Thursday, November 4, 2010

Uncle Joe, You Make The Best Cookies: Joe Froggers (Ginger, Rum, Molasses Cookies)

Don't you love things that are steeped in history? I do, especially when its food. For example, I can't wait to try an old recipe typed up on a typewriter by my Grandmother for Persimmon Cookies or there's the time I choose to make a champagne punch from the 1920's for my Great Gatsby party because using any recipe outside of that time period would be insulting. You smell what I'm cooking, right?

Well, my dear readers, I bring you another jewel-of-a-recipe that will satisfy your need for history and taste, Joe Froggers. "The cookies were first served in the early 1800s in a lively Marblehead tavern owned by Joseph Brown, a freed slave known as Black Joe (or Uncle Joe), who fought in the Revolution... According to more foodlore, the giant dark rounds gained their moniker because they resembled the frogs living in the pond behind Joe’s tavern, or perhaps because the traditional frogger is as round and flat as a lily pad... The cookies were popular traveling companions for generations of Marblehead mariners, as much for their taste as their ability to keep on long fishing voyages." (Read more here.)

Pretty cool, huh? 

Joe Froggers, have a very distinct flavor. They are very robust, due to the molasses, yet have a subtle kick to them from all the spices and rum. They're the type of cookies that will keep you warm on those chilly fall and winter nights. So if your into those kinda flavors, these might be your downfall, in a good way. And if your not, you will be.

Joe Froggers
*adapted from Baked Explorations
Yields: 36-48 cookies

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3 tbsp dark rum
  • coarse sugar for dusting

1. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and baking soda together. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer using the paddle attachment, or using hand beaters, beat the butter and shortening together until there are no lumps. Add both sugars and beat until just incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and add the molasses, beat until the mixture is uniform in color.

3. Have a 1/3 cup of very hot water handy. Add the flour to the butter mixture alternating with the water in three parts, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the bowl and add the rum and mix for 15 seconds. Cover the bowl and refrigerate at least 3 hours or over night.

4. Preheat the oven to 375 and line two baking sheets with silicon mats or parchment paper. Dust a work surface with flour. Remove your dough from the bowl and form it into a ball. Place it on your work surface, flour the top and roll out your dough to 1/4 inch thickness, making sure to turn and re-flour the dough as needed. 

5. Cut out the cookies with 2-inch round cookie cutters, transfer them to the baking sheets and sprinkle them with a good amount of coarse sanding sugar. Refrigerate the sheets, if you are able, for 15 minutes before baking. Repeat the process with remaining dough after you have baked the first two sheets, or right away if you have additional baking sheets.

6. Bake the cookies 8 minutes for chewy cookies (the best way) or up to 12 minutes for crispier cookies. Let the cookies cool on the sheets on top of cooling racks for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the cooling racks themselves to cool completely. Enjoy!

If you are gifting the cookies, wrap them up in some wax paper and tie with some twine using a sailors knot ;)


  1. Since these cookies are displayed on my acorn platter and molasses cookies are my it safe to assume that somewhere in the house are a couple of these gems waiting for me???

  2. I've been looking at several different recipes for Joe Froggers, which I adored in college. (My roommate was from New Bedford and her mom sent us these all the time) I am wondering if you ever tried butter vs shortening. Some quantities vary on your recipe from ones I've seen elsewhere, and I am wondering if you tried any other recipes for this cookie before deciding on this one? Thanks!

  3. Hi Laura!

    This is my first attempt at Joe Froggers. So I can not speak to which is tastier. All I can say is that I loooved these cookies.

    However, I know traditionally they are made with all shortening, since wives used to send these cookies along with their sailor husbands when they went on long voyages and the lack of dairy products ensured they wouldn't spoil.

    I also know shortening produces lighter cookies with less spread during baking. But then again, butter has the flavor aspect. Which is why I used both! That is... since I don't know any sailors going on month long voyages to give them to :)

    Let me know when you try them which you prefer.