Baltimore’s finest

Have you seen the latest Saveur magazine? Gotta love it. It’s packed with gorgeous photos; I mean, total eye candy. The writing’s fine; the subjects are compelling, both to foodies and travelers; and the writing is calm and friendly.

When I see Saveur appear in my mailbox each month, I usually pick it up and flip through it right away: a preview of coming attractions for the evening ahead. The current issue of Saveur was delivered last Friday. Here it is:

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Although the picture of the crab was quite eye-catching, what REALLY nabbed my attention was the headline at lower left: “Baltimore’s Favorite Cookie.” What baker can resist a come-on like that?!

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And here’s a picture of Baltimore’s favorite cookies: Berger cookies. Note that these aren’t chocolate and vanilla cookies sandwiched together and iced; these are vanilla cookies with a HUGE slather of chocolate icing on top.

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Hmmm, I said to myself. I remembered baking these cookies, somewhere in the distant past… Oh, right—The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion, where they were a variation on black and white (a.k.a. half and half, a.k.a. half-moon) cookies. (And look who gives us a nice plug on the cover—thanks, Saveur!)

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…and there they were, p. 294. Imagine that—we scooped Saveur by about 3 years! So of course, I had to make these cookies again, now that I see them getting some press. Here we go: Baltimore’s finest Berger cookies, King Arthur version.

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Start with butter, salt, vanilla, and baking powder. No sugar? Not yet.

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Beat together till fairly smooth; some little chunks of butter may still show.

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Now comes the sugar, and the dough starts to take on some body.

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Add eggs, and it looks like… well, scrambled eggs. That’s OK; the curdled effect will disappear when you add the flour.

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Stir in the flour…

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…alternately with the milk. You don’t have to beat; just stir to make sure everything is combined. Flour, milk, flour, milk… however many additions it takes, start and end with the flour.

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Nice batter, huh?

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Plop the batter by the 1/4-cupful onto parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheets. A muffin scoop works perfectly here. Since these are such big cookies, you’ll only fit six on each pan. And since the recipe makes 2 dozen, you’ll need four pans or, barring that (since who has four pans), you’ll need to bake in batches.

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Flatten each mound of batter into a 3” round. I use a measuring cup with a 3” base. Dip it in water, and press down gently; works just fine. You can also use your fingers (dipped in water), or whatever method you prefer.

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Here they are, ready to go into the oven.

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Eleven minutes later, they’re ready to come out. They WILL NOT be brown on top; they’re supposed to stay cream-colored and soft. You may notice the tiniest little bit of brown along the edge, as you can see here.

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Tilt one hot cookie up on its edge; you’re a baker, your fingers are tough, right? If not, use a pair of tongs. Notice the bottom is a mottled, golden brown. This signals that the cookies are baked enough. Allow them to cool while you prepare the icing.

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This is one of my favorite icings: chocolate ganache, a mixture of chocolate and heavy cream. This one is enriched with butter and some corn syrup, and uses both semisweet and unsweetened chocolate. Put everything in a microwave-safe bowl.

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Heat till the butter is mostly melted and the cream is becoming bubbly.

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Then start to stir. At first you’ll think, no way. What a mess! Oh no, I just wasted all that chocolate! Calm down… keep stirring…

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…and pretty soon, the chocolate will begin to come together in the center of the bowl.

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Continue to stir till it’s totally combined and smooth. And there you have it: chocolate ganache! But we’re not done yet. First, let the icing cool to room temperature; this will probably take several hours. Yes, you can speed the process by refrigerating; just be sure to stir frequently, so the icing doesn’t get too thick around the edges while it’s still warm at the center.

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Beat the icing for 6 to 7 minutes, till it lightens in color a bit, and thickens a bit. The change will be noticeable, but not dramatic; compare the color of the unbeaten icing on the spatula with that of the beaten icing in the bowl.

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Dollop about 3 tablespoons of icing on each cookie. A generously heaped tablespoon cookie scoop works well here.

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Spread the icing atop the cookie, leaving a border around the edge bare. This bare border accomplishes two things. First, it makes it easier to pick up, handle, and store the cookies. And second, it serves to heap the icing even higher in the center, which makes for a very impressive presentation.

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Here they are, all dressed up and ready to enjoy.

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Notice the height of icing and cookie—they should be close to equal.

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This is what the cookies look like if you ice all the way to the edge. Do it this way if you choose; it makes them look more like the originals in the Saveur photo.

P.S. Another “you saw it here first”: this month’s Saveur also highlights this year’s winning baguette at the Grand Prix de la Baguette de la Ville de Paris: a baguette we pictured a month ago in Jeff’s blog on the Coupe du Monde.

Find the complete recipe for Baltimore Berger Cookies. Note: the recipe has been updated, as of June 2014.

Bake vs. Buy:

BUY Berger cookies: 15-ounce package (about ten 1 1/2-ounce cookies), $4.75. Price: 32¢ per ounce.

BAKE homemade cookies from the above recipe: Two dozen 3 3/4-ounce cookies. Cost of ingredients: 17¢ per ounce.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. mom24

    I also thought these looked like fudge fancies and that is what caught my eye on the blog. I am going to try them and hope they are similar in taste. As I have never tasted the Baltimore cookie I am hoping for a similar taste to the fudge fancie. Do you have a recipie that mimics the fudge fancie from NY? or is this a close enough option?

    Sorry, I’ve never tasted a Fudge Fancie, so can’t help with whether these taste the same. When you make them, write back and let us know, OK? PJH

    Reply
  2. ocdgirl2000

    just tweeted this recipe and thread on Twitter! All my friends are going to go crazy for it! TY! Do you have a twitter name? mine is same as above.

    Thanks! We’re kingarthurflour on Twitter… – PJH

    Reply
  3. Jon

    Allie,

    I’m a DC transplant from upstate NY and the fudge fancy cookies I enjoyed there were my favorite since the 70’s. I have not tasted these yet, but I hope to soon. I worked in Baltermore for five years until 2007, and I can’t believe I did not find these. I have a friend who is still in NY who occasionally mails me a dozen or more fudge fancy cookies. The NY bakery burned down a couple of years ago. However, one of the bakers brought the reciepe to another store and has continued the baking. I can’t believe they do not have a website. I hope these cookies tast the same or better. It would be a lot easier to drive to Baltimore from DC then all the way to Cohoes, NY.

    Reply
  4. Carolyn

    I live right around the corner and down the street from Lexington Market. I’m having lunch with a friend tomorrow and picked up a pound of Bergers cookies fresh from their stand to surprise him with. They are totally unmatched in taste and consistency from any other cookie. Love them with a hot cup of tea. They are my ultimate indulgence.

    Reply
  5. Joy Dhar

    My father is 93 years old – born and raised in Baltimore, as was I. We had never heard of these cookies, until we read the article in Saveur. My father worked for the Baltimore Sun and the News American and was all over the city. I attended Baltimore’s International Culinary College, for Baking and Pastry – the cookie was never mentioned over one year’s time. My girlfriend of over 50 years – also from Baltimore – never heard of these cookies either. They look sloppy!

    Reply
    1. Lope Jones

      Jeez, Hon! Hard to imagine that with all those Baltimore creds you all missed out on Berger’s. You have my deepest sympathy 🙂

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