Old-Fashioned Hermit Cookies

Old-fashioned hermits with raisins and nuts
Diana Rattray
Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 25 mins
Servings: 24 servings
Yield: 4 dozen cookies
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
144 Calories
6g Fat
22g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 24
Amount per serving
Calories 144
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 8%
Saturated Fat 2g 11%
Cholesterol 14mg 5%
Sodium 76mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 22g 8%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 13g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 16mg 1%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 96mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Although there is no clear explanation for the name of these cookies, food historians place their origin in late 19th century New England, from whence the recipe reached Southeastern Canada and became an all-time favorite of the area. Although the "hermit" name could mean the cookies keep well, can "travel," and still be chewy and delicious after many days, other theories point out that their brown color is similar to hermit bags. Hermits are an American favorite thanks to their sweetness, the chewiness of the raisins, and the deliciously fragrant spice combination.

Other enthusiasts of the cookie consider them to be adapted from heavily spiced pastries coming from Europe and the Middle East. But whatever their origin might be, the truth is that these special treats are well embedded in many people's childhood memories, and can now be part of your cooking repertoire with very little effort. Flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and filled with dried fruit like raisins or dates, they get crunch from the classic chopped walnuts, but pecans, almonds, or pistachios are also a great substitution.

Commonly found in a square shape, our recipe is a drop cookie, for less handling of the dough and no cutting or shaping. Use the hermits as an afternoon treat, lunchbox snack, or mid-morning coffee break treat.

Old-Fashioned Hermit Cookies/Tester Image

“A lovely spiced flavor makes these a nice alternative to a purely sweet treat. They go perfectly with tea and coffee if you don’t mind some extra caffeine.” —Noah Velush-Rogers

A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened, more for greasing

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • Pinch ground cloves, optional

  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1 large egg

  • 1/4 cup brewed coffee, cold

  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped dates, or raisins

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, or pecans

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Position a rack in the upper and lower third of the oven and heat to 375 F. Lightly grease two cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. Set aside.

  3. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves, if using. Set aside.

  4. With an electric mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the vegetable shortening, butter, and brown sugar until light and fluffy.

  5. Once the fats are creamed with the sugar, add the egg and cold coffee. Beat on low speed until well blended.

  6. Little by little, add the flour mixture into the butter mixture and stir until well combined. Use low speed to make a sticky dough. Stop the mixer once you have a nice creamy consistency.

  7. Fold in the dates and the walnuts.

  8. Drop the cookie dough by rounded teaspoons or small cookie scoops onto the prepared cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies. They will spread when baking.

  9. Bake until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the cookies immediately to a cooling rack. As they cool off, the texture will get chewier.

When Baking in Batches

If you are making more than one batch of cookies, use parchment to speed up the process. While one batch is baking, prepare another sheet of parchment paper with drop cookie dough. When the first batch is baked, slide the hermits off onto a rack. Carefully slide the loaded sheet of parchment paper onto the cookie sheet and continue baking.

How to Store Hermits

Keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days. These cookies will also keep nicely when frozen; simply thaw at room temperature before eating. Alternatively, freeze the cookie balls in the cookie sheet before baking, and then place the frozen dough balls into a freezer bag for up to 3 months. When ready to bake, leave the balls at room temperature for 45 minutes and bake as directed.