Old Fashioned Hermit Cookies. A soft spicy hand-cake cookie that is the perfect holiday gift as well as a treat for your dessert table. This gingerbread cookie is dairy-free, vegan, and bursting with spicy flavors of cinnamon, ginger and molasses ! View STEP BY STEP video below!
Old Fashioned Hermit Cookies
I first got the idea to post a spicy hermit cookie recipe while on Martha's Vineyard, a beautiful island off the coast of Massachusetts, one of the six New England states where this recipe originated. What is a hermit cookie?
Table of Contents For this Post
History of Hermit Cookies
There are actually several theories surrounding the origin of this cookie. The first is that the hermit cookie is a bar cookie dating back to the early 1800s when a local Vermont baker would make a brown sugar cookie stuffed with spices and raisins and serve them to local hermits, lonely elderly who lived alone. Another story involves a cookie that sailors along New England coasts favored to bring on long voyages because the molasses allowed them to keep for many months.
Hermits may have a varied history but one thing is clear. They rarely crossed over to other states, although I've heard the recipe has popped up in some provinces in Canada.
I think this because I was born in Boston, Mass., but I have lived in Chicago, New York and St. Louis. And with each move, I was always surprised to learn that no one ever knew what I was talking about when I mentioned Hermit Cookies.
Why Are Cookies Called Hermits?
No matter the origin of the hermit cookie, everyone agrees on the language behind the name ‘hermit’. Apparently the name comes from the Dutch word "koekje" meaning little cake. And that’s exactly what it is.
How to Bake Hermit Cookies
Step 1: Gather ingredients, prep the flaxseed, make the coffee and soak the raisins.
Step 2: Mix up the wet ingredients.
Step 3. Mix up the dry ingredients.
Step 4. Add the wet to the dry, add in coffee and fold in raisins.
Step 5. Chill the dough 1 hour and bake.
To bake, I suggest two ways:
First way: Put the batter into 2 (8-inch square) pans and bake as bar cookies. Slice and eat.
Second way: Divide batter into 4 and roll each into a flattish log about 10-inches by 2 ½ inches wide. Bake two at a time on a quarter cookie sheet lined with parchment.
Slice in angles like biscotti. Glaze or not! The bar style is the traditional way to bake a hermit cookie. But you can also just roll them and bake them as traditional molasses cookies.
FAQS About Hermits
What is a Bar Cookie?
A bar cookie, according to Merriam Webster, is a sweetened baked good made into a rectangular shape and denser than a cake. Yep, that's a hermit cookie.
Does a Hermit Cookie Taste Like Gingerbread?
Sort of. A hermit cookie looks like a molasses hand cake. And they taste like a gingerbread cookie and a spice cake had a baby.
Now, of course, I haven't had these cookies in years because they aren't typically made vegan. And that, my friends, has been a big sacrifice on my part: Walking past the Martha's Vineyard bakery doors these past summers and not stopping to make a hermit run.
Then, one day, someone sent me some organic whole wheat flour. As soon as I saw the bag, all brown and old fashioned looking, a bell went off in my head. A hermit bell. And I set about re-constructing hermit cookie bars in a recipe completely plant-based.
How to Make Healthier Hermit Cookies
To make a plant-based hermit cookie, I had to make a few changes to the ingredients. I swapped the traditional shortening for non-GMO plant-based shortening, and used flax eggs instead of eggs.
There were a few other tweaks and since I had never made hermits of any kind before, I actually had to make the recipe three times to get it right. Even with this last version that I am sharing, I think a few changes could still be made - perhaps a bit more cinnamon or ginger, and more raisins although I'm not sure if adding more would impact the texture and baking time.
Let me know in comments if you try adding more raisins, such as a cup instead of ½ cup.
Main Ingredients for A Hermit Cookie Recipe
Flour - I used a mix of whole wheat and all purpose and sometimes use gluten-free all purpose.
Flaxseed eggs - I used ground flaxseed to make two plant-based eggs. One tbsp of ground flaxseed with 3 tbsp of water equals one egg.
Coconut palm sugar - Is a healthier sugar but you can also use brown sugar.
Molasses (the most important ingredient!) - This syrup is dark and smokey in flavor, and brings on the quintessential gingerbread flavors. Molasses comes in five flavors, blackstrap, light, and dark. All three can contain sulfur, but I try to buy unsulphured for a better flavor.
There are a few famous brands such as Plantation and Wholesome but the taste really matters in this cookie so I highly recommend you buy Grandma's Original Molasses. If you can't buy that brand, make sure you buy one that is unsulphured since the process of sulphering (to preserve it) changes the flavor negatively IMO.
Spices - I chose winter spices such as cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg
Advantages to a Hermit Cookie Bar Recipe
There are advantages to making gingerbread-like hermit cookies as opposed to a cut-out gingerbread cookie. The most obvious is you don't have to roll it out and cut it into shapes. I know cut out cookies are fun but non-cutout cookies are best when you are short on time but still want an amazingly spicy cookie that is really pretty in presentation.
Other advantages are the dough freezes well long-term, the baked cookies are easy to store, and easy to transport in a lunch box. And they are nutritious, full of protein and potassium, and very high in iron.
How to Use These Cookies
These cookies are easy to wrap as a gift, and stay soft at room-temperature.
They are also beautiful when served on a platter, plain or frosted. I made a simple glaze here, the same one I used on my Pumpkin Bread but they are just as good unfrosted.
Are you interested in more spicy ginger recipes? Ginger is a great detoxer, as well as an antiseptic. Try these recipes that depend on ginger:
Other Cookie Recipes to Try
Samoa Cookies, 4-Ingredient & No Bake
Are you on pinterest? Perhaps share this image..
Don't miss a thing, subscribe here to get recipes delivered to your inbox!
If you try my recipes, please leave a comment and rating below and tag me on your Instagram or Facebook post with @greensmoothiegourmet and so I can see and share your remakes!!
Old Fashioned Hermit Cookies
- ½ cup molasses (I used original or dark)
- ½ cup organic shortening
- ½ cup organic cane sugar
- ½ cup coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ⅓ cup hot strong coffee
- 2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flaxseed + 5 tbsp water) (Or use ⅓ cup apple sauce)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour)
- 2 cup whole wheat flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp cloves
- ¼ tsp allspice
- 1 tsp ginger
- 2 cups raisins
- Gather and measure ingredients. Line a quarter cookie sheet with parchment.
- Stir together two tablespoons of flax eggs with six tablespoons of water and let sit 5 minutes before using.
- Make or brew ⅓ cup of strong coffee. Pour over raisins and set aside to marinate in the coffee until ready to add to the mixture.
Mix the cookies
- Use a cake mixer or a hand-mixer to blend together the shortening, flax eggs and both sugars in a medium bowl.
- Stir in the molasses.
- In another larger bowl, mix up the two flours, soda, salt, and spices.
- Add the wet mixture to the large flour bowl, and mix the batter until thoroughly combined.
- Drain the raisins, but reserve the coffee and add it to the batter and mix again. Add water to the coffee to make sure the level of liquid reaches ⅓ cup.
- Fold in the raisins, and store the batter, covered, in the refrigerator for 1 hour before baking. I normally cut a soft X in the batter so it chills in 4 quadrants.
- When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F.
Bake the cookies
- You can press the dough into 2 (8-inch) square pans and bake like a bar cookie, but the traditional way to make a hermit cookie is thus:
- Step 1. Divide the batter into four portions.
- Step 2. Hand-form 4 logs that are roughly 10 inches long, 2 ½ inches wide, and flattish. I baked two logs at a time. To do this, form two logs at a time, side by side, on the parchment-lined quarter cookie sheet. They don't have to look perfect; as they bake, they will raise, spread slightly and crack like cookies.
- Step 3. Bake the logs for 18-20 minutes at 350 F. The cookie log is done when a few cracks appear on top so if you don't see cracks, leave them in a minute longer.
- Pull out the pan and let the cookie logs cool a minute or so. They may have bumped into each other, but once cool you can gently pull them apart.Then slice at an angle, at 2-3 inches wide intervals. I get about 8-10 cookies per log.
- We sometimes iced ours with my Vegan Royal Icing, but we also kept some with no topping. Other traditions are to sprinkle sugar or cinnamon before baking.
- They store well at room temperature for 2 days. Then refrigerate or freeze in a container as you would other cookies.