I’m pretty excited about this recipe for Moravian molasses cookies.
After a trip to the Czech Republic last spring, we saw and tasted such lovely molasses cookies, I knew I’d need to make some for Christmas.
Located in the eastern part of the Czech Republic, Moravia was officially abolished in 1949, but is still considered a part of it.
That wasn’t my first encounter with these wafer thin and crisp cookies. 15 or so years ago, a friend sent us a Christmas tin filled with these dark and spicy molasses cookies. I believe they came from somewhere in North Carolina.
I was intrigued then, but it was only this holiday season after searching through Martha Stewart’s Christmas book, that I came upon the recipe. They are wafter thin and crisp, but they are not a delicate cookie, with lots of dark molasses, cloves, cinnamon and ginger, they’ve got a nice spicy flavor!
You can purchase them through mail-order catalogs starting at $13 for 10 ounces, (not including shipping and handling). But why, when you can make them yourself and add a new Christmas cookie to your holiday baking?
I made only one change to Martha’s recipe, which I don’t think effected the taste at all. Instead of using a combination of margarine and vegetable shortening, I used all butter. Making the dough is a different process than most sugar cookie recipes. The butter and sugars are melted, then the dry ingredients are mixed into the same pot, so no mixer is necessary! This is a plus if you’re making a lot of cookies, you can free up your mixer for another cookie dough.
Because of the butter, I chose to refrigerate the dough over-night. (Martha’s recipe calls for leaving it out all night). You do need to plan ahead and make the dough the night before you’re planning on baking. I also let it soften for 10-15 minutes before rolling.
The dough is remarkably sturdy. The recipe calls to roll it out as thin as possible, so thin, that you can “see your hand through it”. As thin as I rolled it, it didn’t tear or fall apart. It almost has the texture of pasta dough.
Because of this, you will get a lot of cookies out of this recipe. I cut Martha’s recipe in half and still made about 5 dozen. Of course it depends on how large your cutter is too. I used a 2 1/2″ cutter. I guess you could decorate them, but I like the simplicity of this Old World cookie. I’m giving you Martha’s full recipe (with my tweak), which will make lots cookies!
Moravian Molasses Cookies are a new holiday cookie that I’ll be making for years to come. I hope it makes it into your holiday baking!
Moravian Molasses Cookies
- 1 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 12 tablespoons 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
- 2 cups dark molasses
- 1 Tablespoon baking soda
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 6 2/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon ground cloves
- 2 Tablespoons ground ginger
- 1 Tablespoons cinnamon
- In a heavy saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter and molasses. Heat until brown sugar is dissolved.
- Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water and stir into the molasses mixture. The mixture will bubble up. Remove from heat.
- Sift the flour and spices together and gradually add to the saucepan, stirring with a wooden spoon until well incorporated. Form the dough into a rectangle, wrap and let set overnight in refrigerator.
- The next day, remove from fridge and allow to soften, until easy to roll, about 15 minutes.
- Pre-heat oven to 275 degrees F. and line baking sheets with parchment or silpat baking sheets.
- On a floured board, roll small pieces of dough as thin as possible. (dough should be thin enough to see one's hand through it.) Cut with cookie cutter and set 1" apart on baking sheets.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool on baking sheets for 2-3 minutes before transferring to wire racks to finish cooling.
- This recipe makes a LOT of cookies. You'll get at least 7 dozen medium thickness (1/8th") cookies, and at least another dozen or so if you roll them out thinner.
- Recipe divided in half will still make at least 4 dozen.
- After the initial rest, the dough can be refrigerated for up to a week.
- Divide the dough into manageable portions and flatten.
- Using a pasta roller will make the dough even thinner for an extra crisp cookie.
- The thinner the cookie, the crispier the snap.
Christina | Christina's Cucina says
The timing on this is unbelievable! My mother brought a tin of spicy Swedish cookies which sound and look exactly like these and we were eating them just this morning! They are really thin and spicy and everyone loved them! Great that you found the recipe and I agree with using the butter instead of margarine.
Yeah, not sure what Martha was thinking…I’m sure Moravaians used all butter!
Lindsay @ The Live-In Kitchen says
What a simple, yummy cookie! The large yield is perfect around the holidays, can’t wait to try this!
I haven’t been this excited about a cookie in a long time! We’re not huge sweets people around here, but these just got devoured!
Hi Cynthia – these cookies are gorgeous. Simple and perfect. Lucky you got to taste the real thing over there. There is a large Moravian influence in Winston-Salem, NC. A dear friend of mine lived there for many years and gave me the recipe for Moravian yeast rolls which is up on my blog. It’s the only yeast rolls I ever make. Can’t wait to try these delicious cookies!
My girlfriend sent me some from North Carolina many years ago and I always remembered them. I was super excited to find out that Moravia is actually part of the Czech Republic. It made them more special since we were there last spring. I’d love to taste your rolls!
Patty Haxton Anderson says
They sound so delicious! What a nice addition to our list of home baked goodies.
Jocelyn @BruCrew Life says
What a fun holiday cookie! I love how thin they are, and I agree all butter is good!!!
What a lovely cookie recipe! I haven’t heard of them but they certainly sound delicious!
Linda Shapiro says
I bet my granddaughters would really enjoy making these! So fun and festive! Happy Holidays Cynthia and thank you so much for all your support! xo
Martyn - AmateurChef says
These cookies look yummy!!
I love a good cookie and these ones look as though they would just taste incredible. I love Prague
thank you! I love Prague too!
When my boys were very little, some 50 year ago, Family Circle or Woman’s Way Magazine included a recipe for Moravian ginger cookies in their Christmas cookie section. Even Joey, who was 18 months old back then could roll out and cut perfect cookies. And the recipe made a gazillion cookies. I could not find my recipe this year. Thank you, thank you for your post!!! I am so excited to find your recipe!!!! I am about to make Moravian Ginger cookie dough for the great grandchildren to master this Christmas. I found another recipe that makes 750 cookies. Thank you for cutting down the measurements. I believe using margarine and Crisco instead of butter will allow the cookie dough to be left out or stored in the cupboard (the other recipe I found says for 3 months).Talk about edible play dough, yum I LOVE butter and wondered if it could be used when I found the other recipe–I think from a North Carolina resident. But then I believe the dough would need to be kept refrigerated or maybe a portion even frozen Merry Christmas!!!
So glad you found this Jane! I remember when my girlfriend sent me those cookies I had never heard of them or tasted them before. When we went to Prague and saw them EVERYWHERE, I knew I had to make them. I’m an all butter gal, so I cannot speak to margarine or crisco. But I think the dough holds up pretty well in the fridge. You’re right though, they are so thin, the recipe makes a TON of cookies!
An ex-boyfriend’s mother used to make this thin, crispy cookie thing for the holidays every year. They were from NC. I couldn’t remember what they were called, but I loved them. Finally decided this year, I’d sit down and try to find out what they were, and I’m glad I did as I just got done making the dough and placing it, wrapped, in the fridge for overnight. I messed up a little when adding the flour and spices by accidentally dumping all the flour in at one go. When I found this out, I stirred it in then proceeded to add each spice and stirring it in every time until it was all mixed together. No wonder it calls for a sturdy saucepan and a wooden spoon. I had to switch the mixture over to a big stock pot and sit down on the couch to mix it with the spoon using both hands, lol. It was that tough! I could almost eat the dough as is and forget about making the cookies. My family has never had these before, and the only thing my mom dislikes is the clove. These will be our Thanksgiving cookie, and I can’t wait for the rest of my loved ones to try them. This yields a lot of dough, so I can only imagine the number of cookies I’m going to get out of this.
My suggestion is to watch the molasses mixture. It didn’t burn, but it looks like it could if you’re not careful. Try to boil a kettle of water on the stove while you make this mixture and time it to where both the brown sugar dissolves just as the kettle begins to whistle. Also, make sure to have the baking soda premeasured beforehand so when you get the 1/4 cup water measured, you can just dump in the soda, whisk it a bit, and then pour it into the molasses mix. This stuff will definitely bubble up, so use a bigger pot than a saucepan. You will thank me for this.
Another thing, make sure to measure your wrapping beforehand so you can just slop the dough onto it, shape it into a triangle (I make this weird mound thing instead), wrap it good, and place it in a bowl (I’m afraid it could somehow get everywhere, but maybe that’s me) for overnight refrigeration. As for a cookie cutter, use whatever. I couldn’t find the big round one pictured, so I’m going to improvise with a glass.
Thank you for all the helpful tips! You’re right it’s a really stiff dough, similar to gingerbread! I does make a TON of dough and since they are paper thin, it makes a zillion cookies! I find that one batch a season is all I need to make dozens of cookies!
This is really interesting. I am from Czech republic, living here, in Moravia. I have not seen these thin “Moravian” cookies here. The ones in the picture from Prague described as molasses cookies actually don’t have any molasses in it:) They are “ginger bread cookies” even though I am not sure if in the spice mix is any ginger. But that is what they are called in english all over the world. And yes, they are related to german “lebkuchen” as wikipedia writes about the Moravian cookies. So I am just wondering how has the original recipe from Moravia changed to become completely different cookie, that is called Moravian, even though nobody in Moravia bakes these:)) here is an example of the ginger bread recipe : https://theczechguidetocooking.wordpress.com/2015/12/06/honey-gingerbread-cookies-pernicky/
And the speciality are the designs, such as here: http://www.tresbohemes.com/2016/12/gingerbread-designs-czech-republic/
How interesting! The first time I tasted them, I had received them as a gift from a company in North Carolina that specializes in making them. I was so intrigued. I’d never had such a thin and crispy cookie before. As you can tell, there are “Moravian Spice Cookies” all over the internet! I wonder if this is an American version of a traditional Moravian recipe that was brought to the US? They are very popular on the East Coast. I was so surprised when I tasted such a similar cookie again when I was in Prague a few years ago.
Jaime Allen says
Prechilling, is the dough supposed to be stiff, loose, in-between? Mine isnt touchable dough stiff.
Mary Beth says
I was so excited to find a recipe for these, since I grew up eating Moravian cookies at Christmas in NC. But, the recipe as-is yielded a tough, unyielding dough that I couldn’t roll out at all.
Afterwards, I looked at a few other recipes that used much different ratios and didn’t require heating any ingredients. I’ll be trying one of those next after I throw this rock in my trash.
Hi Mary Beth, I’m sorry you were disappointed. It’s a Martha Stewart recipe, so I’m surprised you were disappointed. You are correct though, it’s not an “easy” dough to work with, it requires a very thin roll for a
super crisp cookie.
Hi! I’m from Winston Salem and have grown up eating these Moravian Spice cookies. I have a lot of Moravian ancestors and was recently given some of my great grandmother’s recipes and cookie cutters. I was so excited to try them for Christmas! I’m in the middle of making cookies using her recipe now and the cookies taste good, but aren’t crunchy at all. Her recipe uses dark molasses and I had to scour the internet to try to convert some of the measurements of things she used 60 years ago, so I’m wondering if maybe I messed up there somewhere. Specifically, I substituted butter for the lard called for in the recipe and had to figure out the proper amount since butter has more water. Any ideas? I’ve kept them in the oven for 15 mins already, but maybe I should leave them longer? As you are aware, this recipe makes like a billion cookies, so I hate to make so many that aren’t right! 😉 Thanks so much for your time, have a blessed day and Merry Christmas!
I am not sure about the lard/butter substitution since I never bake with lard. This is a Martha Stewart recipe and she uses margarine. I always use butter. As far as crispness, they need to rolled out as thin as possible. I should probably 1/2 the recipe since it makes so much!
These cookies are addictive; love them! How are they supposed to be stored? I put them in a Rubbermaid container and they are not crisp.
Hi Betty, the key to getting them crisp is rolling them out as thin as possible. I store them in a tin.
Cynthia, I made a half batch of your recipe and they were very thin—I got 7 dozen 2 and 1/2 inch size cookies! They were crisp right out of the oven. I will store them in tins next time I make them. Thank you for posting this recipe. My grandfather was born in Moravia in 1879, so I was so excited to see a recipe from his homeland.
Thank you Betty! I got to visit the Czech Republic when my daughter studied abroad there a few years ago. I should probably re-do the recipe and cut it in half since it makes so much. I usually divide the dough in quarters then we can make them all month long.
Thank you for this recipe. I grew up in NC too and visiting Old Salem (an old Moravian town) and buying these cookies was always a favorite pastime.
I’d love to visit! I still remember getting a tin of these decades ago for Christmas. I was thrilled when I found Martha’s recipe.
thank you for including me! tweeted, pinned and yummed.
I found some Moravian Ginger Spice cookies in a Hallmark store more than 10 years ago. The company was Dewey’s Bakery in Winston-Salem NC. The store eventually stopped carrying them and then closed. I bought the cookies for my mom who grew up in former Czechoslovakia. I thought they might remind her of her Homeland and they did. I recently placed an order with that company but when I checked a few days ago, I had trouble finding them on the website. I liked these cookies because of their low sugar content. One cookie has less than 1 gram of sugar, yet it’s packed with flavor. Since 1 gram of sugar is equivalent to 4 teaspoons of sugar, I wonder how many grams of sugar are in each cookie in this recipe. Can you let me know Cynthia? Thank you.
that’s a hard question, since they are so thin! I think I will make them again and halve the recipe because this version makes about 75 cookies. I’ll count and re-evaluate the nutritional information! Thank you!