Date-Nut Hermit Cookies

October 26, 2007

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These are called ‘hermits’ because the date-nut filling hides in a little cave of cookie dough like a hermit in the rocks. Emily’s family has been making them since time immemorial. Taste one, and you’ll see why. SAM

1/2 cup shortening
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons ice water

Date-Nut Filling
1 pound pitted dates
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon cognac
1/2 cup chopped pecans

With an electric mixer, thoroughly cream the shortening and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add the vanilla. In another bowl, combine the flour, nutmeg, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt and add to the shortening mixture alternately with enough ice water to form a medium stiff dough. Form the dough into a cylinder 1 1/2 inches in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 3 hours.

While the dough is chilling, make the Date-Nut Filling. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the dates, sugar, water, and cognac. Cook, stirring frequently, until smooth and thick. Remove from the heat and add the pecans. Cool.

To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Slice the dough into 1/4-inch rounds and place 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of filling on each slice and top with a second slice of dough. Bake for 10 minutes, or until just golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Makes 5 dozen cookies.