Type of Dishcookie

Ingredients

  • 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 tablespoon brandy

Instructions

Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and salt together into a large bowl. In another large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer set at high speed, beat the shortening and brown sugar together until light in color and texture, about 2 minutes. Beat in the molasses and brandy. Using a wooden spoon, gradually stir in the flour to make a stiff dough. (If the dough seems too dry, sprinkle with additional brandy and mix with your hands until moistened.) Gather up the dough and divide into 4 thick disks. Wrap each disk in plastic. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. (These cookies are best when baked one sheet at a time in the center of the oven.)

Work with one disk of chilled dough at a time. (Unlike many other refrigerated doughs, this dough is easy to roll, even when chilled.) Unwrap the dough, place on a lightly floured work surface, and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Roll out the dough 1/16 inch thick, making sure that the dough isn’t sticking to the work surface (run a long metal spatula or knife under the dough occasionally just to make sure, and dust the surface with more flour if needed). Brush any excess flour from the top of the dough with a soft pastry brush. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter (preferable with a fluted edge), cut out the cookies. Place the cookies ½ inch apart on cookie sheets lined with nonstick baking pads. Place the scraps in a plastic bag.

Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, turning the sheet from front to back halfway during cooking, until the edges are very lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Do not overbake the cookies or they will taste bitter. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat the procedure with the remaining dough, placing any scraps in the plastic bag.

To bake more cookies, knead all of the scraps from the 4 disks together. (If the dough seems dry, sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of brandy and knead until moistened.) Working with half of the dough at a time, roll out more cookies and bake. Do not roll out the scraps a third time, as they will have picked up too much flour and will be tough. (The cookies can be baked up to 2 months ahead, stored in airtight containers at room temperature.)

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