This chewy Fruit and Nut Cookie is the hook on which I hang many happy childhood holiday memories. I learned to make these at my Grandma’s knee and I love ’em as much as Scottish Shortbread itself! Here’s my recipe, which is pretty much my Grandma’s, but with a few nifty tweaks…
Nobody is sure why these old favourites are called ‘Hermits’, but they are generally accepted to be direct descendants of the famous, ubiquitous spice Cookies which the British have called ‘Tea Cakes’ since time immemorial. They first appeared in North America in the 1870s.
Let’s make some!
Hermits are distinguished from other Fruit and Nut Cookies by their spicy flavour profile: Cinnamon, Nutmeg and just a pinch of Cloves, Sounds like Pumpkin Pie Spice, but it takes on its own delectable character when blended with Brown Sugar and the rest of the recipe’s ingredients:
1/2 cup softened Butter or Spreadable Margarine
1 1/2 cups Cake and Pastry Flour
1 cup Brown Sugar – packed
1 large Egg
1 tsp real Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon (more, if you like it like that!)
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg (more, if you like it like that!)
1/4 tsp. Cloves (more, if you like it like that!)
1/2 cup Raisins
1/2 cup Mixed Peel
1/2 cup Chopped Nuts (your choice)
The Mixed Peel and Cake and pastry flour (rather than plain old All-purpose) are my main tweaks. Also baking time, to ensure a chewy, cakey cookie…
Preheat your oven to 375 F.
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Cream the Butter, Sugar and Vanilla with the Egg in the bowl of your stand mixer or in a large bowl using a hand mixer. You can use a plain old bowl and a large wooden spoon with your own elbow grease and the cookies will taste just as good!
Add the dry ingredients in several additions and incorporate thoroughly with the wet stuff. The batter will be smooth and thick. Fold in the Fruit and Nuts with a large spatula until evenly distributed in the batter.
Drop in rounded teaspoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving at least 2 in. between cookies. Bake at 375 F for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to turn brown around the edges and are no longer glossy on the top. This will produce nice, chewy cookies, perfect for dipping on whatever hot beverage you’re drinking!
Remove from oven and allow to cool until completely cooled.
Store in a tight-lidded container for up to three weeks.
~ Maggie J.