‘Joe Froggers!’ Fall cookies with great tradition!

About 10 years ago, a great pastry chef, Nancy Baggett came into my life.  She was on a book tour and was demonstrating ‘cookie baking’ with recipes from her book , The All American Cookie Book.  And, my cookie obsession began.  Happily, I’m laying my personal career decision at her feet.  She inspired me to get baking and build a business.  Soon enough, WOW! Cookies! became a fixture in the Cleveland area.  One of my first customers was from India, and absolutely CRAVED my molasses cookies.  Giving credit where due….Nancy Baggett and her Joe Froggers were the start of a great decade of sweet gifting!

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Joe Froggers are crisp, large molasses and rum-flavored cookies said to have originated in Marblehead, Massachusetts.  Nobody really knows HOW the cookie got it’s name.  The most often repeated story is said to have started with a man called Uncle Joe.  He lived by a frog pond and made molasses cookies as large as lily pads.  Other stories talk of Joe as a local baker that supplied local fisherman who often paid with rum.  The cookies were taken to sea by men who yearned for home.  Other stories place  these cookie favorites all the way back to the early days of our country.  There are Revolutionary War stories telling of  wives baking ‘Joe Floggers’ for their soldiers to take with them to war.  Very romantic!

One thing’s for sure!  For the modern cookie-addict, fall is the season for a great molasses cookie.  And Joe Froggers are aromatic, and spicy-delicious confections that open the doors to the holidays. They are easy to make, and disappear fast.  This recipe will make at least 3 dozen cookies.

3 1/4 Cups all-purpose white flour, plus more if needed
2      teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1      teaspoon baking soda
        Generous 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Cup light or dark molasses
3 Tablespoons light or dark rum
3/4 Cup plus 2 tablespoons white vegetable shortening
3/4 Cup packed light brown sugar
About 1/4 Cup sugar for topping

In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, ginger, cloves, nutmet, allspice, baking soda and salts; set aside.
In another large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together the molasses, rum, shortening and brown sugar until very well blended and smooth.  About 2 minutes.
Beat in half of the flour mixture until evenly incorporated.  Vigorously stir or beat in the remaining flour mixture until evently incorporated.
If necessary, add 1 to 2 tablespoons more flour to make a slightly stiff, but not at all dry dough.

Divide the dough into thirds.
Place each portion between large sheets of waxed paper.
Roll out each portion a scant 1/4 inch thick; check the under side of the dough package and smooth out any wrikles that form.
Stack the rolled portions (paper still attached) on a baking sheet.
Refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours or leave over-night, or freeze for 45 minutes to speed chilling.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

Working with one rolled portion at a time, gently peel away one paper, then pat back in place.
Flip the dough over, then peel off and discard the second sheet.
Using a 3 – 3 1/4″ flued or plain round cutter, cut out the cookies. (If the dough softens too much at any point to easily handle, return to the freezer until firm).
Using a spatula, carefully transfer the cookies to the baking sheets, spacing about 1 1/2″ apart. 
Generously sprinkle with sugar.
Reroll any dough scraps.  Continue cutting out the cookies until all the dough is used.

Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, in the upper third of the oven for 9 -12 minutes, or until almost firm in the centers and just barely darker at the edges.
Rotate the position of the baking sheet half-way through the baking time.

Transfer the sheet to a wire rack and let stand until the cookies firm up – 5 minutes. 
Transfer cookies to the wire rack to continue cooling.
Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Recipe from The All-American Cookie Book, copyright 2001, Nancy Baggett