Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Countdown 18 : Moravian Spritz Cookies
Today, 8 December, Christmas Countdown 18 is the feast of the Immaculate Conception - a Catholic Church celebration of the birth of the Virgin Mary, free from original sin. I must admit that I had not heard of Christmas cookies called Moravian Spritz, or Moravian Spice Cookies  until today.  They are prepared traditionally as part of the ritual of observing the Feast of the Immaculate Conception - a national holiday in many Latin countries and significant in  the United States. 
The spice laden cookies are said to celebrate the purity of the  Virgin Mary, since Mary, too, "gave forth sweet smell like cinnamon and aromatic balm and yielded a sweet odour like the best myrrh."  In the spirit of Advent,  abstinence is practised, for traditionally  the cookies must stand for ten days in the refrigerator before baking, and are then shaped into Christmas figures, especially hearts and liturgical symbols. 

How did Moravian cookie recipes become popular in the USA? 

Preparing Moravian cookies , Leaksville Church, Richmond, USA
Moravian  Church missionaries came to USA in 1735, from Herrnhut ( modern Saxony, Germany). They came to minister to the scattered German immigrants, to the native Americans and to enslaved Africans.  Winston-Salem has one of the highest concentrations of Moravians in the United States, and the city is home to companies that continue the Moravian baking tradition. Aside from the buns and sugar cakes, Moravians are still best known for their signature spice cookie. A descendent of the German Lebkuchen cookie (many Moravians fled Moravia, in the present-day Czech Republic, and settled in Germany before heading to the United States), the Moravian cookie combines a powerful and exotic spice blend with some unique baking techniques to produce a thin, crisp cookie that cannot be resisted.. from

1 c. molasses
1 stick butter
1 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp. soda
3 1/2 - 4 c. flour
2 tbsp. grape juice (or wine)
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
Mix butter, sugar and molasses. Then add dry ingredients and grape juice; stir to mix well (very stiff dough). Cover and keep in cool place at least 3 days to ripen. Roll very thin (use a cloth-covered, floured board and plenty of flour). Cut with cookie cutter and gently place on cookie sheets and bake at 275 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Store in air tight container indefinitely.

Because we all love gingerbread, I think this recipe will be a hit.... I am ready to try it today - hope I am not tempted to bake too soon... at least this recipe suggests three days resting rather than the traditional ten! 

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