Sunday, November 1, 2015

#Marblehead town cookie... "the Joe Froggers"

The low down on the fabled Joe Froggers cookie....

photography: shelley anderson

The stories of origin for the beloved 200+ year old molasses-spiced cookie are so varied that I decided to embrace the one published on our town website; And, add a few embellishments I found elsewhere. Truth is in the story, eh?  I literally live 2 1/2 blocks from Old Black Joe Brown's Tavern and pond on Gingerbread Hill where Auntie Crese (short for Lucretia, Joe's wife)  fried up her smokin' spiced cookies. Joseph Brown was a revolutionary war patriot and  freed slave and ran the tavern along with Aunt Crese.  I have walked past the spot many times and ice-skated with my children on the pond where I have seen giant goldfish swimming beneath the ice (though never have I seen a giant frog there).   Folklore says that these cookies lasted such a long time that sailors would take them in barrels on their seafaring journeys. And, thankfully, the ginger in the cookies would bring peace to queasy sailor tummies. My guess {key word: guess} as to why they lasted so well is because they were pretty much preserved with rum and in the original recipe, seawater.  Auntie Crese would ladle her batter and it would unevenly spread across the fry pan making legs until the batter resembled a giant frog. Hence Joe's Frogs aka Joe Froggers.  Another story claims the Joe Froggers cookie looked like and was the size of a lily pad lending a name in part as an ode to the giant frogs living in the pond.  I like both versions.   

Joe Froggers

Total Time: 40 ∙ makes 4 dozen ∙ original source
*the recipe blow reflects revisions by S.Anderson

  • 1/3 cup plus plus 2 1/2 tbsp dark rum (I revised original recipe to use all Gosling's Bermuda Black Rum & no water)
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt 
  • 1  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened, plus more for baking sheets
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsulphured dark molasses

Revision from Yankee Magazine recipe by Shelley Anderson 9/18/13.

Measure and warm the rum. Microwaving is good.

In a large bowl, whisk together 3 cups flour with the baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar with a stand mixer until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Add rum to creamed mixture and beat well. ( It is very wet now.) Add one-third of the flour mixture and mix on stir setting, then mix in half the molasses, scraping down the sides as you go. Repeat with an additional third of the flour mixture and the remaining molasses. Finally, add the rest of the flour mixture. If dough seems too loose, add the extra 1/2 cup flour (a little at a time).

Divide the dough in half. Shape the dough halves into large balls and cover with plastic wrap. Chill at least 45 minutes and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 355° convection (375 non-convection) and line 2 full size baking sheets with parchment (4, half size sheets).

Yes, this is a purple scoop, but the bigger cookies need the larger red scoop.

Variation: I chilled the bowl of dough overnight. Then I scooped with a red scoop (1.33oz.) for uniform cookie size, rolled the scooped dough into a ball, then pressed them with the bottom of a glass until they were about 1/2" thick.  (I sprayed the bottom of the glass with pan spray then dipped it in sugar and pressed the cookie.  The sugar keeps the dough from sticking to the bottom of the glass.) This method achieved a very nice 3 3/4 - 4 inch cookie. Sprinkle with regular caster or demarara sugar before baking and maybe a little more when they are  fresh/hot out of the oven, or sift xxx sugar on top after they have cooled.

Demerara is wite sugar bathed in molasses which is why its such a great choice for sprinkling.  

Other baking options:
There are two other options for shaping the cookies: On a floured surface, you can roll the dough out to a 1/2-inch thickness and use a floured 2 or 3 inch cookie cutter or drinking glass to cut the dough into rounds. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies. Alternately, you can skip the rolling and instead break walnut-sized pieces of dough and roll them into balls between your palms. Arrange the balls on the baking sheet and put some granulated sugar into a bowl. Press the bottom of a drinking glass into the sugar, then press it onto each ball of dough, flattening it before baking.

Bake the cookies until they have set and start to break/krinkle-ize on top; about 9 minutes. Cookies will be chewy to the tooth.  Bake a bit longer if you would like a crunchy cookie. 

Allow the baked cookies to rest on cookie sheet for a few minutes then move to wire racks until cool. 

Enjoy this royal colonial cookie and it's heritage from 
Marblehead, Masssachusetts -

 Birthplace of the American Navy.

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