Vegan Apple Walnut Hermit Cookies (No Eggs or Dairy)
How Do You Make a Vegan Hermit Cookie?
I have long adored the multiple textures and flavours jammed into a little soft cookie called a "hermit."
When my grandmother made hermits, she used molasses as part of the sweetening. I think that a little molasses might be a great addition to this cookie, and if I experiment further with this vegan (that is, no eggs or dairy or lard or other animal-based ingredients) recipe, I would try a little molasses in lieu of the maple syrup I used in this rendition.
However, the maple syrup and the coconut nectar sugar (you can substitute brown sugar if you like) make it just the sort of sweet I enjoy.
My grandmother's hermit was spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and stuffed with walnuts and dates. This particular recipe uses only cinnamon and nutmeg as the spices, and I have added chunks of apple to the walnuts and dates.
Storage: Why They're Called "Hermits"
In the tradition of old German cookie recipes, like pfeffernuss or pepper nuts, a Christmas treat recipe that my German mother-in-law let me in on (too bad I was so young and distracted—and probably uninterested— to actually learn her recipe), the hermit cookie is said to improve over time.
These cookies were apparently hidden away in tins in the monastery (or wherever they were first named) for the individuals who lived hidden away, doing their contemplative spiritual practice on their lonesomes. (For more information about human hermits, scroll down below the recipe.) This particular hermit cookie is best hidden away in a freezer if you want to keep the cookies unmolested for a couple of weeks.
The instructions below are written both for the baker making cookies "from scratch" with traditional tools and, alternatively, for persons using a Kitchen Aid standing mixer.
Prep and Baking Time
- 4 cups all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour)
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon fine ground sea salt
- 3/4 cup coconut oil, extra virgin, melted
- 3 cups coconut sugar (or packed brown sugar)
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 2 flax eggs: 2 tablespoons flax meal, 5 tablespoons water
- 2 cups chopped walnuts
- 2 cups chopped apples
- 2 cups chopped dates
- In a small dish, mix up the flax egg: Stir together flax meal and water until it is a smooth, glutenous texture and put aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
- Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Alternatively, spray with cooking oil.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. (If using a Kitchen Aid mixer, with bowl raised, use whisk attachment on Stir to combine—about 20 to 30 seconds.)
- In another large mixing bowl, combine and stir together: coconut oil, flax egg, sugar, and maple syrup. (Switch to the cooking paddle in your Kitchen Aid Mixer, raise bowl, and stir the above together for about 30 seconds.)
- Stir in flour and mix well. (Continuing with cooking paddle in Kitchen Aid, gently stir in the flour—about 20 to 30 seconds—and then increase the speed to about 3 for about 2 minutes until well mixed.)
- Fold in the dates, apples, and walnut pieces. (In Kitchen Aid bowl, add dates, apples and nuts, and on "Stir" only, fold the dates, apples and walnut pieces into the batter.)
- Drop rounded teaspoons-ful of cookie batter onto the pans, about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart.
- Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, checking around the 8-minute mark. Cool completely on a rack. They are good warm, but they are even better on Day #2 or #3 if kept in a tin or the fridge. Beyond a couple of days, freeze.
Sometimes the idea of living as a hermit appeals to all of us. No demands, no needs, no pain, no disappointments. But that is because we have been hurt, are worn out.— John Eldridge
Real Hermits: Then and Now
Hermits, as regularly understood in our Western society, are Christians who secluded themselves away for a deeper, more contemplative walk with God. Early writings about hermits present them as belonging to a monastic community, or, earlier, individuals alone who wandered in the wilderness or lived very secluded, prayer-focused lives.
Individuals living an ascetic lifestyle also have a history in Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Islam. Some hermits were held up as wise men and were sought by those wishing to increase their spirituality or needing worldly advice. Some hermits were so popular that they drew crowds of seekers, which destroyed their original goal of peaceful seclusion.
Where Hermits Lived
There were several sorts of early Christian (Catholic) accommodations for hermits. Some orders of monks had clusters of small cells where the hermits lived, praying and gathering occasionally with the community for prayers and meals. Other early hermits, such as "the Desert Fathers," earned a little income to cover their needs by weaving baskets.
City gatekeepers and ferrying boat operators were often recognized hermits, sanctioned by the Church for these duties, and actually seen as being 'saints' by the 11th century.
A few years ago, I was surprised to discover that a Benedictine monastery (also a College) near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, still had a hermitage on their grounds where a 'certified' hermit lived. One of my workmates told me about it.
Even more surprising, and quite alluring to me as an introvert, is the information that I found about modern "lay person" hermits that live in voluntary solitude from others—although some of them are married, so I guess the solitude is a relative term.
Examples of Modern Hermits
Although some of the hermits of today are religious persons (eg., former nuns), many hermits are folks who have chosen to live a minimalist lifestyle "away from the madding crowd". While the religious hermits still tend to focus their lives upon spiritual contemplation, including prayer, they also serve in many ways that are reminders of the role nuns used to play in days gone by: voluntarily performing acts of kindness and mercy to the aged and homeless, or writing, among other solitary roles.
A famous hermit is a Japanese man, 82, who lived as the only resident on an Island until health brought him back into the urban world. Here is an interesting recent article about modern-day hermits.
And then there are those hermits who were part of the "British Invasion" back in my Cold War youth . . .