Joe Frogger Cookies from Marblehead

I’ve been fascinated by the legend of the Joe Frogger cookie and decided to give the recipe a try. A Joe Frogger is a large rum/molasses/ginger cookie that dates back to colonial times in Marblehead. The cookies were baked by Aunt Crese who ran a tavern with Black Joe on Gingerbread Hill.

Many articles I discovered linked the cookie’s history to Joe but according to a Marblehead magazine article, “The cookie was named after him even though she created the recipe and spent the better part of her life mixing the batter”.

Named for Revolutionary War patriot, Joseph Brown, these large cookies were said to be the size of the frogs in “Black Joe’s” Pond. Marblehead’s early fishermen used to take the cookies with them on long voyages to the Grand Banks as a standard part of the ship’s provisions. The ingredients of rum and seawater acted as preservatives. They are now a cherished Marblehead tradition with “original recipes” circulating rapidly for historic authentication by native Marbleheaders. The cookies were first made in the 1800’s by Lucretia Brown (Aunt Crese), Joseph’s wife. While today the cookies are mostly round, in the beginning they were described as “lily pad” shaped. (Marblehead magazine).

I used a coffee can to cut out the cookies and placed six on a cookie sheet using a Silpat rather then greasing the pan. As they cooked the house filled with spicy aroma. The first batch of cookies came out of the oven tasting of warm molasses. Perfect with a big glass a milk.

This morning, I wrapped a cookie in a piece of wax paper and went for a walk to Black Joe’s pond. The red tavern is still standing and can be seen off in the distance. The cookie had hardened overnight and tasted even more substantial and spicy, delicious.

Joe Frogger Cookies
Recipe adapted from marblehead.org

3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 cup of molasses
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum
1/3 cup hot water (In colonial times they used seawater)

Mix flour, salt, ginger, baking soda, cloves, nutmeg and allspice in a bowl. In a large bowl, beat together the molasses, shortening and brown sugar. In a separate bowl combine rum and hot water.

Add the dry ingredients and the water/rum mixture alternatively to the sugar/molasses mixture. If the dough is dry, add a tablespoon or more of additional hot water.

Roll out dough between two sheets of waxed paper till 1/4″ thick. Refrigerate at least two hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease two baking sheets.

Cut the dough into 3-inch round cookies. The original were much larger. For the traditional size use a coffee as your guide. Place on greased cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes. For the traditional size cook a few minutes longer. The cookies are baked when they are dark around the edges and firm in the centers. Set the cookie sheets to cool for five minutes. Remove to a rack to cool completely.

Dough after it’s been mixed and ready to be rolled out.

Rolling out dough between layers of wax paper.

Cutting out cookies using a coffee can.

Cookies just out of the oven.

The trail to Black Joe’s pond.

A bite out my Joe Frogger cookie at Black Joe’s Pond.

Eating my cookie and contemplating life back in the 1800’s.

Off in the distance is Black Joe’s Tavern in red.

Black Joe’s Tavern as it stands today.

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Rustic Butternut Squash Sage Pizza

I’m thinking I should have called this recipe, The Thanksgiving or The New England. Butternut squash roasted with red onions, brown butter sage with blue cheese and tarentaise—salty and sweet this combo will satisfy any fall comfort food craving. I snuck down to the kitchen last night to slice off one more tiny piece. All the ingredients are local and the cheeses are from Vermont. Delicious warm or at room temperature.

I have two different pizza dough recipes in heavy rotation. For this pizza I used Wolfgang Puck’s recipe featured on marthastewart.com. The dough has honey rather then sugar which I prefer. Side note: have you heard the recent controversy surrounding store bought honey? In this recipe I used Blue Hill honey I picked up from the Hudson Valley. The dough is fast to make in a stand mixer but you could always use store bought dough if you’re short on time.

While the dough is rising; use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from a medium size butternut squash. Slice the squash into small chunks—easiest way I’ve discovered to do this is cut off the ends and then slice in half—arrange in a roasting pan with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast the squash for 15 minutes at 375 degrees. It shouldn’t be cooked through. It will finish cooking on top of the pizza. Remove from the oven and set aside.

While the squash is cooking, slice two red onions into rings and saute in pan with a little bit of olive oil for 2-3 minutes. You want the onions to be softened but not completely cooked. Set aside.

I usually do all three steps above in the morning and then finish the pizza in the evening. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Roll out the dough, the recipe I used can make two smaller pizzas or one really big one—I made one because I like leftovers. Grate Tarentaise from Spring Brook Farm or use gruyere to cover the entire pie. Scatter the butternut squash you roasted on top with the red onions. Bake for 20 minutes or so until the dough is crisp.

While the pizza is cooking, melt 2-3 tablespoons of butter in a pan and throw in a handful of sage leaves to brown, put aside. Crumble a small chunk of blue cheese—I used Great Blue Hill—set aside.

When the pizza is done, open the oven and scatter the blue cheese and sage leaves on top. You want the blue cheese to melt just a little. Remove from oven and serve. Enjoy!

From top left: The dough kneading in a stand mixer, dough in an oiled bowl to rise, squash for the oven (I had a little delicata squash I threw in too) and then the dough ready to be rolled out.

Cooling on a cutting board.

Ready for dinner!

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