Hermit Cookies

Happy Easter week to all of the readers here at HoneyBee’s Patisserie. A few days ago I posted Carrot Cupcakes for the Easter Bunny in all of us and this week’s recipe will focus on the true meaning of Easter celebrations. I know I know it isn’t as fun as the Easter Bunny, dying eggs, or filling plastic eggs and baskets to set around the house and yard for the kids, but it is getting back to basics. At Easter we should remember what happened in the ancient days to lead us to celebrate this date year after year. In light of discussing ancients and history, I decided to find yet another forgotten recipe in history that was once extremely popular. Now I didn’t go all the way back to the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection for a pastry, but the late 1800’s deemed far enough for today.

Hermit Cookies are mysterious in origin. It is known that they began appearing in cookbooks around the New England area earliest, such as Miss Maria Parloa’s New Cook Book of 1880 or The Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Fannie Merritt Farmer in 1896. It is said that the name ‘Hermit’ was coined for the cookies ability to be hidden away and stored for long periods of time without spoiling, much like a hermit hides. According to the Betty Crocker Cookie Book of the late 1800’s, the Hermit cookie was incredibly popular and would accompany sailors on ship voyages leaving out of Cape Cod. The cookies would be placed in canisters and tucked away into chests and kept for the sailors to enjoy on their long voyages. To ensure that the cookies don’t bake up like a dry, overly spiced, cardboard-esque hard tack I made sure to bake the cookies into logs and cut them while they are still slightly warm rather than the traditional formulas calling for a drop style panning method. Whether you take Hermit Cookies out to sea, pack them in an Easter basket, or in a packed lunch for work, these old-fashioned cookies are perfectly soft, chewy, and full of sugar and spice worthy of revival this holiday.

Hermit Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Raisins
  • 2 tbsp. Crystallized Ginger, finely chopped
  • 8 tbsp. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter
  • 1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. Ground Allspice
  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • ½ tsp. Baking Soda
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • ¾ cup Brown Sugar, packed
  • ½ cup Molasses (mild or light)
  • 2 Eggs
  • Powdered Sugar (for dusting)

Formula:

  1. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Process raisins and ginger in a food processor until mixture sticks together and only small pieces remain. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. Heat butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat, until butter is nutty brown in color. Stir in the cinnamon and allspice. Cook until the spices are fragrant. Stir butter mixture into the raisin mixture and stir until well combined. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Stir brown sugar, molasses, and eggs into the cooled butter mixture until fully incorporated. Fold in the flour mixture (dough will appear very sticky) and refrigerate, covered, until firm, at least 1 ½ hours or up to 24 hours.
  4. Divide the dough into quarters. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 10 inch log. If you prefer you can use a spoon or portion scoop and place round drops of dough on prepared baking sheets and continue as follows, however there will be a noticeable texture change in the cookie. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets and bake each log (4 in total) for 15 to 20 minutes. Be sure to rotate the sheets halfway through baking time for even baking. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheets for about 5 minutes then transfer parchment to a cooling rack to cool completely. 
  5. Once cooled, cut logs into 2 inch bars. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.  

Special Thanks To:


Cali Rich &

Peter Mendoros – Photography


All content © Honeybee’s Patisserie 2012


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Carrot Cupcakes

Spring is officially here. The plants are in full bloom, spring breakers are flooding the area, and the Easter holiday is just around the corner. I must say I do love the smell of Orange Blossoms in full bloom, which scents the air of citrus when I walk out my door. It is most definitely the best perk of living outside the city and near the orange groves. The thing I hate most about spring happens to be the spring breaker tourists, which remind me of the long few months ahead of tourists. I shouldn’t much complain about tourists I suppose, as they do keep me busy in business equaling  more hours and a larger paycheck. However I can’t get myself to like the onslaught of invaders crowding the Florida roadways with maps on the steering wheel driving twenty miles under the speed limit looking for the nearest Disney World signs and causing me to leave for work and school hours in advance just to get anywhere on time. Perhaps the best part of spring is Easter as I love all holidays. I love the food, I love the cute Easter bunny toys and bags and chocolates. It is with the Easter bunny in mind that this cupcake has come about. What better way to lure the Easter bunny to your home then with his favorite food inside it… the carrot. Carrot Cake is traditionally…well a cake cut into squares and covered in a thick layer of cream cheese frosting. But in order to make it more accessible for mom or dad err I mean the Easter Bunny to eat on the go after hiding countless Easter eggs and baskets around the house, I present to you the Carrot Cupcake.

These little Easter delights are a mouthful of moist and richly spiced cake with a fluffy sweet cream cheese frosting. The Easter bunny would never know these cupcake versions of the 1970’s cake fad were once considered health food as they are so deliciously satisfying as a junk food treat. By adding chopped walnuts and raisins, they are also more interesting and a bit more eclectic when put against the traditional cake. Even though the Carrot Cupcakes are reminiscent of a bake sale offering for children they are most definitely a grown up treat. So to all the Easter Bunnies out there this year…enjoy a treat designed just for you!!!

Carrot Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 8 tbsp. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled
  • ¾ cup Granulated Sugar
  • ¼ cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 ¼ cup Flour
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • ½ tsp. Cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. Nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. Cloves
  • ¾ tsp. Baking Powder
  • ½ tsp. Baking Soda
  • ½ # Carrots, peeled and grated/processed
  • ½ cup Raisins, chopped
  • ½ cup Walnuts, toasted & chopped

Formula:

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350°. Line a standard sized muffin tin with cupcake liners. Cream the butter and sugars together in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the eggs. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined. 
  2. Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners. Bake for approximately 18-20 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the muffin tin for 5 minutes then remove and cool completely on a wire cooling rack. Once cool frost cakes with a thick and even layer of cream cheese frosting (formula follows).

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp. Unsalted Butter, softened but slightly cool
  • 1 cup Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 4 oz. Cream Cheese, softened, cut into pieces
  • ¾ tsp. Vanilla Extract

Formula:

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, cream the butter and confectioner’s sugar together until it appears light and fluffy. Add the cream cheese one piece at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition (you should have about four pieces). Add the vanilla and mix gently until no lumps remain.
  2. Using an offset spatula, gently spread a thick layer of frosting over the cooled cupcakes.

Special Thanks To:

Keri Fisher

Peter Mendoros – Photography


All content © Honeybee’s Patisserie 2012


Jefferson Davis Pie

Here in the south lies a delicious little known dessert originating from the Civil War era. It’s name you ask… is Jefferson Davis Pie.  This simple brown sugar custard laced with dried fruit and nuts is named after the Confederate leader. Jefferson Davis was not the only civil war era leader to have a pie named after them. Mr. Robert E. Lee inspired a cake filled with lemon curd. Quite possibly a future test formula so stay tuned!

 Now back to Mr. Davis. Before one should concern themselves with the custard it is crucial to establish a perfect basis for the custard to set. This basis being the pie crust. For a bottom crust of any pie, one should always choose a mealy pie dough recipe over flaky. Mealy has less butter and more open to receiving juices excreted during the baking process. Therefore when the pie is finished baking it will absorb the flavors of the above layer without causing the bottom crust to become soggy. Of course if you find yourself in a pinch or are too lazy then the Pillsbury Dough Boy can always come to the rescue and magically unroll your pie crust before you. This can save you an extra tedious step. Once the crust is pressed into the pie plate be sure to chill it while preparing the custard and fruit/nut mixture, regardless if you’re using a homemade mealy pie dough or the variety constructed by Pillsbury and his processed cousins.

Although I thoroughly enjoy the fruit/nut portion of the pie, I don’t feel it should be suspended in the custard as many formulas require. I desire a smooth, sliceable custard with the perfect flavor combination of sweetness and spice without any crunchy or chewy distractions hanging about. To simply solve the problem, process the fruit and nuts together until finely ground and press the mixture into the chilled pie dough. This creates a beautiful layer of fruit and nuts when sliced and continues to compliment the flavors of the custard poured above it without being a noticeable distraction. Having resolved the problems with soggy crust and distracting fruit and nuts the next step lies with the finicky custard.

In case you didn’t know, custard and I have never been the greatest of friends. However I’m trying to get to know it a little better with each baking experiment. The biggest issue with me and custards is texture. Baking the pie longer at a lower temperature allows the custard to set up to the proper firmness and the crust remains golden. If cooked at a higher temperature, the outer edges of the custard would burn along with the pie crust before the center ever set. Besides altering oven temperature and cooking time, heavy cream needed to replace milk in order for that slice to come out perfectly smooth. The cream thickens the texture and feels silkier on the palate. It also contributes a richer flavor. Which brings me to the next topic. How to achieve the balanced flavors of sweet and spice. The secret for this custard is to hold back on the sweet. Less brown sugar allows the subtle cues from the spices to shine through.

Once the pie has baked and cooled completely there is one final addition to enhance the flavor to mouth watering level. The addition of a homemade whipped cream. This is where I stress not to cheap out and dollop the pie with Cool Whip or spray a rosette of Redi-Whip on top!!! Why spend so much time creating this elaborate flavorful pie just to disgrace it with a bland processed variety of whipped cream when it is so simple to make from scratch. Honestly it takes no more than three minutes to whip up with a mixer. At times I have been known to whip by hand and still come out under five minutes. I will provide a quick and easy recipe for whipped cream below, however this pie also tastes great with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. If you do choose to whip your own cream, make sure to keep the heavy cream as cold as possible to shorten the whipping time. You may even place your whip attachment and mixing bowl in the refrigerator to speed up the process even further.

Jefferson Davis Pie

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz. Raisins
  • 4 oz. Chopped Dates
  • 2.25 oz. Chopped Pecans, toasted
  • 1 (9 in.) pie shell, chilled
  • 3 tbsp. Pastry Flour
  • 1 tsp. ground Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground Allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 cup Light Brown Sugar, packed
  • 4 oz. Unsalted Butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 2.75 oz. Egg Yolk (about 5 large eggs)
  • 10.5 oz. Heavy Cream

Formula:

  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat to 325°. Pulse raisins, dates, and pecans in a food processor until finely ground. Place mixture into chilled pie shell and press into an even layer.
  2. Combine flour, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a small bowl. With mixer on medium-low speed, cream sugar and butter together. Add in yolks, one at a time, mixing until incorporated. Add flour mixture and cream. Mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Pour custard filling over the fruit and nut mixture in the chilled pie crust. Bake until the surface of the custard appears dark brown and the center jiggles slightly, approximately 55 to 65 minutes.
  4. Cool completely on a wire rack, about 4 hours. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Top with whipped cream.

Whipped Cream

With mixer on medium speed, beat 1 cup heavy cream, 1 1/2 tbsp. light brown sugar, and 1 tsp. vanilla until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Whipped cream can be refrigerated for 4 hours. To decorate, fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe reverse shells around the outer edge and rosettes in the center. Dust with ground cinnamon.

References: Special thanks to my boyfriend Peter for his photography and Cali Rich.

All content © Honeybee’s Patisserie 2011