Posts Tagged ‘Hermits’

Eenie. Meenie. Meinie.

Blondies? Hermits?

Blondies? Hermits?

I can’t decide if I think indecision is a good thing or a bad thing. Ah, the irony.

Recently I went to dinner with my Mom. She ordered skirt steak, but then sat with a cloud over her head wondering if she should change her order to lamb chops. I berated her (gently) with a huffy, “Once I make a decision I move on…always listen to your first instinct.” (Don’t worry: she still has plenty of ammo in her belt to cut me back down to size.)

What I forgot were my own—frequent—moments of indecision that usually occur before I do something. So for those keeping score: Mom, hand wringing after. Me: hand wringing before. Tie ball game, folks.

My brand of indecisiveness reared its ugly head a few days ago when it began to feel like fall and I decided I wanted to revisit my old recipe for Hermits. Hermits are the old-fashioned bar cookie that usually have a heavy jolt of molasses, spice, and raisins. These were a neighborhood bakery standby when I was a kid, but it occurred to me that they were, perhaps, a bit too intense for the uninitiated: some people hate raisins baked into anything, others can’t abide molasses, yet another group would pass on both. Hermits have another potential problem: no chocolate. Oh-oh.

What I couldn’t decide was whether to stick with tradition, or trod my own path and risk them not being Hermits but Blondies.

Nothing against Blondies.

Okay, something against Blondies: I always felt that their whole raison d’etre was to be the anti-Brownie, assiduously avoiding chocolate in order to present an overly sweet, bleached face to the world. The trouble with that is that they never assert any identity of their own.

I feel it is important to pause here for a moment and reflect on the fact that I just applied some kind of psychology to a bar cookie. Psychologists out there are having a field day. How did that make you feel? Our time is up for today. Feel free to take the Kleenex with you.

Uh-huh, so, back to the cookies.

My Hermit recipe had already made some allowances for modern taste. I lessened the amount of molasses and substituted tiny Zante currants for the raisins, a choice which preserved the “raisiny” flavor minus the goo of baked raisins. Would the earth open and swallow me whole if I went even further? What would be so bad about a mashup of all the best things from Hermits, Blondies, and Brownies? I know I’d be happy.

The special guest star—not usually seen on this stage—is chocolate. But I am not abandoning the molasses bite either, just reducing it to a “note” along with the vanilla. I was reluctant to retain the spice—in the form of cinnamon, but a friend’s excellent Chocolate-Cinnamon icing inspired the courage to leave it in.

Nuts seemed like a prerequisite, but I am weary of walnuts, therefore pecans were nominated, both chopped into the batter and used whole as decoration on top. The chocolate was chopped by hand too; chocolate chips seem too uniform for a cookie that has such a rough—dare I say—artisanal quality. (Call me “home on the range”…or should that be at the range?)

You can see from the picture above that I ended up with bars that slightly resemble Blondies or smaller, fatter Hermits. They’re not as sweet as Blondies, or even Toll House bar cookies. They’re less aggressive than Hermits. Blondies for Chocolate Lovers? Hermits for the 21st Century? I can’t decide what to call them. How about EenieMeanieMeinieMoes?

Last decision: do I eat them all myself or give some away? Hmmm…

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Here’s the recipe for EenieMeanieMeinieMoes

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Legally Blonde

Hermits

Hermits

I am a big fan of the fall. Yes, a lot of it is because I am more comfortable in the cool weather. I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit that I love the fall because it is time to eat all the foods I love. Lingering in the back of my mind is that come January the slate is wiped clean—and so is my diet. So turn on the oven! It’s time to eat those Maple-roasted sweet potatoes, throw some extra noodles in the chicken soup, and pull out the butter, flour, and eggs and start baking.

(Do you like the way I worked in the name of the blog?)

A week or two ago on her Facebook page a friend of mine posted a picture of some heart-shaped brownies she had baked. They looked really good.

I’ve had a tough time getting those out of my mind.

I am a big fan of brownies. Throw in some ice cream and hot fudge sauce and I’ll jump up and down in unfettered joy (I promise that’s not something you’ll ever have to witness.)  But when all is said and done I’ll take my brownies “neat,” and very happily. My only rule is that I don’t like them hot or even warm. I like my brownies cool and day-old so I can taste the chocolate better. That’s just me.

All this talk of brownies got me to thinking that the next time I serve brownies I’d like to try serving them with something that compliments them.

No, not a friend telling them how great they are.

More like another cookie or bar that would serve as a contrast to the rich intensity of their sweet dark chewiness.

Often people pair brownies with blondies, but I always find those lacking somehow, as if their only purpose in life is to be just like a brownie but without the chocolate. I like the fact that blondies have similar chewiness, but I want to find something with its own chewy identity that will stand tall and proud next to the brownies.

Looking out my window at a tree whose leaves were just beginning to change color inspired me: fall is the time for hermits! Some of you know what I’m talking about; others of you are wondering why I have taken a sudden left turn into talking about a guy who hides away for months at a time. Well for those who didn’t know, hermits are cookies, and they are great in the fall because they have a chewy molasses-tinged earthiness that seems to fit a time of year when we’re just beginning to adjust to the chill outside. Hermits (thought I) are just the thing to sing the alto line to the brownies’ screechy soprano.

My only questions were 1.) What should I do with the raisins that are always part of a hermit? and 2.) What should I do with the molasses that is always part of a hermit?

The reason I ask about the raisins is that I really don’t know anyone who likes them in cookies. Everyone I know picks them out. But I like them. A good compromise would be to chop up the raisins, but that would add a fussy step to an otherwise simple recipe. What about Zante Currants?

No, Zante Currants was not a foreign exchange student I met in high school. Zante Currants are dried currants, very small (about the size of a clump of poppy seeds), with the requisite raisin flavor, but without the gooeyness to which raisins succumb after a visit to the oven. And no chopping required.

The molasses is a slightly easier question. Some people don’t like it, so I’ll use less. (Phew, that was easy.)

While they were baking I had a revelation: remember the old trick real estate agents used to use? The one where they’d bake apples and cinnamon in the oven while they were holding an open house? I recommend baking hermits at the next open house. Folks will move right in.

The result is a very basic bar cookie. Not too sweet. They reminded me of the classic “after-school” cookie. A little plain, but very pleasant, and likely nice when dunked into a cold glass of milk. Wholesome is the word they used to use to describe cookies like these.

(Does anyone still dunk cookies in milk? For that matter, does anyone still let their kids eat cookies after school? Who cares! You be the kid. Hey you’re done with school, right? In my book that still counts as “after school.”)

Like brownies (and revenge) hermits are best served cold, preferably after being allowed to sit around the house for a day. And yes, you’ll be fighting over the “edge” pieces.

So brownie-lovers, you are hereby notified that the next time I serve brownies, they’ll have company.

Try my recipe for hermits by clicking here.

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