Since I was a wee Burnout, my mom has been making Joe Froggers at Christmastime. More than gingerbread angels or sugar Santas, these spicy molasses cookies define the holidays for me. Until I started writing this post, I hadn’t thought to look them up to see if anyone else had a recipe—but wouldn’t you know it, the Internet is full of them! As it turns out, Joe Froggers are a seriously old-school cookie, originating in Marblehead, Massachusetts during Colonial times. Because they’re thick, sturdy cookies, they were the perfect snack for fishermen to take with them during their days at sea. They’re also the perfect snack for Mama Burnout, who likes her cookies heavy on the molasses and ginger.
This weekend, Red and I made this winter’s first batch of Froggers. Would you like to know how? Of course you would! Read on, it’s easy:
Joe Froggers (courtesy of Mama Burnout)
½ cup vegan butter (I use Earth Balance)
1 cup sugar
4 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½-3 tsp ground ginger
½-1 tsp cloves
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup molasses*
1 tsp baking soda
⅓ cup dark rum** (we used Sailor Jerry’s because it’s what we had)
3 T hot water or rum**
*This one time when I was in college, I had almost but not quite a full cup of molasses, so I shoved it to the back of the counter while I went to get more. When I returned, my parents’ dog Duke had eaten the. entire. cup. of. molasses. You can guess what happened to the carpet later.
**If you avoid alcohol, I bet spiced apple cider or chai would be great in these!
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In another bowl, mix flour, salt, and spices (the spice amounts are really just guidelines; because I am my mother’s daughter, I always go heavy on the spices, but you might prefer a less aggressive cookie). Slowly add to sugar mixture. Combine molasses and baking soda, then add to flour mixture. Beat until well mixed. Combine rum and water, then add to dough and mix well. At some point, your electric beaters may start to give up and you’ll have to grab that wooden spoon. The dough may still look pretty crumbly, but it should stick together if you pinch a little between your fingers.
At this point, the dough needs to go in the fridge for a while—at least half an hour, but a full hour won’t hurt you. Mama Burnout likes to gather the dough into a big ball or two, then wrap it in plastic wrap. The other day, I simply scooped all the dough into a plastic bowl just barely big enough to hold it all, smushed it in there, popped the lid on, and put it in the fridge. Your call. If you’re my mom, you’ll wash all the dishes you just got dirty while the dough chills.
After your dough has chilled, clear off your counter and flour it, because things are gonna get rollin’. (Ha. See what I did there?) Have your rolling pin, cookie cutters, and extra flour handy, and keep your extra dough in the fridge until you’re ready for it. If the dough gets too dry while you’re working, I find that a spritz or two of water from a spray bottle does the trick. Roll your dough out ¼” thick and use a 4” plate to cut out your cookies. That’s the traditional way—if you like thinner, less massive cookies and want to use festive cookie cutters, go for it. We like ours thick, and we used a combo of cookie cutters and a drinking glass. We ended up with several dozen cookies, so that’s as good an estimate as I can give you. You know the bit about greasing your baking sheets and putting them in the oven, so do that. Bake at 375° for 12-15 minutes, depending on how big your cookies are and how crunchy you want them. Slide ‘em onto wire racks to cool if you want; for years I didn’t own wire racks, so I just used plates, and all my cookies came out fine.
I have never frosted these, but I won’t hunt you down and murder you if you decide to deface them in such a way. They’re amazing dunked in tea or coffee, or eaten straight up. Red swears he’s gotten buzzed from eating too many, so that information may be useful to you. However you enjoy them, happy holidays!