Joe FroggersPhoto Credit : Aimee Tucker
Molasses-spice cookies date back to the Colonial era, but this variation with rum in the batter comes from Marblehead, Massachusetts. Locals say Joe Froggers cookies are named after Joseph Brown, a free African American man who served in the Revolutionary War and opened a tavern in town. Brown’s wife, Lucretia Brown, did the cooking, and these cookies, made in an iron skillet, were her specialty. According to Marblehead Myths, Legends, and Lore by Pam Matthias Peterson, “when the batter hit the pan, it ran in all directions and formed shapes that looked like a frog’s body and legs.” Given their shape and the fact that the tavern was next to a frog pond, the name stuck.
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
1 cup unsulphured dark molasses
2-1/2 tablespoons dark rum, such as Gosling’s
3 – 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, plus more for rolling
In a medium bowl, whisk together hot water, molasses and rum. In a large second bowl, whisk together 3 cups flour with the baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.
In another large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar and stir until evenly mixed. Add half the molasses mixture and beat to combine (stop occasionally to scrape down the sides). Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, then the remaining molasses mixture. Add the remaining third of the flour mixture and beat to combine. If dough seems too loose, add the extra 1/2 cup flour.
Divide the dough into two balls, cover with plastic wrap, and chill at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
Preheat oven to 375° and grease two baking sheets or line with parchment.
You have two 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-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. Roll the balls in granulated sugar, then arrange 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Press the bottom of a drinking glass onto each ball of dough, gently flattening it before baking.
Bake the cookies until they have set but still seem soft in the middle, about 10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.