Morbid Meals – Skillet Hermit Cookies

EXAMINATION

MM09For the Hermit card, I originally pondered finding a recipe that would serve just one person. However, I love to cook for my family so I don’t think I even know how to cook for just one person. I haven’t done that since I was a bachelor.

So instead I pondered other types of hermits. Hermit crab sprang to mind, so I thought about a crab recipe, but then I remembered Hermit cookies. Tasty raisin-spice cookies that I hadn’t had in forever. So I dug up my recipe, one that was inspired by a 135-year old recipe.

Maria Parloa was a famous cook in the 1880’s. She opened Miss Parloa’s School of Cooking in Boston around 1877, and in 1880 published MISS PARLOA’S NEW COOK BOOK. I had a copy of this cookbook many ages ago, but have since turned to electronic versions of the book many times.

Her original recipe for Hermit cookies is as follows:

Two cupfuls of sugar, one of butter, one of raisins (stoned and chopped), three eggs, half a teaspoonful of soda, dissolved in three table-spoonfuls of milk; a nutmeg, one teaspoonful each of clove and cinnamon, and six cupfuls of flour. Roll about one-fourth of an inch thick, and cut with a round cake cutter. Bake in a rather quick oven. It will take about twelve minutes.

Times and tastes have changed since then, as have cooking directions. For instance a “quick oven” means hot enough to bake quickly, which would be roughly 400°F. Thompson seedless grapes were a novelty during this time, so some raisins might still have had seeds, called stones, which needed to be removed, hence the term “stoned”.

Recipes for Hermits are many and varied since this recipe from 1880, but they have been quite the staple in New England. As for my own recipe below, it evolved from many of these variations, but I still try to honor the simplicity of the original. One twist I added, however, is to bake it in a skillet. This makes a thick, chewy cookie that you can slice into bars, or cover in vanilla ice cream and eat while still warm.

ANALYSIS

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup dark, unsulfured molasses
1 large egg
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups All-Purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins

Apparatus

  • Cast-iron skillet
  • Electric stand mixer

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In electric mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar together.
  3. Add in molasses, mix until combined.
  4. Add egg, mix until combined.
  5. Dissolve baking soda into buttermilk, and add to batter, mix until combined.
  6. In another mixing bowl, sift flour and spices together, and add the raisins. Mix this into the wet ingredients.
  7. Spread the dough into your skillet.
  8. Bake in your preheated oven for about 30 minutes.
  9. Remove skillet from oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
  10. Slice into wedges and enjoy.

DISSECTION

You can substitute 1 cup of brown sugar for the sugar and molasses, but I prefer the extra deep flavor and extra chewiness that the molasses brings.

If you don’t have buttermilk, you can substitute with regular milk, but then use baking powder instead of baking soda. This provides the acid needed that would otherwise have been in the buttermilk.

POST-MORTEM

These are a delightful cross between raisin spice cake and cookies, and the skillet only adds to the old-fashioned nature of the recipe.

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