The Berger cookie is Baltimore's gift to the chocolate world Bergers cookies are a Baltimore staple. (Domenica Marchetti/American Food Roots/Sarah Briney)
The Berger cookie is Baltimore's gift to the chocolate world
Lexile

What the madeleine was to Proust, the Berger cookie is to Baltimoreans. When the French author's narrator dips his shell-shaped cookie into a cup of tea, he is flooded with 3,000 pages of childhood memories.
 
So it is with the Berger cookie. (The company is called Bergers but to most Baltimoreans, when discussing the cookie, the "s" is silent.)
 
For nearly 200 years, this cake-bottomed cookie topped with a generous hand-dipped mound of dark fudge icing has sparked home-town memories for Charm City natives, though for a very long time, the cookies were unknown outside the city.

"It was a great little business," says Charlie DeBaufre, who has worked at the company for much of his life and became the owner in 1994. Customer demand and word of mouth led to incremental growth over the last 15 years.
 
"We had two trucks," DeBaufre says. "And then some of the major supermarkets said, 'We wouldn't mind selling your cookies.' "
 
People aged and retired or moved outside Baltimore, but they still wanted their Berger cookies, and those who moved to Maryland's Eastern Shore didn't want to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to get their cookies, says DeBaufre. So he sent his trucks across the bridge with the goods, and then they got requests from Northern Virginia, Pennsylvania and Frederick, Maryland. Now DeBaufre has seven trucks. He tried using brokers but, "They don't care like you care," he says. "I like having my own trucks and drivers; I like having more control over what's going into the store."
 
What's going into the stores is an "unusual product," DeBaufre says. "New Yorkers talk about their black and whites and it's not a bad cookie, but it's nothing like mine."
 
The cookie is made using nearly the same recipe Henry Berger developed when he opened a bakery in East Baltimore in 1835, and there have been a few modifications, according to DeBaufre. For example, vegetable oil has replaced lard in the recipe, reducing the saturated fat content considerably.
 
"Some people say the cookie is just there to hold the chocolate," says DeBaufre. "They eat the chocolate and throw the cookie away."
 
Bergers has even been asked to put together a Berger cookie wedding cake, which DeBaufre describes as a stack of cookies with a bride and groom on top.
 
Berger, a German immigrant, was a baker by trade and his three sons followed him into the business. The cookies were sold from stalls in the city's public markets, and today, there still are Bergers' cookie stands in Baltimore's Lexington and Cross Street markets.
 
As they have been since the beginning, Berger cookies are hand dipped. Four employees dip them all, 36,000 cookies a day, and DeBaufre says he's considered new equipment but has resisted.
 
"I have to keep the integrity of the cookie," he says, and yes, they have trouble keeping up with demand and often run out. But he doesn't do it just to make money, he says.
 
"I take pride in what I do. When you tell me they're good cookies, I'm proud."
 
After World War I, George Russell, a young man who worked for the Bergers, bought the bakery. The DeBaufres - who had worked for the Russells - bought the business in 1969. In addition to expanding distribution outside Baltimore, Bergers cookies are shipped all over the country. DeBaufre says a woman from Baltimore who lives in California sent holiday tins of cookies to her clients -- 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures and Steven Spielberg.
 
"She wanted them to have something they wouldn't have had before," says DeBaufre.
 

You can read more stories from the 50 States' best culinary traditions at AmericanFoodRoots.com.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why were the cookies unknown outside Baltimore for a long time?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (7)
  • zakrym-ste
    12/05/2016 - 01:30 p.m.

    Do not think I could live near the store that sells these. I would find myself venturing to the store and buying one of these everyday. I would be in the top percentiles for obesity.

  • monicas-ste
    12/05/2016 - 02:39 p.m.

    This looks so cool. I would love to try it. This is awesome.

  • kaileew-ste
    12/06/2016 - 01:56 p.m.

    A cake-bottomed cookie with hand dipped dark fudge icing called the berger cookie, is the pride and joy of the people in Baltimore. This famous cookie was first created in 1835. It is interesting that this cookie has been around for so long.

  • noahr-ste
    12/09/2016 - 01:28 p.m.

    This cookie has to be a top seller in Baltimore. People probably find themselves eating there all the time without even trying it is just one of those foods you would just get addicted to.

  • daltons1-ste
    12/13/2016 - 01:22 p.m.

    If I lived there I would probably eat 3 of these a day. People who live near hear are probably super fat or have a super human metabolism. I need this in my life.

  • kiannab2-sch
    1/19/2017 - 01:20 p.m.

    I think this is not a healthy pursuit. I think that because it is a cookie covered with chocolate. Sweets are not healthy. I think the people who partake in this are happy because people like sweets. "Some people say the cookie is just there to hold the chocolate," says DeBaufre. "They eat the chocolate and throw the cookie away," ( Wolf 1 ).

  • alexisk-5-pla
    2/07/2017 - 11:05 a.m.

    The article i read on Teen Tribune was about Baltimore's strange cookie called, the Berger cookie. I am a fan of sweets so seeing this strange creation interested me. The Berger cookie is a cookie with cake on the bottom dipped in dark fudge.This cookie was not really well known until people who use to make the cookies moved out of the state.The old workers still wanted those cookies but didn't want to take the long drive there. So they started shipping out the cookies outside of there state.

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