AS WITH the parentage of many heirloom apples, the origin of this antique recipe for Hermits is a little cloudy. Most likely the Hermit cookie dates back to 1880 from two sources: Plattsburgh, New York, in the Champlain Valley, and Boston.
The main difference in the two recipes is the New York recipe was made with brown sugar and no eggs, while the New England recipe called for white sugar and 3 eggs. Our version uses 2 eggs and molasses.
The origin of the cookie name “Hermit” is also unclear. Some believe the oblong hermit looks like the brown robe of an ascetic hermit. Others say the cookie’s flavor improves after they are “secluded” for a few days.
1/2 c butter
3/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c molasses
1-3/4 c flour (half whole-grain wheat flour)
1/2 c old-fashioned oats
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/8 t cloves
1/8 t ginger
1/4 t salt
1 c New England apples, chopped
1 c dates, chopped (or try dried cranberries, currants, or raisins)
1/2 c walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream together butter and brown sugar, then beat in molasses and eggs. Combine and stir in dry ingredients. Add fruit and nuts.
Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake 12 minutes or until almost no imprint remains when lightly touched. Careful not to overbake!