Spiced Date & Raisin Cookies (aka Hermit Cookies)
I’ve got another grandma recipe for you. I’m not always so nostalgic, I think it must be the pregnancy hormones (which my mom aptly calls “horror-mones”) making me sappy.
Hermit cookies. These were Grandma’s most favourite cookies – a New England classic that travelled up the the coast to infiltrate its Canadian neighbours. Google tells me that while the Canadian version features dates, its American counterpart is just raisins and nuts.
Add the dates, Americans! They’re so luscious and chewy and sticky-sweet; a perfect addition to these lightly spiced gems.
The cookies are sweetened with just brown sugar – imparting an irresistible caramelly flavour and chewy texture that will have you reaching for a third, then maybe a fourth… which is not as terrible as you might think, because they’re actually lighter than most cookies.
“Lighter” with air bunnies around it, that is – they’re still cookies, they won’t do sit-ups for you – but they do have 1/2 the amount of butter that many other types do…
They’re jam packed with raisins, dates and walnuts, and scented with warm spices – but these are no spice cookie; the flavours are subtle.
Because they haven’t got a lot of butter, it’s really important to prep your baking sheets or they will stick – parchment paper is ideal: easiest removal, practically no cleanup, no need for extra fat. If you like to bake, I really recommend you keep parchment paper on hand. Otherwise, just grease ’em well!
The speculation surrounding the name “Hermit Cookies” is that you can tuck them away and they last a really long time. They also freeze beautifully, as uncooked dough balls that you can bake from frozen, or already baked.
The recipe is adapted from my grandma’s Purity cookbook – it’s a treasure, filled with old Canadian classics.
- 1/2 cup butter room temperature
- 1 cup brown sugar packed
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp allspice
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup chopped dates
- 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- In a standing mixer on medium speed, cream together butter and brown sugar. Add eggs and beat until mixture is pale and thick - about 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla.
- Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Incorporate raisins, dates and nuts (depending on your mixer, you may have to do this part by hand with a wooden spoon).
- Drop cookies by tablespoonfuls onto a well-greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes, until edges are set but centres still appear moist. Cool on baking sheet 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
- Store in an airtight container (up to 10 days) or freeze on a flat surface then transfer to freezer bags to store up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.