I don’t like fall. In my mind it has no redeeming qualities. It’s the bridge season to winter. Yikes! Winter! If there’s anything worse than fall, it’s winter. But my problems with winter are a post for another day. Fall has its own unique issues. The chilly temperatures that have already resulted in my winter coat making its return. Speaking of which, said coat covers all my pretty clothes. My sandals have to be stored away until warmth returns. The seemingly constant rain is depressing. And when it’s not raining, it’s cloudy. Bye, sun, see you in May 2013. The leaves fall off the trees, turning what has felt like an isolated oasis back into the neighborhood house I actually live in. The pretty flowers fade away to nothingness, as I try to coax the last few to stay around. The fresh, local produce, it’s gone too. Fall, well, it’s just depressing.
But, there’s one thing I kind of love about fall. You won’t tell anyone I’m admitting it’s not totally without merit, right? The leaves changing color makes everything else a little better. They’re stunning, making the trees often prettier than when they’re green. Yellows, oranges, and, reds, my favorite, fill the trees and skylines, showcasing the unbelievable beauty of nature.
One tree in particular sits right in front of our house. It was never Mom’s favorite tree, but now it has grown and is beautiful year around, never more so than in October, as it begins turning bright orange from the top down. On the off chance the sun has decided to grace us with its presence, when it hits that tree in the late morning, the orange reflects right in our big front window, the tree itself gleaming in the sunlight. No matter how cold it may be outside (and sometimes inside as I resist the urge to turn on the heat for the first time), I feel warm. And just for that moment, fall isn’t so bad. But then the leaves vanish even more quickly than they changed color, and it’s back to reality.
Iced Hermits remind me of fall with their spicy flavor, except they’re a lot better than fall. I’ve made these a few times now, and my enjoyment of them has only increased the more I make them. They begin with a spicy bar cookie loaded with plump, sweet raisins, and spicy crystallized ginger, one of my all-time favorite foods. I’m picky about my crystallized ginger and only like the kind from Williams Sonoma by The Ginger People. It’s so good! The bars by themselves are amazing. Which is good because when I made them to take to my friends at the dermatologist office I may not have had time to make the glaze. Sorry, guys! I have to say the glaze is pretty awesome though. It takes only a few minutes to make and is addictively good. Together, the bars and glaze, along with more crystallized ginger, are the perfect treat for the chilly fall.
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
- 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup raisins
- ½ cup crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
- 1 ¼ cups packed dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk (I used skim)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar (more if needed)
- ½ cup crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped
- Make the bars. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a rimmed baking sheet about 10 by 15 inches, line it with parchment, and butter the parchment.
- In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and salt. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. I did this by hand, but a hand or stand mixer would work as well. Add the eggs and maple syrup and beat until once again light and fluffy. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Add the raisins and crystallized ginger, mixing only until distributed throughout.
- Spread the dough in the prepared pan and bake, rotating halfway through, until firm to the touch, slightly cracked, and a toothpick comes out with only a few moist crumbs, 18-22 minutes. Cool completely in pan.
- When completely cooled, make the glaze. In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, milk, and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until the butter is melted and sugar dissolved. This should only take a few moments. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in vanilla and confectioners’ sugar ½ cup at a time. Continue adding confectioners’ sugar until the glaze is thick, yet spreadable. Drizzle glaze over bars immediately so it does not harden. Sprinkle with crystallized ginger and allow glaze to set. Once the glaze is firm, cut and serve.
- May be stored at room temperature for up to 5 days, or frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for a couple hours.