Some of us out there LOVE fruitcake. Yes, it’s true. Fruitcake, at least in America, has a horrible reputation. Jokes are made during the holidays about throwing fruitcakes at people’s windows, “re-gifting” the same fruitcake year after year, and since no one ever eats them, no one notices that it is the same cake, and making nasty remarks about having to eat “Uncle Homer’s” fruitcake like it was worse than getting hit by a truck or contracting Small Pox! What a terrible thing to do with this traditional holiday treat! I’m changing all that with this cookie.
The 9th Day of Christmas Cookie’s brings you Hermit Cookies with Penuche Frosting.
The origins of fruitcake begin in ancient Roman times. According to Wikipedia:
The earliest recipe from ancient Rome lists pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins that were mixed into barley mash. In the Middle Ages, honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added.
Fruit cakes soon proliferated all over Europe. Recipes varied greatly in different countries throughout the ages, depending on the available ingredients as well as (in some instances) church regulations forbidding the use of butter, regarding the observance of fast. Pope Innocent VIII (1432–1492) finally granted the use of butter, in a written permission known as the ‘Butter Letter’ or Butter brief in 1490, giving permission to Saxony to use milk and butter in the North German Stollen fruit cakes.
Starting in the 16th century, Sugar from the American Colonies (and the discovery that high concentrations of sugar could preserve fruits) created an excess of candied fruit, thus making fruit cakes more affordable and popular.
Fruitcakes are still popular in British society, and are frequently used as wedding cakes and served at Christmas time. My own sister-in-law had a fruitcake for her wedding cake, topped with an Owl and a Pussycat from the children’s poem. Her husband is a British South African, and although the marriage took place in the United States, they still adopted the tradition of the fruitcake for their wedding.
The Hermit cookie is a spin off of the fruitcake in a more manageable and portable package. This cookie has the deep molasses and spice flavor of the fruitcake, with raisins, candied ginger, and candied fruits and peels that fruitcake is so famous for. Nuts can also be added to the cookies, but I have not included them in mine (this time). I have topped my Hermit cookies with a thick drizzle of brown sugar frosting that hardens into a penuche fudge like consistency. The frosting is not necessary, and my husband prefers the Hermits plain. Either way, these cookies are actually better if left to sit for at least two to three days, making them the perfect cookie for sending to friends and family.
HERMIT COOKIES WITH PENUCHE FROSTING (GLUTEN FREE)
- 1/2 Cup Butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 1/4 Cups Brown Sugar, tightly packed
- 1 Cup Brown Rice Flour
- 1/2 Cup Coconut Flour
- 1/4 Cup Arrowroot Starch
- 3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
- 3/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1 Tablespoon Ground Ginger
- 1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon Ground Cloves
- 1 Large Egg + 1 Egg Yolk
- 1/4 Cup Dark Molasses
- 1/2 Cup Candied Ginger, cut into small dice
- 1/2 Cup Raisins
- 1/4 Cup Candied Fruit and Peel Mix (the kind used in fruitcakes)
Preheat the oven to 350. Butter a piece of parchment paper that measures 10″ X 15″, and place it on a cookie sheet. In a medium bowl, place brown rice flour, coconut flour, and arrowroot starch. Mix with a whisk or fork until combined. Add baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and cloves. Mix thoroughly.
In another bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar together, making sure that no lumps remain. Add the egg, egg yolk, and molasses. Stir together thoroughly. Gradually add the flour/spice mixture until ti is fully incorporated. Batter will be thick. Stir in candied ginger, raisins, and candied fruit/peel mixture.
Spread the dough evenly onto the buttered prepared parchment paper, pressing down with moistened fingers.
If you would like the cookies less crispy, do not spread all the way to the edges of the parchment.
Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet half way through baking. The dough should be firm, but not overbaked and hard. Cool on baking sheet placed on a cooling rack. When the cookies are fully cooled, cut into 2″ squares with a large knife, and prepare frosting.
- 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar. Packed tightly
- 2 Tablespoons Whipping or Heavy Cream
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- 1 Cup Sifted Powdered Sugar
In a small saucepan. stir together the brown sugar, cream and butter. Heat on medium heat stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved, and butter is melted. Take mixture off of heat and add the powdered sugar, stirring until smooth. Working quickly, drizzle the warm frosting over the cookies in a thin stream. If the frosting is too thick to drizzle, add a little more cream, 1 teaspoon at a time, or if frosting is too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar. Reheat the frosting over low heat stirring constantly if frosting hardens too fast (you may need to add more cream). Let frosting set completely before storing in a single layer in an airtight container.
It is said that “Hermits” got their name in early colonial America because of the way they looked like the sack cloth that hermits wore, or perhaps because it was best to leave these cookies alone… like hermits, for a few days before eating. Either way, I hope you enjoy these fruity, gingery, spicy, chewy cookies this holiday season. I personally think we all need a little ‘fruitcake’ in our lives now and then.
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