Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Healthy Hermit Bars

Have you ever tasted a hermit cookie? You probably have, even if you didn't call it that. Chock full of dried fruit (usually raisins) and nuts, around here they're more commonly called Lassy Mogs. Lots of other names for essentially the same thing abound too: "Molasses Spice Cookies with Raisins", "Spice and Raisin Cookies" and even simply "Molasses Raisin Cookies" all describe the soft, spicy cookies sweetened (for the most part) with molasses and Demerara sugar.

Hermits have a history, too - said to date back to the late 1800's, New England sailors would find these packed for them on their journeys by their (clearly understanding!) wives because they traveled so well. Likely, the heavy spices could cover up any "edging on rancid" nut taste from extended storage, not to mention the economical and widely available molasses and tree nuts (usually walnuts, butternuts and hickory nuts) were a natural inclusion in many recipes. While probably not considered by these sailor wives, the bittersweet flavour from the molasses and raisins was probably enhanced greatly by the sea air they would be exposed to on the water - especially since salt was still a bit of a high-priced item on the store shelves.

Now, I love myself a good hermit cookie, but I am admittedly one of the laziest-slash-easily exhausted people that I know. I realize that cookies are fast, (usually) cheap, portable and easy to divide, but they can have the added hassle of extra utensils, chilling and the seemingly always-present worry around here that the end product will be too soft or crunchy, or spread all over the place because something wasn't quite right. I'm working on getting over my cookie anal-ness, but I will almost always choose to make a bar version if it's available. And luckily, with hermits, there is!

Since the batch was going to come with my mom on a work trip out East, bars made the most sense. Bars in a foil pan could avoid breakage, mess and eventual waste, and with the disposable pan Mom wouldn't have to worry about carting that back too. I "amped up" the healthy factor of these (already relatively nutritious) cookie-bars by using 100% whole grain flour, Omega rich flaxseed, almonds and walnuts, and magnesium rich molasses and Demerara sugar. To make them "workplace friendly" (plus its what my old hermit recipe called for) a shot of good strong coffee made it in too. I emptied my baker spice cabinet and went to town - concocting a rich, delectable, and dare I say - nutritious - coffee break treat.

While these aren't gluten free, they are vegan, and I'm going to pass the recipe along to the Vegan OR Gluten-Free Recipe Swap. This event is being hosted by My Vegan Gluten Free LifeConfessions of an Overworked Mom and This Flourishing Life and runs for the month of August.

Healthy Hermit Bars
Serves 12
2 tbsp ground flax seed
1/3 cup hot coffee
2 tbsp soft coconut oil
2 tbsp Demerara sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup fancy (or blackstrap) molasses
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/3 cup raisins, soaked in hot water and drained
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup chopped almonds
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line a 9" pan with parchment.
  2. Whisk together the flaxseed and coffee in a small bowl. Let stand 10 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl beat together oil, sugar, salt and molasses until well combined.
  4. Add vanilla and the flax mixture and beat in well.
  5. Stir in the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and cardamom until well combined.
  6. Fold in the raisins and nuts.
  7. Spread in the pan and bake for 15-20 minutes (I usually do 18).
Amount Per Serving
 Calories: 136.8
Total Fat: 6.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 52.8 mg
Total Carbs: 19.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.2 g
Protein: 2.8 g

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