Moravian Cookies Make a Name for N.C. Bakery
The holiday season might not be the same without a fresh tin of spiced Moravian cookies to follow a big family feast.
A North Carolina company—Winkler Bakery—has become synonymous with the common German treat.
The bakery was originally built for the town’s baker, Thomas Butner, in 1800. The Winkler family purchased the bakery in 1808, and they operated it until 1926. In 1950, the town of Old Salem was founded as Old Salem Museum and Gardens, and the bakery was restored to its original state.
“The bakery is suspected to be the oldest bakery in the state,” says Lee French, president and CEO of Old Salem Museum and Gardens. “It has become an icon in Winston-Salem for all baked goods.”
In addition to the well-known Moravian cookies, traditional sugar cake is also a popular Winkler Bakery treat. “The sugar cake is a mashed potato yeast bread with brown sugar and cinnamon on top, similar to monkey bread,” says Amanda Bumgardner of Winkler Bakery.
All the treats are handmade and baked in the original wood-burning stove. Visitors can watch as bakers dressed in period clothing knead dough, cut out cookies and remove loaves of bread.
“They even use the original recipes,” French adds. To maintain historic accuracy, the bakery operates with traditional equipment that would have been common in Old Salem during the 18th and early 19th centuries.
Baking was traditionally considered to be a man’s job in the Moravian culture, and Winkler Bakery’s baking staff consists of three men and one woman who do all the work by hand. Much of their work happens before the doors open to visitors at 9 a.m.
“The bakers usually arrive between five and six in the morning to fire up the wood-burning ovens,” Bumgardner says. “By around 7:30 a.m., the fire has normally burned out and the bricks are fully heated. It usually gets to around 700 degrees. They have to wait for the oven to cool to around 400 degrees.”
The ovens are large and can cook up to 100, one-pound loaves of bread at a time.
When the shop doors open, the bakers are hard at work preparing the baked goods, and the delicious aroma has already started to fill the air.
“We try to get as close as we can to preparing everything with the original methods,” Bumgardner says. “Everything we have is prepared from scratch daily.”
“It’s hard work, but our bakers have been doing it for years,” she adds. “I think it’s really interesting to have things that are still done by hand in this time.”