Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Aunt Hattie's Hermits

As a child, one of my favorite dessert treats was "Aunt Hattie's Hermits," a raisin-filled spice cookie in bar form. But all those years, I never knew who Aunt Hattie was. Later, as the family historian, I had collected all the impersonal, cold hard facts about Henrietta Josephine Wenz. It was many years before I ever saw her photograph. Now she seems like an old friend! She was born in Acquackanouk, Passaic, New Jersey in 1878, lived with her older brother, my great-grandfather, in 1930, never married, and worked as a housekeeper until she died in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1943. She is buried in an unmarked grave in Mountain View Cemetery in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.

I believe the recipe came from her father, Philip Henry Wenz, a German immigrant to New York and New Jersey, who was listed as a confectioner, baker or cook in various censuses and city directories from 1875 to 1902. The photo below is believed to be of Philip’s bakery wagon in Passaic.

Here is her recipe for Hermits:
Cream together:
¾ cup shortening or butter        ½ cup molasses
1 ½ cups granulated sugar        2 eggs
 Combine and add to mix:
¼ cup warm water                    1 teaspoon baking soda
 Combine and add to mix:
3 ½ cups flour                          ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon    ½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger         ½ teaspoon ground cloves
¾ cup raisins                            ½ cup chopped nuts (optional)

 Spread in greased shallow baking pan or jelly-roll pan and bake at 375° for about 35-45 minutes.