After making, among other things, our Rosemary Pepita Granola and our Cajun Spiced Almonds for our out-of-town guests, Caitlin and I sat down to brainstorm our end-of-the-evening favor. With the wedding and reception in the heart of Baltimore, Caitlin suggested a quintessential Baltimore dessert.
I asked her what that might be.
Caitlin noted that it was the Berger cookie, a shortbread cookie topped with a thick layer of chocolate frosting, and long considered one of the best cookies in Baltimore. A quick search of the Internet revealed a recipe from King Arthur flour.
Satisfied with the recipe, we set out to make as many cookies as we could, as close as feasible to our wedding day. Thursday, June 20, we set up our Berger cookie production facility, pulling baking trays, parchment paper, mixing bowls, and the like. To help with the assembly, we enlisted the maid-of-honor and her boyfriend, as well Caitlin’s mom.
And then we set out to mix, to spoon, to melt, to bake, to cool, to spread, to wrap and to sew. Yes, to sew. After each cookie had been baked, cooled and appropriately frosted, Caitlin wrapped each cookie, placed it in a bag, and then sewed the bag shut, with the “for the road” designation that she has designed and printed.
It was well after 1:00 a.m. when we finished sealing the last of the cookies – some ninety in all – and our backs ached from standing, hunched over the cookies for the past few hours.
The next day, we delivered the cookies to the Hotel Monaco, and asked that they be refrigerated, to keep the chocolate layer from getting messy. The hotel obliged.
On Saturday, we told our caterer that we had brought Berger cookies to be given out as favors to our guests. We wondered, though, if she had a cooler or ice chest to keep the cookies sheltered from the June heat. “Oh, don’t worry,” she said, “those cookies are indestructible. We have lots of couples pass out Berger cookies.”
We looked back at her puzzled. Our cookies had not seemed that indestructible. And in any event, we knew that we did not want to test their indestructibility the night of our wedding.
She returned a confused glance.
“We made them ourselves,” I finally said.
“Oh,” she said. “Look at you guys!” She said she would be sure to have her team keep our cookies cool until it was time to set them out.
We thanked her and then went on our way, the final item of the night secured.
Postscript: According to a recent article in the Baltimore Sun, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently considering a proposal to eliminate trans fats from processed foods. If the proposal is adopted, the new rule stands to threaten the venerable Berger cookie
Charles DeBaufre Jr., who owns the bakery that makes the Berger cookie, said that he has been experimenting with shortenings that do not have trans fats, but has not yet been able to find a suitable substitute.
According to the article, if the new rules were to go into effect, and he had to use one of the existing new formulas, DeBaufre said it would be the end of the Berger cookie
The F.D.A. is still reviewing comments on the proposal. So in the meantime, you’ll just have to enjoy these cookies while they last!
PREP TIME: 20 minutes
COOK TIME: 15 minutes
YIELD: About 24 cookies
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour
WHAT TO GRAB:
Chocolate Icing 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips 1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup 1 teaspoon vanilla 1/2 cup heavy cream 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted Cookies 1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 cup sugar 1 large egg 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/3 cup low-fat milk
HOW YOU DO IT:
1. Place the chocolate chips, corn syrup, vanilla, and cream into a large microwave-safe bowl, or into a large saucepan. Heat the mixture until it is very hot; the cream will start to form bubbles. Remove from the heat, and stir until smooth. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar. Let the mixture cool to warm room temperature while you make the cookies. This will make a lot of icing!
2. in a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, salt, vanilla, and baking powder. Beat in the sugar, then the egg.
3. Add the flour to the wet ingredients alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Do this gently; there’s no need to beat the batter.
4. Using a teaspoon cookie scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. Flatten each mound of dough to a circle about 1 ½ inches across; wet your fingers or a knife, or grease the bottom of a drinking glass or measuring cup to do this. Leave about two inches between each cookie, to account for expansion.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the cookies for 11 to 12 minutes, or until they’a very light mottled brown on the bottom (carefully tilt one up to look), but not colored on top. You may see the barest hint of browning around the edges, but these cookies are supposed to be soft and cake-like, so don’t over-bake them. Cool the cookies on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.
6. Spoon an generous amount of the icing onto the flat bottom of each cookie and give it a good coating. Set cookies back on the baking sheet, or on a rack. Allow to set, then store airtight in a single layer.