November 1, 2017

Cookies as Craft: The Mrs. Hanes Story

Since founding her family business in 1960, Evva Hanes has seen a thing or two. She's baked, served, and shipped well more than 100 million Moravian cookies. She survived breast cancer in 2015, and is now cancer-free at age 85. She recently celebrated 65 years of marriage to her loving husband, Travis. And, she's raised her children--and their children--to become the eighth and ninth generation of Moravian family bakers.
How did she do it all? With love.

Like her mother before her, Mrs. Hanes fell in love with baking when she was just 5 years old. Each winter, she and her mother would bake the family Moravian cookie recipe at the kitchen woodstove, selling the surplus to friends and neighbors. As that side business grew, so did her production. But she never changed the original family recipe, or the painstaking, labor-intensive method that makes her pristinely sweet, crisp Moravian cookies so special.

And that's no small thing. Moravian cookies are ridiculously thin--making them tricky to roll out, difficult to bake, and challenging to package without breaking. It takes a loving hand to shepherd these finicky marvels from the bowl to the box, and an even steadier one to make a thriving business.

Led most days by her daughter, Mona, Mrs. Hanes and the rest of the family are typically on hand to help cut, bake, pack and supervise production. Every cookie is created from scratch-made dough, then rolled, cut, and packed by hand. Bakers trained in the process stand at specially angled worktables with a bowl of dough on one side, and a stack of baking trays on the other. They scoop a ball of dough onto the lightly floured board, knead it flat, then roll it out as thin as brown paper. Spices and flavorings are literally rolled into each cookie. Then they set to work cutting each tiny cookie by hand, moving faster than most machines. The trays fill up, the ovens hum, and rack after rack of delicious Moravian cookies make their way into protective tins for sale or shipping.
It's a thing of beauty, even without the promise of a cookie at the end.

Stop by to see it in person during one of their seasonal tours (January through October), and you might just catch Mrs. Hanes seated at her table, wrapping stacks of just-cooled cookies into small paper packets to protect them inside each tin. Or sample their products at your hotel or downtown restaurant--many include Moravian cookies on the menu. And taste for yourself the cookie Oprah Winfrey has called her holiday favorite.
Although traditional Moravian cookies were typically flavored with ginger, Mrs. Hanes has added a few new options over the years. Flavors available for mail order include Moravian Sugar Crisps, Moravian Ginger Crisps, Moravian Lemon Crisps, Moravian Chocolate Crisps, Moravian Butterscotch Cookies, and Moravian Black Walnut Cookies.