I had never had a real, homemade hermit cookie until I tried one that my friend Denise had made. Denise is a great baker, as is her mother, Ruth, who gave me this recipe. My copy is handwritten on the back of a card announcing the Olde Chiltonville Antiques Festival at the Chiltonville Congregational Church in Plymouth, Massachusetts. If you're unfamiliar with hermits, they're very gently spiced, chewy cookies that are often made with raisins and/or nuts. The only respectable store-bought hermits I've ever had are from the amazing general store Gillingham's in Woodstock, Vermont. This recipe makes about two dozen hermits; stored in an airtight container, they'll keep for at least a week.

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a medium bowl, blend the butter with the 1 cup of sugar, the egg and the molasses. Mix all of the dry ingredients together, add them to the bowl and mix well. Mix in the raisins and the nuts, if using. Divide the dough into thirds. Using well-moistened hands, roll each third of the dough into a long og about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Arrange 2 of the logs on a large rimmed baking sheet, leaving space between them for spreading. Place the third log on another large rimmed baking sheet. Using moistened hands, flatten the logs to a 3/4-inch thickness. Generously sprinkle the logs with sugar. Bake until the dough is no longer shiny and cracks appear on the surface, about 10 minutes; the dough may appear undercooked. Let cool on the baking sheet and cut crosswise into bars.