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Old-fashioned hermits

Posted by Sheryl Julian  March 22, 2011 02:51 PM

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I often serve a bowl of sliced navel oranges for dessert, but they need something sweet to accompany them. Last weekend, I decided that would be old-fashioned hermits. New Englanders have been making them for centuries (they keep well in tins, so fishermen took them to sea).

This recipe comes from Elaine "Cookie" McGinn, a Brookline resident, who entered them in a Boston Globe cookie contest some years ago. McGinn got them from a cousin in Nova Scotia. Her original recipe was made in a rimmed baking pan, then cut into squares, but I prefer this traditional shape. You make and bake the batter in logs, then cut them into bars. I had some large crystal sugar around, so I sprinkled them with that, but granulated sugar works well.


Makes 40


3 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup molasses

3 eggs

1 cup raisins

Extra granulated sugar (for sprinkling)


1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and allspice.

3. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the molasses and beat well. Add the eggs, one by one, until the mixture is smooth. It will look curdled; that’s OK.

4. With the mixer set on its lowest speed, beat the dry ingredients into the batter until it is smooth. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

5. Use a spoon to stir in the raisins. The dough is quite sticky.

6. Spoon the dough onto the sheets in 4 log shapes (2 on each sheet). Use an offset spatula dipped often into cold water to smooth the tops and sides. Don’t worry about wetting the dough too much. Each log should be 12-inches long and no wider than 2 1/2 inches.

7. Sprinkle the logs generously with sugar. Bake them for 25 to 30 minutes or until they are firm when pressed with a fingertip. The logs spread and flatten during baking.

8. Transfer the logs on the parchment paper to wire racks to cool completely. Cut each log into 10 slices. Store in an airtight container. Adapted from Elaine “Cookie” McGinn 

About Dishing

What's cooking in the world of food.


Sheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.

Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.

Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.

The Recipe Box Project:

If you want to contribute a recipe to The Recipe Box Project, please write it below. Also tell us where you got it (package box, cookbook, mom, friend -- include the name). We're looking for the kinds of dishes that people grew up on, that were served at family suppers, that tell a story, that are typically New England, or that you brought with you from a far away place to New England. We will print one of the recipes in the Food section once a month. To ask any questions, write to Debra Samuels, who is overseeing this project, at To discuss your recipes, click here.