Hermit cookies take two forms: drop and bar. They are reminiscent of a fruit-cake.
Chewy, spicy, filled with dried fruit, they are a favorite to make as fall and winter holidays approach, but I’ll never turn down a hermit any time of the year.
There is no clear answer as to how the cookie came by its reclusive name — “hermits”. Some speculate that the name is adapted from the Moravian cookie (a spice cookie from Colonial America), or that the cookie resembles a hermit’s robe. Whatever the real source to their name, they have a well-traveled history. Stories suggest that sailors coveted the cookies for their ability to “keep” as they sailed the Eastern Seaboard and beyond. (Source: bonappetit.com)
Throughout the Northeast (US), the hermit was a favorite offering in pantries and bakeshops by the early 20th centuries. Fannie Farmer included a hermit with mace, cloves, raisins, and cinnamon in her cookbooks, but the cookie became a staple in recipe collections published by community groups.
My recipe presented here is the bar style and I just love them. These are great to make ahead for your cookie trays and freeze very well.
Old-fashioned Hermit Bar CookiesCourse: DessertCuisine: Coal Region, Pa. Dutch, New EnglandDifficulty: Intermediate
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
1/4 cup unsulphured baking molasses
1 large egg
2/3 cup raisins (or currants, dried cranberries, small diced candied fruit and/or nuts – use the combination of your choice!)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl or in the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the molasses and egg and continue to beat, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if necessary. Gradually add the flour and spices mixture until just combined.
- Stir in the raisins.
- Chill the dough for 30 minutes.
- While the dough chills, preheat the oven to 375F and line a large baking sheet with parchment.
- Once dough is chilled, shape it into a ball and cut in half. Shape each half into a log 12 inches long and arrange on the prepared baking sheet, leaving at least 3 inches between the logs. Press down lightly on the tops of the logs with your fingertips to give them a slightly squared-off shape. The logs should be about 1/2 inch thick
- Bake on the center rack for 15 minutes, or until the edges are just barely crisp.
- Remove from the oven to cool. Cut to desired lengths using a sharp knife..