Mrs. Hanes' Moravian Cookies
Image courtesy of Mrs. Hanes' Hand-Made Moravian Cookies
Yummy! Who doesn’t love Moravian crisp cookies? All the kick of gingerbread packed into a thin wafer cookie. To many of us, they’re the taste of the holidays, and certainly a special treat we give to out of town guests.
What I didn’t realize until recently was something that the 6,000-7,000 school children learn each year when they visit the Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies factory: They’re all hand-cut.
Mrs. Hanes’ is south of Clemmons, just over the Davidson County border. Originally a home business, the factory has grown through seven expansions and now takes up 36,000 square-feet just down from the family homestead.
Eight generations of Hanes’ have made the family cookie recipe that they bake up and share with customers from all 50 states and 30 countries. And while Evva Hanes, a.k.a. Mrs. Hanes, won’t share the recipe with you, she’s more than happy to share her factory with groups, walking you through the cookie-making process.
“It’s the thinness and crispness,” says Evva, when asked what makes a Moravian cookie Moravian. “It’s a European cookie in origin, and I think there was probably some competition going on among the women. ‘I can make a thinner cookie than that!’ ” Whether or not there was a friendly competition among the Moravian women all those centuries ago, we’ll never know. But as anyone who’s ever tasted the melt in your mouth crisps can tell you, we’re glad they did!
With children’s groups, the tour starts at Grandma’s Kitchen. Here, children see a wood stove and learn about the difficulties of regulating temperature with wood. They learn why the tables are wrapped in canvas before cookies are cut on them, and get a sense of what it was like to make the cookies so many years ago. Of course, there are six stations on the tour, and six flavors of Mrs. Hanes cookies, so along the way the children taste each flavor.
From there, they move to the warehouse, where they can see cookie tins being packed for shipping as well as see how ingredients come into the factory. That’s no easy task since the molasses they use for the ginger cookie comes in huge barrels, and they go through about 1,000 pounds of sugar each week during the peak holiday season.
Children get the opportunity to see women hand packing the cookies into the tins, wrapping each stack of cookies individually. They’ll watch as the women take one cookie off this stack, two off that, adding and subtracting cookies as they go, making sure the tin ends up weighing 1 pound. Scales sit at the ready, but the impressive part is how they can pick up a stack of cookies and just know that a cookie or two needs to be added to removed.
The tours also stop in the mixing room. Mixing the dough is the only part of the process that isn’t done by hand, and it’s hard to blame Mike Hanes for using the amazingly huge mixer, given that it mixes 700 pounds of dough at a time. Coming in once every two weeks to mix dough, he’ll mix 6,000-8,000 pounds of dough in eight hours, with the help of two other people.
Kids get to see the office area, and of course, the best part: the baking room. Here, a crew of 35 women rolls and cuts each cookie by hand, providing the world with 60,000 Mrs. Hanes cookies in one of six flavors, every baking day. Kids can find out why each woman has a special cookie cutter that she uses for one cookie on each tray that goes into the oven (quality control).
These tours are a great way for kids to learn about how the food they eat is created, start to finish, from ingredients coming through the back door to tins of finished cookies walking out the front in the hands of customers. Tours last about an hour and are offered by appointment, January through October, Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The cost is $2 per person, making it a great birthday-party activity (especially if followed up with cake and ice cream at one of the shelters or play areas at nearby Tanglewood Park) or trip on a school vacation day. To schedule a tour, please contact Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies 336-764-1402.
Can’t make a tour, but still want to see — and taste — some of the action? No problem. Just stop by the factory during normal baking hours and watch the cookies being rolled and cut in the special viewing area. Yes, samples are available there, as well as tins for purchase. The hard part is deciding which is best: ginger, lemon, black walnut, butterscotch, sugar or chocolate?
· Mrs. Hanes’ makes about 100,000 pounds of cookies each year.
· One pound of cookie dough produces 100 cookie crisps.
· 14 pounds of cookies are baked at a time.
· In a year, the folks at Mrs. Hanes will roll, cut and bake 10 million cookies.
IF YOU GO
Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies
4643 Friedberg Church Road?
Clemmons, NC 27012-6882
Tours last about an hour and are offered by appointment, January through October, Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Business hours are Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Tours are $2 per person.
Kim Justen, a freelance writer, lives in Advance and is the mother of two.