Books For Cooks: Hermit Drop Cookies

By MaryAnn Miano

It’s that time of the year again: time to bake cookies! If you love traditional cooking during the holidays, take a look at The Christmas Cookbook by Zella Boutell, available for checkout from the Colts Neck Library’s Catherine Henning Collection. This book is a treasure of holiday recipes, from cookies, cakes, and breads to candies, pies, and puddings. It is bulging with hundreds of recipes, and it even gives the reader complete menu suggestions for roasts and side dishes.

At this time of year, families are enjoying the festivities and are busy baking cookies for parties and as gifts. On cookies alone, the book contains over 125 recipes! The author gives encyclopedic information and design ideas, using diagrams for cookie shapes. She explains how to use pastry bags for decorating them. Ms. Boutell states that drop, icebox, and bar cookies are the easiest of all to make, and they keep well.

The comprehensiveness of the chapters gives the book a basic, year-round use in creating distinctive desserts and confections.  You will never be at a loss for a different kind of cake, pie, or homemade candy. If you’d like to try your hand at candy-making, you can become a master after perusing that chapter. Nut brittles, taffy, nougat, fudge, and marzipan recipes are all there.

The author rightly suggests that the spirit of Christmas can be achieved by making things together, rather than buying impersonal gifts. Christmas gifts of food can be as simple or as complicated as your time, budget, and experience permit; the idea is that you have taken the effort to make something for someone. Cookie making is the Christmas memory that will linger, because it is a family project, and children enjoy working with the dough and decorating the cookies.

To get started on inspiring your own family memories, try the following recipe:


1 cup butter

2 cups brown sugar

3 eggs

3 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon allspice

¼ cup honey

1 teaspoon lemon juice or brandy

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped dates

1 cup white raisins

½ cup quartered red candied cherries

½ cup quartered green candied cherries

½ cup candied pineapple

¼ cup chopped citron (optional)

2 cups chopped walnuts (other nuts may be substituted)

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time; beat for 3 or 4 minutes after each addition. Sift together the dry ingredients. Combine the honey, lemon juice, and vanilla and add in small amounts to the butter mixture, alternately with the sifted dry ingredients. Fold in the prepared fruits and nuts and drop by teaspoonful onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Makes about 10 dozen cookies.

Recipe from The Christmas Cookbook, Page 46, By Zella Boutell: The Viking Press. 1953.