Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Add raisins and water to a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until soft (approx. 20 minutes).
Drain water from the saucepan into a measuring cup. Add water to make ½ C (if the drained water equals or is greater than ½ C, disregard this step).
Combine shortening, egg, and sugar. Beat until smooth.
Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt.
Add raisin water and flour mixture to wet ingredients.
Add raisins and mix until just combined.
Spread on a large, lightly greased cookie sheet. The dough should be evenly spread across the whole sheet, approx. ¼-½” thick. A spatula can help, but I use my hands for this part. Holes might appear in the sheet of dough during spreading - pack with surrounding dough until the cookie sheet is entirely covered, then pat flat.
Bake for 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees.
Optional: ice cookie while warm with confectioner’s sugar icing.
**To make confectioner’s sugar icing:
Mix sugar, vanilla, and milk 1 tablespoon at a time until spreadable (mixture will thicken slightly as it sets)
Allow the cookie to cool for 20-25 minutes. Slice into bars and serve.
When this cookie first became popular during the Great Depression, it was because it was cheap and easy to make. No bells, whistles, or frills. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, a simple cookie like this is a great place to experiment with new flavors. Substitute raisins for dried cranberries, blueberries, dates, or apples - or mix and match! For a chai latte twist, add cardamom, a pinch of black pepper, and double up on the cloves. Chopped pecans, almonds, or walnuts offer a crunchy addition to the soft cookie.
Mashed banana adds a light fruity flavor with a richer, more moist dough. And of course, there’s always the tried and true: chocolate chips.
Remember if you’re adding wet ingredients, the cookie might need longer to bake all the way through. Bake for 20 minutes. If the cookie seems soft or still looks wet, leave in the oven and check every 1-2 minutes until the cookie appears firm and set.
For a thicker, bread-like raisin bar, double the recipe and use the same size sheet (spreading the dough to be ½-1” thick). Bake for the same amount of time for a light, fluffy dessert that resembles coffee cake in flavor and texture. (Yes, we’ve tried it with hot coffee - we approve. We insist you try it, honestly.)