This cookie has great legend behind it, linking it to a Revolutionary War veteran in Marblehead, Mass. The story and recipe I got come from the cookbook, America’s Best Lost Recipes. They write that Black Joe Brown, a freed slave, and Aunt Cresse opened Black Joe’s tavern in a part of Marblehead called Gingerbread Hill. They used to make these big, flat, pancake-like cookies there and there was a frog pond out back. Somehow, the cookies became associated with “Joe’s frogs,” and the name bent to Joe Froggers over time.
Legend has it that the molasses cookies were made with seawater, to give them a salty flavor, and rum. It’s one of the best versions I’ve tasted. These are flat, big, chewy cookies — don’t expect the soft, puffy ones, since the soda’s leavening power is purposely killed as it’s stirred with the molasses. And don’t try to substitute out the rum — they simply won’t be the same; there are many other good recipes for molasses cookies that don’t require it.
¹⁄₃ cup dark rum (such as Myer’s)
1 tablespoon water
1 ½ teaspoon salt (finely ground sea salt recommended)
3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¹⁄₈ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup mild molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
Stir the rum, water and salt in a small bowl until the salt dissolves. Whisk the flour and spices in a medium bowl. Stir the molasses and baking soda in a large measuring cup (the mixture will begin to bubble) and let sit until doubled in volume, about 15 minutes.
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium low and gradually beat in the rum mixture. Add the flour mixture and molasses mixture alternately in two batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until stiff, at least 8 hours, or up to three days. (Do not skip that step.)
Adjust two oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with half of the dough at a time on a heavily floured surface, roll out to ¼-inch thickness.
Cut out cookies with a 3-inch cookie cutter (see note), spacing them 1½ inches apart. They will spread; do not place them too close to the edges.
Bake until the cookies are set and begin to crack, about 8 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through baking.
Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week.)
Makes about 24 cookies.
Notes: You can use a large-mouth jar or drinking glass to cut the cookies, or a shaped cookie cutter with a broad design. Fine details would be lost, as the cookies spread. This dough freezes very well.
(Recipe from the book America’s Best Lost Recipes by the editors of Cook’s Country Magazine, published by America’s Test Kitchen, 2007.)