Spicy and sweet cookies packed with dried fruit and sometimes nuts, hermit cookies are a classic New England treat.
Before there were energy bars, there were cookies like these filled with fat, sugar, spices, and dried fruit.
Some culinary folk tales say that hermit cookies were a favorite treat found in tins on early New England clipper ships. The exploring sailors could count on them to keep for weeks without spoiling and provide a sweet hit amid the icy spray of ocean swells.
There is a large variety of hermit cookie recipes out there. Some include shortening and molasses, others are spread into a pan and cut like brownies.
I was looking for a simple cookie for a holiday party. Spice and dried fruit somehow feels more “Christmasy” to me than frosted, sugar-gilded Christmas cookies, partly because I haven’t mastered the skill (or patience) one needs to roll-out the dough evenly and patiently apply the frosting. But I know people who are good at this and I admire their skill greatly!
I also wanted to use up some dried figs that I had leftover from making roasted Brussels sprouts with a fig-maple sauce for Thanksgiving.
This recipe for spicy, chewy hermit cookies was a first place prize winner in the Yankee Magazine August, 1952 issue. I swapped out the currants for dried figs. In a future batch, I might tried adding 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts.
Adapted from Yankee Magazine
Yields: About 2 dozen cookies
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
2 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup raisins
1 cup currants or dried figs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. line a baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time mixing until completely combined as you continuously scrape the batter from the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the milk.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. In another bowl, place the chopped raisins and currants or dried figs with the final cup of flour. Toss to coat.
4. Combine the flour mixture with the fruit mixture. Then slowly add into the butter mixture and stir with a spoon until combined.
5. Drop by rounded spoonful onto the prepared cookie sheet, allowing 2 inches between each cookie for spreading.
6. Bake 13 minutes (do not overbake) or until puffed and lightly golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.