The first time I ate a Joe Frogger cookie it was a dream come true. Picture this: An eight year old girl handed a molasses cookie the size of a dinner plate, and a giant glass of milk to go with it. I bought this monstrous cookie on a school field trip to a living colonial museum, where pilgrim girls churned butter and blacksmiths shoed horses. I don’t remember much more about the trip because I was engaged in some major cookie eating.
I had never had a cookie like that before – it was super crunchy on the outside, a bit soft inside, and heavy as an iron skillet, perfect for milk-dipping. It would be years before I found out that it was called a Joe Frogger, and even more years before I found an authentic recipe for Joe Froggers on the Internet. The legend goes that this cookie, which was originally made with molasses and rum, came from a man named Joe Brown from Marblehead, Massachusetts. He was a free African American who owned a tavern in town with his wife, Lucretia. It’s said that Joe would use the cookies to trade for rum from sailors who came to town. A bit of rum was added to the cookies, and I’m certain that even more rum ended up in Joe Brown’s belly. Because the tavern was located next to a frog pond, locals named Brown Joe Frogger, hence the name of the famous cookie.
There is an alternative story to the Joe Frogger cookie however, where his wife Lucretia was the one who actually invented, and spent most of her life, making the cookies. She supposedly poured the batter into a cast iron skillet and the odd shapes that the cookies took on looked like frogs’ legs. I’m not sure how the rum played a part in that story, but something tells me that Joe Brown probably stood on the sidelines, sipping rum, watching his wife make cookies. Nevertheless, Joe and Lucretia Brown ran a successful business in Marblehead, and their cookies have won their place in the heart of colonial America, and beyond.
Joe Froggers are not the easiest cookie to make. I suggest you use a standing mixture with a paddle attachment, because the dough is extremely stiff and very hard to stir by hand. The other thing about the dough is that it’s quite sticky and needs to be refrigerated overnight. You may have to use quite a bit of flour for rolling and only roll a few cookies at a time because when the dough comes to room temperature it can be a mess to work with. A coffee can makes a good cookie cutter, or you can use a salad plate as a guide and cut around the edge with a sharp knife. But you can make them smaller, too.
For best results, bake your Joe Froggers on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and be sure to keep an eye on them as they bake. They should be just barely browned on the edges and still soft in the middle. You don’t want to over bake them because they become harder as they cool. But most people I know eat them dipped in milk or coffee anyway, so go ahead and bake them to your liking.
Joe Froggers will last forever in a cookie jar – they never get stale. And they’re a great surprise for a cookie-loving child – and I’m sure you must know at least one of those!