Barbara Bretton

What's Cooking?


Whenever I think of Uncle Harry (who wasn't really my uncle; he was our landlord when I was growing up) I think of three things: Lititz, Pennsylvania where he was born; opera and classic music which he loved; and trips to Manhattan which always included a magical lunch at Horn & Hardart.

Although it pains me to write this, some of you might be too young to remember Horn & Hardart. And it pains me even more to realize that some of you might only know of that wonderful chain of restaurants through an old Doris Day movie but so it goes.

Now I was a tuna salad sandwich kind of girl. I lived for that moment when I slid my quarter into the slot and the little glass door opened so I could remove my treasure. But as good as that sandwich always was, nothing compared to dessert: Hermits.

See, that's the thing about memory. It can drive you crazy. Periodically I Googled "Horn & Hardart" and "Hermits" hoping against hope that The Recipe would magically appear. It never did but after much experimentation, I finally came up with a recipe a few weeks ago that comes pretty close.


1/2 C butter (softened)
1/2 C shortening
(I made one batch with all butter, another batch all shortening. The all butter version was head-and-shoulders better. Big surprise, right?)
1 1/2 C white sugar
1/2 C unsulphured molasses
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 C white flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger (I prefer 3 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves (I prefer 2 - 3 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (I prefer 2 - 3 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoons table-grind pepper (not finely ground, not super coarse)
(Trust me. The pepper is the secret to the whole recipe. You can leave it out if you must but I highly recommend it.
Granulated sugar to roll cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and shortening (or all butter or all shortening) with sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses and eggs until thoroughly combined.

Slowly add salt, baking soda, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and pepper. Gradually stir in flour and mix well. Batter will be very thick and a little stiff.

You might try adding some raisins and/or chopped walnuts. I haven't tried it yet but I'm going to.

Roll pieces of dough into 1 1/2 inch balls then roll in granulated sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheet. (I line the sheet with parchment paper.) Place them 2 1/2 inches apart on cookie sheet.

Bake for 13 minutes. Cookies will flatten out into perfect circles as they bake. They might seem a little "loose" when you remove them from the oven but don't succumb to the urge to bake them a little longer. They tighten up quite a bit as they cool and become soft and chewy and -

Sorry. I stopped to dunk one in a cup of tea.

Give these a try. I think you'll like them.

Bake at 350 degrees for 13 minutes. They'll puff up beautifully and little cracks will form on the tops of the cookies which makes them look extremely cool. (Okay, so I'm easily amused.)


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