Hermit cookies are a soft and spicy bar cookie made with brown sugar, molasses and gingerbread spices. These bar cookies are easy to make, dairy free, and have all the flavor of the old fashioned New England classic.
Hermit cookies, chock full of molasses and raisins, are spiced like gingerbread and molasses cookies, but also have a uniquely candy flavor thanks to the addition of raisins marinated in fresh coffee.
A classic cookie, native to my home base New England, this hermit cookies recipe produces the best cookie to wash down with a cup of tea or glass of milk. As when baking my gingerbread cookies or even my pumpkin bread or baked apple spice donuts, your kitchen will smell like a spicy holiday dream.
Why You'll Love Hermits
Hermit cookies with molasses are delicious. Full of cinnamon, molasses, and winter spices such as cloves, ginger and nutmeg, these cookies are a cousin to gingerbread cookies and molasses cookies alike and are a delight to bake.
They are nourishing. Using apple sauce for eggs, no oil, and a mix of whole wheat flour and all purpose, these cookies are full of fiber and protein, potassium, and very high in iron.
They are special diet friendly. If you need a vegan or dairy-free cookie, this recipe fits the bill using a healthier nutritious red palm shortening instead of butter, and apple sauce instead of eggs. To adjust them to be gluten-free, I provide an option in the recipe card.
Flour - I used a mix of whole wheat and all purpose and sometimes use gluten-free all purpose.
Apple sauce - Or you can use flax seed eggs to replace the two eggs found in the classic recipe. One tablespoon of ground flax seed with 3 tablespoon of water equals one egg.
Brown sugar - I use coconut palm sugar which is a healthier brown sugar but regular brown sugar is also fine.
Molasses - This syrup is dark and smokey in flavor, and brings on the quintessential gingerbread flavors. Molasses comes in three flavors, black strap, light, and dark. All three can contain sulfur, but I try to buy dark and unsulphured for a better flavor. Some brands call this version "original."
Shortening - I used a plant-based shortening that is actually nutritious, a mix of red palm and coconut oils. Look for Spectrum and Nutiva brands.
Spices - I chose winter spices such as cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice.
Raisins marinated in coffee is a special twist in this recipe that adds an incredible burst of flavor with each bite.
See the recipe card at the bottom for full information on ingredients and quantities.
- measuring cups, spoons
- hand mixer or stand mixer
- mixing bowls
- cookie sheets, parchment paper
- whisk, spatula
- cooling rack
How to Bake Hermit Cookies
For more detail, visit the complete recipe at the bottom of this post, but here are general steps.
Step 1: Gather ingredients, measure them, make the coffee and soak the raisins in the warm coffee.
Step 2: Mix up the wet ingredients.
Step 3. Mix up the dry ingredients.
Step 4. Add the wet to the dry and combine with a mixer.
Step 5. Drain the raisins, but reserve the coffee. Be sure the coffee is still at ⅓ cup (add water if it lost liquid to the raisins), and be sure it is at room temperature, then add it to the batter. Mix the batter, then fold in raisins.
Step 6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator. Chill the dough 30-minutes to an 1 hour.
Step 7. Bake the dough. Here are two ways to bake these hermit cookie bars:
- As a square bar: Put the batter into 2 (8-inch square) pans, press flat and bake as bar cookies. Cool, slice into squares and eat.
- As biscotti-style bars: The biscotti-slice bar is the traditional way to slice and serve the classic old fashioned hermit cookie. To make them that way divide the batter into 4 sections 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.
1. If you choose the log baking method as you see above, form the logs in sets of two on two cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake one pan and refrigerate the other while the first is baking. Chilling keeps the cookie logs from spreading too much.
2. Use parchment paper instead of greasing the pan for a less-greasy cookie bottom.
3. Apple sauce. Instead of apple sauce, you can use flax seed or chia seed eggs. These are meant to replace eggs in the traditional recipe.
4. Soak the raisins in coffee. This recipe is unusually delicious in part because the raisins are soaked in coffee. This gives the raisins a delicious molasses flavor. No, you don't taste coffee. Use a cup of instant coffee or freshly brewed.
5. Use quality molasses. For best flavor, pay close attention to the molasses you use. I recommend you use Grandma's Original Molasses for best flavor. 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.
6. To make the hermit cookie dairy free, plant-based and vegan, this recipe uses a non-GMO plant-based shortening, and apple sauce instead of eggs. Vegan butter can be used instead of shortening - use the type in a tub for adequate moisture.
7. Gluten-free option. To make it gluten-free, replace the whole wheat flour and all purpose flour with 2 cups of 1 to1 gluten-free baking flour and 1 cup of oat flour.
8. Since there is no raw egg in this batter, feel free to taste-test the batter before baking and decide if it needs more spices. You could consider increasing the cinnamon to 2 tablespoons, and adding ½ teaspoon of nutmeg.
How to Store & Make in Advance
Storage. New England hermit cookies store beautifully at room temperature and frozen. They stay soft and fresh if stored in a seal container at room temperature for a week, making them an ideal gift. Frozen, the baked cookies stay fresh and perfect in a sealed container for up to three months.
Make in Advance. To make this dough in advance, mix it up and refrigerate the dough sealed well in cling wrap or in a sealed container for up to a week before baking.
- To make logs, wrap each log separately in several layers of cling wrap before chilling. To bake, put the logs two at a time on a baking sheet and bake straight out of the refrigerator.
- To make square bars, press the dough into 2 (8-inch) square pans lined with parchment paper, then remove them from the pan, fold the parchment paper down on the squares of dough, and wrap those squares of dough tightly in cling wrap and chill. To bake, put each dough square back in a 8-inch square pan, fold back the parchment paper and bake.
Substitutions & Additions
Raisins. Instead of raisins, use Medjool dates, pitted and chopped into small bits.
Shortening. Use butter instead but the cookie will be much softer and might break apart.
Mix-ins. Choose a mix-in or two off the list below, and add 1 cup to ½ cup to the batter:
- coarsely chopped dates
- chopped walnuts or pecans
- mini chocolate chips
- chopped dried apples
- chopped dried cranberries
Why are they called hermit cookies?
One theory is the hermit cookie, which dates back to the early 1800s, is named as such because a local Vermont baker would make brown sugar cookies stuffed with spices and raisins and serve them to local hermits, and lonely elderly. Another theory is the cookie was named hermits for New England sailors, who traveled alone, and brought the cookie on long voyages because it stored well.
What are hermit cookies made of?
Hermit cookies are a soft chewy bar cookie made with molasses, raisins, and gingerbread spices such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves, making the delicious treat ideal for the holidays.
Other Cookie Recipes
- Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Linzer Cookies
- Chocolate Sugar Cookies
- 2-Ingredient Sugar Cookies
- Samoa Cookies
- Healthy M&M Cookies
- Milano Cookies
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- Measuring cups & spoons
- Hand mixer or stand mixer
- Mixing bowls
- Cookie sheets, parchment paper
- Whisk, spatula
- Cooling rack
- ½ cup (125ml) molasses (I used original or dark)
- ½ cup (95g) organic shortening
- ½ cup (100g) organic cane sugar
- ½ cup (100g) coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ⅓ cup (78ml) brewed coffee, warm
- ⅓ cup apple sauce (or 2 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 5 tablespoon water)
- 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour
- 2 cup (270g) whole wheat flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 2 cups (400g) raisins
- Gather and measure ingredients. Line two quarter cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Either measure out apple sauce, or make flax eggs by stirring together two tablespoons of flax eggs with 5 tablespoons of water and let sit 5 minutes before using.⅓ cup apple sauce
- Make or brew ⅓ cup of strong coffee. Add the raisins to it and set the mixture aside to cool and marinate.⅓ cup (78ml) brewed coffee, warm, 2 cups (400g) raisins
Mix the cookies
- Use a stand mixer or a hand-mixer to blend wet ingredients and both sugars in a medium bowl.½ cup (95g) organic shortening, ½ cup (100g) organic cane sugar, ⅓ cup apple sauce, ½ cup (100g) coconut sugar
- Stir in the molasses.½ cup (125ml) molasses
- In another larger bowl, using a whisk or spoon to mix up the two flours, baking soda, salt, and spices.1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour, 2 cup (270g) whole wheat flour, ½ teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon cloves, ¼ teaspoon allspice, 1 teaspoon ginger
- Add the wet mixture to the large bowl with the flour mixture, and briefly mix the batter until just combined - don't overmix or the batter will become rubbery.
- Drain the raisins, but reserve the coffee. If needed, add enough water to the coffee to make sure the level of liquid reaches ⅓ cup. Then add the coffee to the batter and mix the batter again, just enough to work the liquid into the batter.Be sure the coffee temperature is at room temperature before adding it to the batter.⅓ cup (78ml) brewed coffee, warm
- Fold in the raisins, and cover the batter with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30-minutes to 1 hour.2 cups (400g) raisins
- 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 to bake into logs and slice rectangular bars at an angle like biscotti. To do this, follow the steps below:
- Step 1. Divide the chilled batter into four roughly equal portions. I just eyeball this.
- Step 2. Hand-form 4 logs that are roughly 10 inches long, 2 ½ inches wide, and flattish. I baked two logs side-by-side at a time. To do this, form two logs at a time, side by side, on a parchment-lined quarter cookie sheet. They don't have to be shaped perfectly. As they bake, they will puff up a little, 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.
- Step 4. Pull out the pan and let the cookie logs cool a minute or so on the pan. They may have bumped into each other, but once cool you can gently pull or cut them apart.Then slice each log at an angle, at 2-3 inches wide intervals. I get about 8-10 bar cookies per log.
How to Serve
- Serve these bar cookies plain, or iced with my Vegan Royal Icing. Other options are to sprinkle sugar or cinnamon after baking but while still warm.
- They stay soft and stay fresh covered and at room temperature for a week. Then refrigerate or freeze in a container as you would other cookies.