I was so excited when I woke up this morning: finally we had snow , and snow that was hiking worthy. Pulled on my snowpants and snowboots and stepped out the door into....rain. To be more specific, soggy, rain-sodden snow. Take a step, and your footprint fills with an inch of water. Definitely not hiking worthy. I turned around and grabbed Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1, and started thumbing through the pages, finally stopping at mousseline au chocolat. I remembered making this for the restaurant, loving the creamy texture and slight whiff of orange liqueur....but, this is not about the mousseline. This is what popped into my head a minute later, which was shiny-topped, deeply spicy and plump with coffee-soaked raisins Hermit bars.
I have known so many cooks in my life, but I knew this belonged to my childhood. But try as I did to remember if it was Gladys at boarding school, or Julia in Mississippi, or a family friend sifting flour in her kitchen as I sat on a kitchen stool, I couldn't place her. But I did remember every little thing about those hermits.
The first recipe was taken from Joy of Cooking, and it was a dud. It didn't look or taste like hermits at all, just a pale imitation. I finally Googled hermits, and found a recipe from King Arthur flour, though I knew it would need some tinkering. Oil instead of butter for the shiny top, soaking the raisins in coffee, instead of tea ( that I did remember from my childhood: the scent of strong coffee and the raisins soaking in a mug), and doubling the spices. You see above the anemic "Joy" hermit, and the rich, warm brown of the second version. My thanks to King Arthur flour for pointing me in the right direction.
I used an 8x8 inch square pan, greased with vegetable shortening, then pressed in foil with overlapping edges, then greased again. I do this because my very good pan often results in impossible to remove cakes and brownies. Thus, the added and greased foil ( or you can use wax paper) with tails, so you can lift out the cooled cake/brownie/hermit easily.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease an 8x8 pan, see above, and set aside.
3/4 cup raisins, covered with hot, strong coffee
4 T. canola oil, or light olive oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 pinches kosher salt
1 extra-large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup Grandma's molasses
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
Place the raisins in a cup or bowl, and cover with the hot coffee. Set aside to plump.
Cream the oil and brown sugar in mixer bowl.
Add the egg, buttermilk and molasses and cream well again.
Add the salt and spices and mix briefly.
Add the flour, baking soda, and baking powder to the wet mixture.
Drain the raisins, and, by hand, fold in the plumped raisins.
Smooth into the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top of the hermits springs back when lightly pressed.
Remove to a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then carefully pull the wax paper or foil tails up, removing the hermits from the pan. Place on cooling rack for another 10 minutes, then cut into bars or squares.
This makes around 8 squares, depending how you slice them.
No matter what the weather, enjoy your day!
What I've been watching: Downton Abbey