Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hermits--Molasses Cookies with Raisins

This exact recipe originated over 100 years ago.
I didn't know what a hermit was until I found this recipe in a very old cook book, which had been put online as a part of Project Gutenberg. I downloaded Things Mother Used to Make by Lydia Maria Gurney here.
Hermits are molasses cookies with chopped raisins in them. I have a favorite molasses cookie recipe, but never thought to add raisins. What a great idea!
molasses cookies with raisins cookie cutter shapes
It was also so fun to look at a cookbook from someone who lived in a very different world than I did.

I really enjoyed making this recipe, but I will admit that I prefer another ginger cookie recipe better, so I'm going to include both recipes. So pick 1 recipe. The instructions are for either ingredients list.

Hermits from Things Mother Used to Make--for firm cookies

The other recipe is milk-free
Yields 3-4 dozen cookies
Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 9-13 minutes per batch

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg
1/2 cup raisins, chopped fine and coated in flour
1 tablespoon milk
2 1/2 or 3 cups flour

Hermits--adapted from Better Homes and Gardens 14 ed.--for soft cookies

This recipe is milk-free
Yields 3-4 dozen cookies
Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 9-13 minutes per batch
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup molasses
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup raisins, chopped fine (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350 F (unless you plan on chilling the dough before rolling it).

2) Cream butter or shortening and sugar with an electric mixer. Mix in molasses, spices, egg and (if using Mother's recipe) milk. Use a tablespoon of the flour to coat the chopped raisins. Add the rest of the flour to the dough and mix with a wooden spoon. Stir in the raisins.

If the molasses and butter (or shortening) don't completely mix, adding the flour as well will help

--As a side note, the original 100 year old recipe doesn't actually call for an amount of flour. You add more flour than any other ingredient, but she never even gives a hint about how much to use! It just says, "flour enough to roll." Ha! So I added it 1/2 cup at a time, trying to figure out why she didn't even give a ball park estimate. I left it a little sticky and then added more as I rolled.

2) If desired, chill dough for an hour. This will make them easier to roll out. If feeling impatient, get started now.
Roll out on a clean surface. 
I use a pastry cloth (a thick, towel-like cloth that doesn't have lint), but when my cloth is dirty I use a clean cutting board or the top of my pizza paddle. I coat both it and the rolling pin lightly with flour. If I feel my dough is dry, I use non-stick spray on my rolling pin instead of flour.
The 100 year old recipe says to "roll thin and cut with a cooky-cutter."
I love the spelling of "cooky-cutter."
Yes, the girl who fervently wishes people would capitalize the word "I" thinks "cooky-cutter" is cute. But I will defend that it's different to see a spelling that's 100 years old. Also, I try to respect my elders, and anyone who recorded recipes 100 years ago is my elder.

3) Back to the dough: roll dough 1/8 thick and cut with that "cooky-cutter." One challenge is the raisins. My cookie cutters aren't particularly sharp, so if your edge is on a raisin, you're going to be tear the edge of the cookie. Just avoid the raisins and use cookie cutters with simpler lines.
cookie cutter shapes
You can see how the edge of some of the cookies are imperfect because the cookie cutters couldn't cut neatly through raisins
4) Bake at 350 F for 8-13 minutes (less time for a shiny pan, more for on a silicone baking mat). Remove when the cookies are firm in the center, and edges are slightly browned. The trick is to watch them with your oven light for being baked through, but not any longer. 

5) Let cookies cool. If desired, frost them (recipe below).

---My 5-year-old niece and I used to make the molasses cookies together. She loved to make "shape cookies," as she called them. She would have taken any flavor of "shape cookies"--sugar cookies, chocolate cookies, etc., but ginger molasses is my favorite. 
When her mother was busy at the hospital delivering a baby boy, my niece had so much energy because she was excited about getting a new brother. After hours of her nervous energy, I said we should make shape cookies. She helped me add the ingredients and work the Kitchen Aid (her mother's. I don't own a Kitchen Aid), and cut out the cookies. After they baked and cooled we frosted them with Pink Lemonade frosting (See recipe below--use lemon juice in the place of tangerine juice and dye it pink) and then took cookies to all the neighbors. One neighbor looked really surprised when she opened the door. She asked, "But isn't her mom having a baby right now? I can't believe you brought us cookies, too. That's so nice!"
I had to explain that baking cookies and walking them around the neighborhood was a needed distraction. We were giving out cookies for our own selfish reasons.

Tangerine Frosting

--or use any citrus. We had tangerines. If using lemon or lime, start with only 1 tablespoon of juice and add more as needed.

1/4 cup butter
Juice from 1/2 a medium tangerine
zest from 1 tangerine
2 cups powdered sugar
food coloring (if desired, I didn't use any today, but I always used it with my niece. The tangerine made the frosting come out yellow, but you may want to color it so it's orange)

1) Cream butter and add juice, zest, and 1 cup powdered sugar. Use electric mixer to combine. Add the rest of the powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time, beating in, until it reaches desired consistency.

molasses cookies with tangerine frosting

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