Monday, January 13, 2014

Mixed Peel Cookies

Mixed Peel CookiesHot and fresh
Hermit-style cookies have been around 700 or 800 years - but I’ll let the Old Farmer’s Almanac tell the tale! 

This soft, spicy cookie was often the last thing the baker made from the leftover trimmings on his table. It was made with chopped fruits, raisins, nuts, and seasoned with cinnamon, cloves and other spices; sweetened with either molasses or brown sugar, and usually cut into squares or bars. Some say the spices become more distinct with age, making the cookies taste better if they have been hidden away like hermits for several days. The name may come from this habit. But they also keep longer than most bar cookies and travel well, so perhaps they were the preferred sweet for solitary wanderers as well as recluses and hermits.
Very likely the old recipe for the hermit cookies goes back to the 12th or 13th Century religious hermitages, where these basic ingredients would have been in common usage at bakers tables. The terms for those confines - “hermite” from the Old French or “heremita,” from the medieval Latin — may have been assigned to this treat by the residents.

I made these Mixed Peel Cookies with candied peel left over from the holidays. They’re typical hermit-style cookies, in that they contain butter, eggs, brown sugar, oatmeal, flour, spiced dried fruit, and nuts - the same ingredients used in this little treat for centuries. Historically, hermit cookies were sometimes carried long distances or kept a long time, so that they often tasted like hard little rocks. Unlike those cookies, these are tender and moist, most likely because I took them from the oven at their minimum baking time. I arrived at this recipe by tweaking a couple of other recipes: I hope you’ll enjoy the result! 

Mixed Peel Cookies:

 c. butter or margarine, softened
 c. light brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1-½ c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1-½ c. large-flake rolled oats
1-½ c. mixed peel
½ c. currants

¼ tsp. cinnamon
⅛ tsp. nutmeg
⅛ tsp. allspice
 c. chopped, toasted walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy and no graininess remains when a little of the mixture is rubbed between thumb and index finger, about 5 min. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition and scraping bowl down as you work. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and rolled oats, adding a little at a time until completely mixed in. In a separate bowl, combine peel, currants, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, mixing well. Stir into cookie mixture with nuts. Drop by heaping teaspoons onto parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake 10 min.

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