Daboo’s Hermits

Daboo’s Hermits

My intention was for this to be a recipe post. But, goodness gracious, this recipe has unlocked a lot of questions instead. Firstly, I think I’m right that my mother called her grandmother Daboo. This would have been her mother’s mother. Her father was an orphan. (Family legend always wondered if he was Native American. He and my mother were very black-haired and there is apparently an old photograph of my grandfather looking very possibly-not-white. Modern DNA technology testing on me indicates that he must have been pretty Irish. I’ve turned up nearly 50% Irish even though it’s not a gene pool that we’ve ever talked about much in my family. And Dad does not have this level of Irish in him. Makes it a little bit spooky that they named me Molly, doesn’t it?)

Anyway, back to Daboo. I know my grandmother was raised in New York City, Brooklyn specifically. She even went to college there, way back when not many women did that. It was her college graduation picture and my high school graduation picture side by side on mom’s mantle that confirmed that I am actually a member of this family since I really don’t look much like either of my parents. (Again, spooky, because my legal name is hers.) She married a military man (the orphan, from the midwest) and never again lived on the east coast so I never think of that side of my family being from the Northeast. But Daboo’s Hermits had me using the Google machine and it turns out that the Hermit is a very traditional New England cookie.

As is typical of old recipes, what I have in mom’s cookbook is a handwritten list of ingredients and an oven temperature. Not even a time for how long they should be baked. Nothing about the order in which to mix things together. And I kind of appreciate this, sometimes I think modern cookbooks have gone too far the other way, telling me how and when to do every tiny element of working with ingredients to combine them correctly into a batter or dough.

On the other hand, this means I don’t have any idea what Daboo expected from these cookies. Google tells me these are often a bar cookie. I assumed, since they were called a cookie in mom’s recipe book, that they must have been made as individual cookies so I made a batch of balled drop cookies. Daboo does not mention any dried fruit, but every Googled recipe does. Does this mean it got left out when the recipe was written down? Did Daboo not like raisins and so the thing that made this recipe hers is that there was no dried fruit? Maybe it was Daboo’s husband or children that didn’t like weird chewy things in their cookies? I know my mother liked raisins so she wouldn’t have left them out intentionally.

HermitsThen there is the matter of the one cup of Crisco at the top of the recipe. Now, I do have Crisco in the house because I have a couple of pie crust recipes that call for a mix of Crisco and butter. And one favorite cake recipe that also wants a combo. But, in general, I think we as a country have moved away from Crisco in baking recipes. So I swapped in butter instead. Is this the right choice? I don’t know. Google tells me I can do this but that the water content of butter will alter the final consistency of my baked good. But since I don’t know what they should be like in the end, I have no idea what I should be looking for! It’s like never-ending string!

The results: My cookies are tasty, perhaps not quite as spice filled as I would choose, so I think I’d bump that up a bit. Or add molasses. And they are lovely looking, simple and circular. But cakey in consistency. This is personal preference, but I want a cookie to be chewy or crunchy or a little of both. So I need to figure out what is going on in my recipe that is creating this consistency. This then led to another thought diversion about how recipes are constantly changing and adapting to new cooks and new ideas and isn’t that kind of the magic of cooking?

And so you see I am left with a lot more questions than I started with and not a resounding success on the cookie front. Back to the drawing board. Maybe a little more rooting around in family history and some more time in the kitchen and I’ll be back someday with a recipe. Maybe we’ll call them Molly’s Hermits next time.

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