In search of

In Search of …

De de de de    de de de de (in the highest pitch you can muster).  Okay, maybe a few of you don’t remember the TV show. But, I’d been thinking they would have better luck at finding existence of extraterrestrial beings than I would of finding the Hermit cookie of my childhood.

Believe me – I tried. I’d made recipes I could find – (my always very first “go to” web recipe place), four recipes from the now-defunct’s SOAR’s (Searchable Online Archive of Recipes), Joy of Cooking’s and even Martha Stewart’s – but none were the cookie I remembered.  My memories were of a cookie deep brown from molasses, moist and chewy in bars, spicy.  They were a treat from a bakery called Laura’s. No drop cookies, no light colored cookies, certainly not dry or crispy cookies, but also not doughy or undercooked. These were made in New England – walnuts our nuts of choice.

But tonight, I’ve seen the light and am doing a little happy dance.  I’ve found what’s eluded me all these years – my perfect New England Hermit cookie. I adapted this from one by Cook’s Illustrated using a few hints from the America’s Test Kitchen folks.

 New England Hermit Bars

(adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

8 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly grate if you can)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (less if using salted butter)
1 cup raisins
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. America’s test kitchen hint “Most hermit recipes involve creaming the butter, but this produced dry, biscuit-y cookies. Melting the butter instead delivered a chewier, moister cookie. We took this one step further by cooking the butter in a saucepan until light brown and fragrant, which added a nutty flavor to the hermits”. Add the spices to the butter for the light cooking to bloom their flavor. “This avoids a dusty texture from too much ground spice.” If you have any questions, better to undercook than overcook the butter. Remove from heat and add sugar, stir. Let cool.

Beat eggs and molasses into your butter and spice mix. In a separate bowl, stir together all dry ingredients. Stir dry ingredients into molasses mixture. Stir in raisins and nuts.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper (or a silpat). Divide dough into 2 sections and form two logs of about 14×2 inches. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Slice each log at an angle about 2 inches thick.

These are what America’s Test Kitchen says they should be “old-fashioned cookies that bake up soft and chewy, with a perfect balance of sugar and spice”. My recipe has more spice than the Test Kitchen recipe called for (I still think they’re mild).  They also suggested steeping the raisins in melted butter to soften them, and pureeing them with some crystallized ginger into a rough paste. This” distributes raisin-y flavor into every bite, while the pureed ginger lends pungent sweetness and chew”. I had fresh soft raisins and I LIKE raisins in a cookie.  Much as I love crystallized ginger, my childhood cookie memories were of a hermit sans crystallized ginger, so I skipped these steps. I also did not include the Test Kitchen addition of a simple glaze of orange juice and confectioner’s sugar drizzled over the just-baked cookies. The cookies are perfect without the extra sugar of a glaze. If you prefer your cookies more sugary, go ahead and add it.

These are so good, I’ll probably double the recipe in future.  Other than that, no changes for me. Because of the amount of raisins and nuts, they break easily and would not ship well. If you must ship cookies – I’d puree the raisins with crystallized ginger as instructed and (gasp, no!) omit the nuts.

This recipe is participating the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies Blog Hop.”Hearth

16 comments on “In search of

  1. I’ve never tried this delicious cookie. How great that you were able to re-create a special treat that you had growing up.

  2. Maggie says:

    Thanks Barbara! If I have a favorite cookie in the whole wide world – this one is it.

  3. Sue says:

    These look so good and chewy! I love all the spices:) YUM! Kudos to you for sticking with it until you got it right!

  4. April says:

    I have to say the same, I have never had this cookie…but it looks delicious!!

  5. Jessica says:

    That looks like a great treat! It is really awesome that you were able to recreate them! Thanks for sharing them. I will be baking the cookies in a jar soon to share too.

  6. Lisa says:

    Oh this sounds great. I’ve even got all those ingredients so I could make this right now. Great pick.

  7. Maggie says:

    Well, many list it as a “healthy” cookie since it only has the 1/2 cup sugar. It’s dangerous for me to have them about – I skipped a week of 12 weeks of Christmas Cookies just because I munched down on way too may of these myself. Had to take a break from fresh cookies in the house!

  8. […] I was participating in 12 weeks of Christmas Cookies, but after making my absolute favorite cookie, the hermit, I needed to take a few weeks off baking so I don’t blow up like a startled pufferfish […]

  9. Krystal says:

    That sounds so good. One of my favorite things about the holiday season in having cookies.

    Thanks so much for linking up to Saturdays Party! Hope you come play again!

    -Krystal @

  10. LeAnn says:

    I remember something like this from my own childhood. I hadn’t thought about it for years. Thanks for the happy memory.

  11. Happy New Year and thank you for participating in the YBR! Your hermit bars sound so delicious. I love using lots of spices in my baking too so your recipe sounds perfect to me:)

  12. marierhoades says:

    What a great recipe – I’ll be giving these a try.

    I’m a new follower dropping by from Made from Scratch Tuesday @ Mess Hall to Bistro.

    Come by & say hi! sometime at

  13. jen says:

    Those cookies sound like they’d be perfect for a cold day! Thanks for linking up to Made From Scratch Tuesday! Hope to see you next week! From Scratch Tuesday

  14. […] Pie Stella, The Witchy Kitchen, Restaurant Style Fried Rice Maggie, Ceo a’s Draiocht New England Hermit Bars Lynn , Seasoned & Stirred!, Pumpkin Ravioli w/Roasted Chicken in Matcha Cream Sauce Magic of […]

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