Purpose and Wonder

Thanksgiving came and went in a flash. It’s always so odd how we think and plan and make lists and have dreams about rolling out pie dough…and then it’s all old news. I hope your day was relaxing and wonderful. Wasn’t the long weekend incredible? I took a photography class on Saturday, and we meandered around the Mission shooting murals, rusty cars, and cafes. I don’t often get the chance (or take the chance) to really slow down and notice the stray dandelions growing in the sidewalk cracks or the way a bike is leaned precariously against a red garage door. I noticed these things on Saturday. I came home knowing all about histograms, setting a custom white balance, and organizing photos in Lightroom. But more than that, I had an opportunity to spend the whole day slowing down and exploring alleys, graffiti, and community gardens. I went home feeling nourished.

We all focus so much on nourishing or feeding our bodies during Thanksgiving–but it’s important to think about what nourishes and keeps the rest of you going, too. What excites you, inspires you, makes you want to wake up in the early hours of the morning and hit “go?” Lately for me, it’s my photography, stunning books like A Year of Mornings, the way the afternoon light shines into my bedroom and how my dog Maddie knows exactly where to find it, knit hats, blogs like this and this and this, drops of eggnog in my coffee, routine, linen napkins.

So although Thanksgiving’s over and we’re replacing it with a new holiday…
maintaining that sense of slowness, curiosity, nourishment, and wonder is something I’m going to keep with me this season. And with that, I leave you a lovely recipe for gingery Hermit Bars. While I can’t guarantee they’ll light your inspirational fire and keep it stoked throughout the Christmas season, they will make you smile for at least one afternoon. That’s big around here lately.

The dough for these bars is extremely easy, and because of the molasses and the spices, it smells and tastes a bit like gingerbread–except more moist and buttery. They originated in New England and are best after being hidden away for a day or two (thus the name) so that the flavors have a chance to really develop. I’ll admit, I always have at least one pretty much right out of the oven and I think they’re just lovely that way, too. Pour yourself a cup of spiced orange tea or cider, cut a Hermit Bar, and draw up a list of what nourishes you lately. Then, keep it in your pocket through the hustle and bustle that awaits us all.

Hermit Bars With Brown-Sugar Icing and Candied Ginger

Hermit Bars With Brown-Sugar Icing and Candied Ginger

  • Yield: 12 large 3-4 inch squares
  • Prep time: 15 mins
  • Cook time: 20 mins
  • Total time: 35 mins

Adapted from: Martha Stewart Living 


Hermit Bars:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan, room temperature
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/4 cups packed dark-brown sugar
1 large whole egg
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup chopped candied ginger, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Brown Sugar Icing 

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. milk
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup sifted confectioners sugar, plus more if needed


Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 10-by-15 inch baking pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the parchment, and set pan aside. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium speed until smooth. Add sugar; beat until light and fluffy. Bean in egg, yolk, and molasses.

Add flour mixture; beat on low until just combined. Add 1/2 of the candied ginger and all of the raisins and beat to combine. Spread dough evenly into the prepared pan, and bake until firm to touch, 18-22 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Remove from oven and cool in pan before icing.

Make the icing: Combine brown sugar, milk, and butter in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the butter has dissolved. Remove from heat, and whisk in vanilla and confectioner’s sugar. If the icing’s too thick to drizzle, add a bit more milk. If too then, more confectioners sugar. Let cool slightly before using (but remember, you’re drizzling it, so don’t allow to harden).

Drizzle with icing, and then sprinkle remaining ginger on top of bars. Let stand until icing has set, then cut into squares and serve.


  1. Sarah, Maison Cupcake

    Hope you had a great thanksgiving. Love these bars, the brown sugar icing looks very nice at that jaunty angle. Pumpkins look wonderful too.

  2. El

    I love hermits but have never found a good recipe. This recipe looks excellent. And I'm definitely with you on having a slow, relaxed holiday...

  3. Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite

    Another thoughtful, beautifully written post and, of course, beautiful photos. PLUS, a wonderful recipe :-)

  4. Kelsey B.

    Your photography gets better every day, I love it! It makes me wish I had better natural light in our apartment... and that I lived in San Fran where there is better light altogether!!

  5. Tia

    they look fantastic!!!

  6. Anonymous

    Thanks for this lovely post and the reminder to really "nourish" ourselves. Your photographs are lovely and so is the recipe.

  7. Megan Gordon

    Thank you for the photo compliments Sarah, Mardi, and Kelsey! Very sweet.

    And El: this is a really solid recipe. I promise. Give it a go.

  8. Lucy

    The photography course sounds like a gorgeous way to spend a Saturday - plus your photos are all beautiful! The hermit bars look delicious, not sure if I would be able to resist them when hidden away :)

  9. Justin

    i think i'd opt for more icing and a little less ginger, but these sound great

  10. Megan Gordon

    Yes, Justin: more frosting's always a good thing in my book!

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