“Hermits” An Oldie And A Goodie

History: “Hermit” cookies date back to the 1800s. They are reportedly popular in New England and often baked as a bar. There is no clear reason for the name, but in Cynthia R. Greenlee’s article about hermits in the Bon Appetit issue of December 12, 2016 she quotes a food writer saying that the cookies would keep for months if “kept out of humanity’s reach”. This could be where the name “hermit” derived. Other suggestions were that they resemble the color of a hermit’s sack cloth robe, or that it was a mispronunciation of the name of a Moravian cookie. Nobody knows for sure.

Time and Effort: Typical cookie- no special ingredients or procedures.

Worth adding to your repertoire: Absolutely! It’s a good cooky!

In perusing old recipes I’ve noticed a few ingredients that have definitely declined in popularity- prunes, dates, nuts and raisins. I am a fan of all of those things, so I like to see the various way they were featured. The hermit cooky is a soft, cakey, spice-flavoured cookie that features dried fruits and nuts. They keep really well, and pair perfectly with cold milk or a hot cup of coffee. They aren’t overly sweet, and they make a great afternoon snack.
I found this “hermit” cooky recipe in a cookbook published by Pillsbury Flour Mills in Minneapolis in 1933 entitled “Balanced Recipes”. The book has a metal cover with an art deco design. It seems like Pillsbury was going for a very modern and efficient cookbook.

3 cups Pillsbury’s flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1/2 Cup shortening
1 1/2 Cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour milk or buttermilk
1/2 Cup chopped nuts
1/2 Cup raisins or other dried fruit

Sift flour, baking powder, soda, spices and salt together. Cream shortening; add sugar and beat thoroughly. Add 1 egg, beat well; add other egg and beat 2 minutes. Add flour mixture alternately with milk. Add nuts, raising or other chopped dried fruit. Drop by spoonfuls on greased baking sheet and bake in moderate oven.