Sante’s Hermit Cookies Recipe
My friend Sante shared his hermit recipe with me - a simple, drop-style, spice cookie loaded with tiny currants, chopped walnuts, and finished with a bit of icing.
The other night I was enjoying dinner with my friend Sante and a few others. Sante is a fun person to chat with because he's one of those guys who never runs out of stories - or opinions for that matter. Some of you may know him from his days as the chef at the Slow Club here in San Francisco. Late in the evening the topic of conversation turned to Christmas cookies. Sante started talking about hermits - a cookie he makes regularly for a friend who loves them. I had no idea what he was talking about. I'd never heard of a hermit cookie. He went on to describe a simple, drop-style, spice cookie loaded with tiny currants and chopped walnuts, finished with a bit of icing.
A few things I've learned after making my first batch of hermits...Hermits are really good the day they are baked and iced. They are even better the day after - the icing develops a bit of a crust and the spices seem to meld together. Hermits are perfect with a cup of coffee in the morning. They are great on a holiday cookie plate. They are great with a cup of tea in the afternoon, and they are simple to make. The chewy, nuttiness along with warm flavors like cinnamon, allspice, and cloves strike a nice balance, and I kept thinking to myself - this might make a delicious muffin batter.
I made a couple tweaks to Sante's version of hermit cookies using the ingredients in my own pantry. And truth be told, I accidentally overlooked the "chill for one hour" instructions with no negative consequences - my dough was a bit tacky, but the cookies still turned out fine. I think I also went a bit heavy on the icing, but no one around here was really complaining.
For those of you still on the hunt for Christmas cookie recipes, I've compiled a bunch from past holidays into once place.
Sante's Hermit Cookie Recipe
I use whole wheat pastry flour here, but you can substitute unbleached all-purpose flour if that's what you have on hand.
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or unbleached all-purpose)
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine grain salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup natural cane sugar, sift out any chunks
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup currants
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup milk
1 cup organic powdered sugar, sifted
4 - 5 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Racks in the top and bottom third.
Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cloves cinnamon, and allspice into a medium bowl - set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or by hand), cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla. Blend well, scraping down the side of the bowl a few times along the way. Add the currants and walnuts. Add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the milk. Chill (covered) for one hour.
Drop the cookie dough (one level tablespoon at a time) onto un-greased cookie sheets, leaving an inch or so between cookies. Dampen your fingers with a bit of water and gently flatten the dough. Bake for 12 -15 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies are deeply golden. Cool on a wire rack.
While the cookies are cooling, make the icing. Whisk the powdered sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla together in a small bowl - use immediately. Frost each cookie with an off-set spatula (or pastry bag) - but not until they are completely cool.
Makes about three dozen hermits.
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looks delicious but oh dear a cookie recipe with 16 ingredients!! I'd need a cup of tea and a lie down after that maybe with a cookie as well
These cookies sound sort of like mini fruitcakes minus the booze. I'm going to make a batch and bring them to work to bring Christmas cheer to the corporate scrooges!!
yay! i love slow club.
"Good Vanilla" you say. I'd really like to know what "good vanilla" is. Perhaps you don't want to mention a brand, but could you at least suggest what ingredients to look for? Please. Vanilla is a prime ingredient, and good cooking deserves good vanilla. What do you suggest? HS: Hi Adrienne, maybe a better way to describe it would be "pure vanilla extract"...Patricia Rain has a site that is a good resource for those wanting to understand vanilla/vanilla extracts a bit better.
For those of us with tree nut allergies - how are they without the walnuts? HS: Different, I'm sure. But you might explore substituting something else.
I don't see how you can make a hermit without molasses. Takes all kinds, I guess. :) Then again, I'm a crusty Mainer and just about all the sweets they make in central Maine, aka "the sticks" have molasses. Hermits always seemed like a cake to me, though and these are far more cookie like. Yummers.
These look delicious, Heidi!! Do you think coconut oil could be used in place of the butter and nondairy milk substituted for the cream to make a dairy-free version? The photos (as usual!) are mouthwatering. HS: Lily, I think you might have luck with those two substitutions. If that were the direction I was headed I might go coconut oil + coconut milk for the non-dairy.
These look so tasty. I've only ever seen them shaped like fig bars before, and never iced. I'll have to give your recipe a try - icing makes everything better! Thanks Heidi.
Nice to see the New Englanders reppin' for the bar-shaped hermits. I like them that way...they sort of end up with the consistency of a chewy brownie. And while I've never seen an iced one (till now) I could accept that departure from tradition. :-)
I am snowed in, need cookies and have every single ingredient for these wonderful looking cookies. I must bake!
Sante...Santa...hehe. :) I've never heard of hermit cookies but they sound so good that they should be renamed to something more social!
I've been making Harwich Hermits from the days when I lived in the Boston area. As others commented, I make a bar version that was published in the wonderful 1970 American Cooking: New England by Tim Life Books. The spices include nutmeg and mace with less allspice. The 1 cup sweetening is 1/2 molasses as are so many recipes from the region. It calls for chopped raisins, good if you have no currants on hand. There is no frosting. I think the leap from bar cookie to muffin is not a far one. Go for it!
I am from RI, and you can find Hermit's year round at Wrights Dairy farm in North Smithfield. I now live outside of Philadelphia, and quickly learned that they are a local treat. Like Snowmeg indicated, Wright's makes them as a flat cookie - clearly baked on a baking sheet and cut into rectangles, with no icing. They are only about 1/4-1/2 an inch thick. I made the onion dip for a holiday party last weekend - it was a huge hit. Voted to be far superior to its distant relative out of a packet.
This looks like a really good recipe-I wasn't going to make any Christmas cookies this year, but you have changed my mind. I have made hermits many times in a slightly different way-by making ropes of dough about the length of the cookie sheet, flattening them and sprinkling them with sugar. Bake and cut into 4" lengths while still warm. I think they may be a New England cookie and that some recipes have molasses in them. I can't wait to smell them cooking!!
It's funny that dried cranberries and orange zest should be mentioned. When I heard currents, I immediately thought of using my orange flavored dried cranberries from Trader Joes. They are the best! And this cookie looks yummy.
I was introduced to "Newman's Hermits" sometime ago and have been rolling around some recipes in my head... this helps allot! Newman's are a dairy free egg free recipe...maybe some added apple sauce would keep them moist. Thanks!
Thanks for bringing to mind a favorite from childhood. In NH hermits were as common as an oatmeal or chocolate chip cookie — baked off in sheets then cut into squares. This drop version will be a must for my holiday tins. Thanks for the memories!
At first I misread and though you said "Santa".... Hey, it would be seasonally appropriate! One never knows who you might have connections with. Anyway, these cookies look fantastic, and remind me a lot of one of my own holiday traditionals -- minus the currants (not a dried fruit fan), plus a bit of sour cream. So thanks Santa, er, Sante.
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