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New England Hermit Cookie Bars

    The best hermit cookies recipe you’ll find that is 100% authentic! Similar in taste to a gingerbread cookie, these hermit cookies are soft and chewy and made with ginger, molasses, and raisins.

    new england hermit cookie bars on a plate

    As a healthy food blogger, I don’t often share baking recipes. I’m more of a roasted veggie or orange smoothie kinda girl. So, credit must be given where credit is due: Hermit Cookie bars are my husband’s specialty.

    Easy Hermit Cookie Recipe

    A Boston Massachusetts native, when he was growing up he would find these cookies in a local bakery and purchase them by the bag for a couple of dollars.

    Mixing Hermit Cookies
    preparing hermit cookies by pouring in molasses
    Adding molasses to the batch

    History of the hermit cookie:

    Many people ask where these hermit cookies came from. As far as he could tell, they originated in New England back in the 1800s because of the molasses in the cookies they kept well on long voyages. I’ve read in other places that they became popular in the 1930’s and 50’s.

    Dense and moist, hermits age very well and were given to sailors in tins to last on long expeditions. Sweet, chewy, spicy (from the ginger), buttery and perfectly balanced with the right amount of salt, a chef friend of ours describes hermits as “sweet crack.”

    Why are these cookies called hermits?

    When you use the phrase ‘hermit cookies’ outside of New England people tend to not know what you’re talking about but at the end of the day they are just a cookie. I would consider hermits to be a type of baked good that offers a longer shelf life over traditional cookie.

    What do hermit cookies taste like?

    Hermits taste like a robust gingerbread cookie where you can actually taste and smell the spices.

    Liz Making Hermits

    How to make:

    I always start by using some Crisco and greasing the pan. Once greased I’ll take some flour to put a slight coating to the bottom of it.

    The hardest part of this recipe is getting all of the ingredients out. I’ll typically use two bowls. Once for all the dry ingredients and the other for all the wet ones.

    Once the dough is prepared, you spread it in a well-floured baking sheet using well-floured hands. Why do you need to flour your hands? Because this moist and soft dough is extra sticky!

    floured hands on raw hermit cookie dough


    The more flour on your hands, the easier it will be to spread out on the pan. Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t reach each edge, just push it out about 1/2-inch thick. It doesn’t need to be a perfect rectangle.

    Liz Excited for Hermits

    Once baked, I liked to slice them into squares but you could also use cookie cutters to cut them into cute shapes. A fantastic edible holiday gift, these babies will stay moist and delicious for weeks – if you can avoid eating them all first! We’ve also made them for classroom parties as they are nut free.

    Liz Grabbing a Hermit Cookie

    Whip up a batch of these soft and chewy hermit bar cookies for your next cookie swap, classroom party, hostess gift or holiday open house!

    Liz and the Hermit Cookies

    What are your favorite holiday cookies? I’d love to hear from you.

    Frequently asked questions:

    How to store hermit cookies?

    Hermit cookies store well. Up to a week in an airtight container and they will still taste great!

    Can you overcook hermit cookies?

    These molasses cookies have a forgiveness factor. While the time states 17 minutes, they are hard to burn if you put them in for a little longer than that.

    Can hermit cookies be bought in a bakery?

    bag of hermits from bakery

    Your best bet is at a local bakery in the Northeast United States. On a recent trip to Peabody Massachusetts I found them sitting on a rack in a bag.

    What’s the easiest way to cut cookies?

    Use a pizza cutter or knife and cut them into squares (or any shape you prefer).

    Other adds to the hermit batter

    Raisins are popular but you could use other fruits like chopped up dried figs, currants and other dried fruits or nuts too.

    No forks required.

    new england hermit cookie bars on a plate

    New England Hermit Cookie Bars

    4.51 stars average
    The best hermit cookies recipe you'll find that is 100% authentic! Similar in taste to a gingerbread cookie, these hermit cookies are soft and chewy.
    PREP: 20 mins
    COOK: 17 mins
    TOTAL: 37 mins
    Save
    Servings: 64

    Ingredients
     

    • 4 cups all purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
    • 2 cups brown sugar (packed)
    • 1 cup butter (softened – preferably unsalted)
    • cup dark molasses
    • 2 large eggs
    • 2 cups raisins

    Instructions
     

    • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
    • Grease (I typically will use Crisco which is preferred or Pam Baking spray) and flour one standard jelly roll pan (standard cooking sheet) and set aside.
      floured pan
    • In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and cloves.
      dry ingredients in a bowl
    • With the mixer on medium, beat together brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add in molasses then egg and mix until well combined.
      Pouring Molasses
    • Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add in the dry ingredients until just combined.
    • Use a spoon to stir in raisins.
    • Scrape edges of the bowl with a plastic spatula to get the mixture together in a ball then scrape out onto a cookie sheet.
      raw hermit cookie dough
    • Flour hands then carefully press dough into even layer on the floured cookie sheet.
      Pushing Down Hermit Cookie Dough
    • Bake 17-19 minutes depending on oven. Typically I'll spend half the time on the top rack and the other half on the bottom. Remove from the oven when toothpick comes out clean.
    • Let cool completely before slicing into bars.

    Recipe Video

    Notes

    These cookies age well and can handle air exposure. They are very moist and last several days (if they last that long!)
    Slicing Tip: A pizza slicer is a great way to ensure even slicing.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 105kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 1gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 80mg
    SHOW AND TELL ON INSTAGRAM!Show me your creation and rate it below! Mention @thelemonbowl or tag #thelemonbowl! I would LOVE to see!
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    Liz DellaCroce

    Liz Della Croce is the creator and author of The Lemon Bowl, a healthy food blog. Since 2010, Liz has been sharing delicious recipes that just so happen to be healthy. By using real ingredients with an emphasis on seasonality, Liz has built a growing audience of loyal readers who crave good food for their families.

    105 Comments

    1. I have these in the oven right now Massachusetts born and raised the only difference is is I soak my raisins in hot coffee for 20 minutes then drain before I use them..

    2. Thank you for a delicious, simple recipe, Liz! Your recipe is uncomplicated, baked up beautifully in a standard half-sheet baking pan, and the flavor profile is perfect, as far as I’m concerned. Thank you for sharing your recipe!

    3. These cookies had the perfect flavor profile, but was a disaster in my oven.

      There are two possible reasons for the fail. First, maybe I used the wrong sized cookie sheet? Please specify the dimensions. I did my best to match using the photo of the pan with a hand in it.

      The second reason for the possible fail is my high elevation. I do plan to work to fix this recipe to work well where i live, as a displaced Rhode Islander, I have fond memories of my neighbor’s Hermits, which she also sold in local stores.

      Even though these bubbled up, overwelming the cookie sheet, and spilling onto the oven floor, my partner and I found the non-burned parts irresistible.

    4. I am also from Portsmouth, with all of.the new add ins of old, I add 1/4 cup of poppy seed and flax seed to my nanny,s hermit recipe. That’s both equaling 1/4 cup together…so yum yum

    5. Thank you for this! I am also from Massachusetts, these remind me of childhood. I had forgotten they existed but I had leftover molasses to use up from making gingerbread at Christmas and I found this recipe. I cut the recipe in half, it only made 27 cookies for me, but that’ll last me several days. I made them with gluten-free flour and they came out great. Yum!

    6. For the 1/2 batch recipe, please change the butter amount in parentheses (it says 2 sticks softened which equal 1 cup) – the 1/2 recipe calls for 0.5 cups of butter. I almost added too much butter by not reading carefully. Mine are in the oven and smell great – my elderly father from Massachusetts, who now lives down south, asked me to find a recipe and make them. Thanks!

      1. The quantities for halving or doubling a batch is done automatically by a program, so I’ll see what’s up with that, thanks for letting me know!

    7. I am going to make 1/2 batch of these this afternoon while my husband is out bowling. I am so excited, cannot wait for him to leave so I can get started. We are both from Portsmouth, NH (now living in CT), and Hermits have always been one of our favorites. I know I can give this 5 stars because of the ingredients. I have made Hermits before but it has been years !!! I do not care for any type of glaze on these. To me the glaze ruins the Hermits.

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