Chewy Hermit Bars

These chewy hermit bars are a revelation. They’re wonderfully spicy, plumped with raisins, and amazingly chewy–even fudge-like. The classic Colonial American treat meets the 21st century.

A tray of chewy hermit bars

Adapted from King Arthur Baking Company | The King Arthur Baking Company Essential Cookie Companion | Countryman Press, 2021

I grew up with hermit bars. The cookie kind, not the human kind. I liked them well enough, but they never seduced me. Oreos, Kebbler Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Pepperidge Farm Brussels, on the other hand, knew how to flirt. Flashes of chocolate, indecent amounts of creamy fillings, that rapscallion crunch. Hermit bars, on the other hand, had only raisins to boast about. We’d see them at homely farmstands and at really uninspired bake sales for the debate club. But they never made it to the snack table at the cool kids’ parties, like the kind Donna Doane and Bobby Heron threw.

When this recipe from the King Arthur Baking Company Essential Cookie Companion crossed my desk I nearly passed on it. But everyone went on and on about how chewy and almost fudge-like the bars were. Had they somehow elevated the humble hermit bar to something fashionable? Something retro-camp-deluxe? I had to try.

A tray of chewy hermit bars

To say these are “good” is doing them a grave injustice. Calling them “great” is an understatement. These were so exceptional, The One took immediate ownership of them and–are you ready–snuck them out of the house and absconded with them to the city when I wasn’t paying attention. And keep in mind, this is the guy who turns up his nose at dessert if it doesn’t have chocolate or pumpkin in it. So that speaks volumes.

The folks at King Arthur Baking Company are my new knights in shining armor (said in my best tremulous Katherine Hepburn voice).–David Leite

Chewy Hermit Bars FAQs

What can I substitute for the raisins?

I’ve used 2 cups of currants and, most recently, dried cranberries. Both worked beautifully. The cranberries did give these hermit bars a different taste.

All I have is blackstrap molasses. Can I use that?

I’m afraid not. Blackstrap molasses has a strong flavor and will overpower the balance of the bars. Stick to plain ole molasses.

How do I make sure these chewy hermit bars are, um, really chewy?

At about 15 to 20 minutes, the bars will puff up and the top will look shiny. That’s your sign to yank these immediately from the oven. You’ll think it’s too soon, but I promise you it’s not. You’ll be rewarded with chewy, almost fudge-like bars. Hubba hubba!

Chewy Hermit Bars

A tray of chewy hermit bars
Think of the most delicious hermit bar you ever ate, the moistest, chewiest, nicely spiced bar, with a crisp shiny top and dense center. Okay? This bar beats that one, we guarantee it. If you count molasses cookies, spice cake, or gingerbread—​any of the old-​fashioned, dark and spicy baked goods with their long international history—​among your favorites, you’ll love these bars.
King Arthur Baking Company

Prep 30 mins
Cook 15 mins
Total 45 mins
Dessert
American, New England
35 bars
233 kcal
3.67 / 3 votes
Print RecipeBuy the The King Arthur Baking Company Essential Cookie Companion cookbook

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Ingredients 

For the hermit bars

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening plus more for the pan
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 cups cake flour
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 cups raisins packed

For the glaze

  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions
 

Make the hermit bars

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly grease a 10- by 15-inch (25- by 38-cm) jelly roll pan, a 14-inch (35-cm) round deep-dish pizza pan, or similar-sized pan.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl using a , beat together the shortening, sugar, and butter, beating at medium speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the molasses, salt, allspice, cinnamon, and baking soda. Mix for 1 minute, then stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Mix in half the flour. Once it’s mixed in, add the water, then the other half of the flour. When the batter is mixed completely, add the raisins and stir until combined. Spread or press the batter in the prepared pan.
  • Bake the hermits until the edges are light brown, 15 to 20 minutes. They’ll puff up in the oven and the top will get shiny. As soon as you see this, pull the pan from the oven. The top will fall back down and the interior of the cookies will have an almost fudgy consistency. (If you leave them in the oven longer, you’ll get a product that’s more like a cake-type brownie, and it won’t be as moist and irresistible.) Remove the hermits from the oven and cool them in the pan on a rack before glazing.

Make the glaze

  • In a small bowl, stir together the milk and confectioners’ sugar until smooth; the glaze will be quite thin. Using a pastry brush, brush glaze on top of the hermits before cutting into bars.
Print RecipeBuy the The King Arthur Baking Company Essential Cookie Companion cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 233kcal (12%)Carbohydrates: 46g (15%)Protein: 3g (6%)Fat: 5g (8%)Saturated Fat: 2g (13%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 14mg (5%)Sodium: 113mg (5%)Potassium: 129mg (4%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 26g (29%)Vitamin A: 60IU (1%)Vitamin C: 1mg (1%)Calcium: 14mg (1%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Tasty, traditional chewy hermit bars. I got 49 bars, so I’m glad they are supposed to keep well. I used a 12-by-12-inch ovenproof baking dish which worked well. Next time, I might divide into 9-by 9-inch and an 8-by 8-inch pan and freeze one of them.

Having shared these chewy hermit bars with the neighborhood, I had someone eat all the bars before their spouse got home because they were so good they didn’t want to share. I had another offer to hire me to bake batches of these to give away as holiday gifts. Sure, in California these could just be novelty reactions to those who have never had (let alone heard of) hermit bars before, but I would argue this recipe is the best introduction someone could have.

What makes them so good? The key to success here is in the baking instructions: pulling from the oven as soon as the top is shiny and letting them collapse back onto themselves for a dense, fudge consistency. I lived in New England for 6 years, and the downfall of so many hermit bars is they are overcooked, taking on a cakey texture that dries out after the first day. These bars were still delicious on day five, though I’d recommend eating the edge pieces first and saving the center pieces for last, since they last the longest. These were everything I hoped for and I can finally give up my grail quest for a perfect recipe.

Originally published December 3, 2021

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Comments

  1. 3 stars
    Made these bars exactly as written using currants, Which was a fabulous choice as this allowed tiny little jewels of sweetness and flavor throughout. . I never did achieve the puffiness and shine. The flavor was good and the bars were a bit dense. They have kept so far for four days

  2. After reading the recipe and comments I was curious and decided to make these bars. Wow! They are addicting. The flavor only gets better. I did plump my raisins in hot water and drained them well before adding them to the batter. Otherwise I followed the recipe. Will be making them again.

  3. I remember my Mom loving hermit cookies – I think they were spicy, chewy cookies with walnuts – as well as spice cake. I won’t use shortening in any recipe; I recall her using huge globs of the white stuff to fry & bake, but the thought of it turns my stomach. So I’ll use all butter and halve the recipe the first time, in case it doesn’t turn out. Can’t wait to try these as soon as I buy some raisins.

    1. Thank you for your question, Flash. We haven’t tried the recipe with only butter but it should still work, although you may find the texture slightly different. Please let us know how they turn out.

  4. Just a note on how long these last – I tested this recipe in mid-November and ate the last hermit from that batch yesterday (12/4). It was still as chewy and delicious as it was fresh from the oven!

    1. Thanks, Lisa C! That’s great information, especially for our readers who live in households with just a few people or alone. Nothing’s gonna stop them from baking these lovelies, even on a whim!

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