Catholic Recipe: December 08, Immaculate Conception: Moravian Spice Cookies
Also Called: Gingerbread; Moravian Spritz; Kolachi; Moravian Love Cakes
Cloves and cinnamon and nutmeg, which are poetic picture words in the Bible, mean something when your nose is enjoying their "pleasant odour." We like to make Moravian cookies on December 7, the vigil of the Virgin's feast day, because of the passage in the Book of Sirach (formerly Ecclesiasticus), 24:20-21 that describes Mary:
I gave a sweet smell like cinnamon and aromatical balm; I yielded a sweet odor like the best myrrh; and I perfumed my dwelling as store, and galbanum, and onyx, and aloes, and as the frankincense not cut, and my odor is as the purest balm.
These cookies, like Mary, emit such wonderful smells of spices! These cookies are good to train a child's patience because they stay fresh 10 days in the refrigerator before they are rolled [Editor's Note: The 10 days refers to the time the author waits to bake the cookies, as she kept a penitential Advent, and would wait until closer to Christmas to bake the cookies, and eat the cookies during the Christmas season.], cut into Christmas shapes and baked. The children make their own cookie cutters by shaping a low tin can into a star or tree or lamb. If your can opener turns under the edge, these cutters are not dangerous to use. Now mix up your dough. It will make 100 cookies.
For centuries, the home bakers of Austria and Germany have taken a spice dough of this sort, rolled it to medium thickness, and cut it into heart shapes — sometimes seven or eight inches wide. Then they ice the hearts with great care and delicacy. Religious and liturgical symbols, pictures and quotations appear among the scrolls on the gingerbread. Each family competes to make theirs more decorative each year. When the hearts stand shining in their sugar and gilt, they are taken as gifts from the heart of one family to another. They are expressions of love and charity. They bring the religious meaning of the Incarnation, with all its stupendous import, into a concrete, visible form which neighbors can understand. The gingerbread with all its careful decoration is a work of love in honor of Him who loved man most. It took a modern skeptic to cast aspersion on "too much gingerbread."
Mix butter, molasses and sugar. Add sifted dry ingredients. Chill until hard (preferably overnight). Roll very thin. Bake in a moderate oven (375°) for six minutes. Cookies may be iced.Recipe Source: Cooking for Christ by Florence Berger, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, 4625 Beaver Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50310, 1949, 1999