Hermit Gingerbread Cookie Recipe. A soft spicy hand-cake cookie that is the perfect holiday gift as well as a treat for your dessert table. This soft chewy gingerbread cookie is dairy-free, vegan, and bursting with spicy flavors of cinnamon, ginger and molasses !
Hermit Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
I first got the idea for a hermit gingerbread cookie recipe while on Martha’s Vineyard. This vineyard is a beautiful island off the coast of Massachusetts, and it is a magical place, even to a New Englander like myself. I say this because New England is awash with islands, but MV is something special.
Through the chilly winters here in DC, we remember warm summer vacations there fondly – bike rides to the wild Katama beach, the quaint Fourth of July parade, dawn walks on the Vineyard Haven dock and farmer’s markets in Chilmark. And one of my favorite memories, the hermit gingerbread cookies from a bakery in Edgartown.
First let’s talk about what a hermit cookie is.
Why are they called Hermit Cookies?
A plain hermit cookie is a bar cookie dating back to the early 1900s when someone made a brown sugar cookie in Vermont and stuffed it with spices and raisings
How did the Hermit Cookie Get Its Name?
The name comes from the Dutch word “koekje” meaning little cake. And so it is.
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 plain hermit. And a hermit gingerbread cookie.
What is a Hermit Gingerbread Cookie Recipe?
A hermit gingerbread cookie recipe produces a cookie that is like a molasses gingerbread handcake. And they aren’t exclusive to this bakery. Hermits are an ancient cookie recipe, some say dating back to the 1800s. But it seems to have stayed within the borders of the states of New England (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine).
Personally I was born in Boston, but I have lived in Chicago, New York and St. Louis. And this is relevant because no one ever understands me when I talk about hermit cookies outside of New England.
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 Bob’s Red Mill sent me his organic stone ground 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.
Making A Vegan Hermit Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
To make this recipe plant-based, I had to make a few changes to the ingredients. I swapped the traditional shortening for non-GMO plant-based shortening, 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 another flax egg, perhaps a bit less clove and more cinnamon or ginger.
Main Ingredients for Gingerbread Cookies
Flour – I used whole wheat but I am sure regular all purpose or even a gluten-free blend would be fine.
Flaxseed eggs – I used ground flaxseed to make two plant-based eggs. One tbsp of ground flaxseed with 3 tbsp of water.
Coconut palm sugar – Is a healthier sugar but you can also use brown sugar.
Molasses – 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.
Spices – I chose winter spices such as cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg
How to Bake Hermit Gingerbread Cookies
I also tried baking them two ways:
The first time I made the this hermit gingerbread cookie recipe as long bars, sliced, angled like biscotti.
To do this, I created two dough rolls about 10 inches long by 2 1/2 inches wide, flattening them, laying them side by side on a parchment-covered cookie sheet, and baking them at 350 degrees F for about 16-18 minutes. This is the traditional way and my recipe came out best this way, cooked through.
The second time I made this gingerbread cookie recipe, I made them as a traditional bar cookie, pressing them into a square pan lined with parchment paper. The dough didn’t cook through in the middle. It might have been because it needed a longer cook.
Still, I prefer the traditional log formation best. Once the logs are cooked, one slices them at a diagonal to make a sort of fat biscotti hand cake. Hmm..a new name for hermits? Haha..
Advantages to a Hermit Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
There are advantages to making hermit gingerbread cookie recipe 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.
Another advantage is 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 vegan cream cheese frosting here, but they are just as good unfrosted.
Another excellent easy dessert recipe is my homemade Marzipan recipe. Also known as Almond Paste.
Are you interested in more Ginger recipes? Ginger is a great detoxer, as well as an antiseptic. Try these recipes that depend on ginger:
Chocolate Spice Cake
Spice khao soi thai soup
Other Cookie Recipes of Mine to Try
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Hermit Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
- 1/2 cup molasses (I used original or dark)
- 1/2 cup organic shortening
- 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
- 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 cup hot strong coffee
- 2 flax eggs (2 tbsp + 6 tbsp water)
- 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (or all-purpose flour)
- 2 cup stone ground whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 cup raisins
- 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 coffee very strong, you'll need 1/2 cup. Add in the raisins 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 and both sugars in a medium bowl. Stir in the molasses.
- In another larger bowl, add the two flours, soda, salt, and spices by stirring them through a fine sieve. Or, of course, you can use a sifter. And sometimes I just stir the powders together vigorously.
Add the wet shortening mixture to the large flour bowl, and mix the batter until thoroughly combined
- Drain the raisins, reserving the coffee in a measuring cup. Top off the cup of coffee until it reaches 1/2 cup. Add that 1/2 cup of coffee to the batter and mix again until thoroughly combined.Fold in the raisins, and store the batter, covered, in the refrigerator for 1 hour before baking.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:Divide the batter into four portions.Hand form 4 logs that are roughly 10 inches long, 2 1/2 inches wide, and flattish. I baked two logs at a time.
- To do this, set two logs at a time, side by side, on the parchment-lined quarter cookie sheet and bake the logs for 16-18 minutes at 350 F. The cookie log is done when a few cracks appear on top.Pull out the pan and let the cookie logs cool a minute or so, then slice at an angle, at 2-3 inches wide intervals. We got about 8 cookies per roll.
- We iced ours eventually, but we also kept some with no topping. Other traditions are to sprinkle sugar or cinnamon before baking.If you try making hermits, tag me on Instagram! I'd love to see!
Dee Dine is founder of Green Smoothie Gourmet, a plant based recipe blog, and author of the recent cookbook, Crazy Healthy with 4 Ingredients . On this blog you’ll find incredibly easy recipes with hidden veggies for anyone wanting to eat healthier, regardless of diet. Dee has graduate degrees in sciences and journalism. More about Dee Dine here.