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

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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 natives of Baltimore, Md. The town is nicknamed Charm City. For a very long time, the cookies were unknown outside the city.
"It was a great little business," says Charlie DeBaufre. He has worked at the company for much of his life. He became the owner in 1994. Customer demand and word of mouth led to increasing 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 had aged and retired or moved outside Baltimore. But they still wanted their Berger cookies. 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. Then they got requests from Northern Virginia, Pennsylvania and Frederick, Md. 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. 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 was a German immigrant. He 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. 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. DeBaufre says he's considered new equipment but has resisted.
"I have to keep the integrity of the cookie," he says. 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 movie producer 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

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

  • marcol-cas
    12/04/2016 - 08:22 p.m.

    The cookies are unknown out of Baltimore for a long time because the owner DeBaufre did not have a franchise so the company was only located in Baltimore , Maryland . That is why the cookies are unknown outside of Baltimore for a long time

  • kayleeb-kul
    12/05/2016 - 09:53 a.m.

    I believe it is amazing that they have kept the tradition of these cookies for so long. To dip 36,000 cookies a day by hand would be a very tedious job that would get very boring over time. I think it is quite wonderful that they also sent trucks around to supply the demand. They have a flourishing business that will continue to grow over time.

    • abigailo-kul
      12/05/2016 - 12:41 p.m.

      I agree Kaylee that dipping 36,000 cookies a day would be very time consuming and would eventually get boring. I agree that it will evolve a lot over time. I think in the future it will become a very big deal and everybody will eat them.

      • taylorm-kul
        12/09/2016 - 12:36 p.m.

        I agree this is crazy, but if they have the right amount of workers it is not a hard job to do. It wouldn't be such a hard labor job so it wouldn't be that bad.

        • jamieh-jen
          12/14/2016 - 10:21 a.m.

          I also agree

      • charmaynes-kul
        12/09/2016 - 04:23 p.m.

        I also agree with Kaylee that making 36,000 cookies a day could turn into quit the handful especially when they are doing it by hand. Yes it would get boring some days, but they like doing what they are doing otherwise they wouldn't be doing it for them.

      • corah1-jen
        12/14/2016 - 10:25 a.m.

        I think it would be tasty. yum I am licking my lip's right now.

    • macy-kul
      12/05/2016 - 01:47 p.m.

      I wonder if this business will eventually transition to machines or factories to make their cookies. The improvements in technology could allow this business to make a lot more cookies in a smaller amount of time.

      • matthewm-kul
        12/09/2016 - 03:31 p.m.

        I think that they eventually will because then they can sell their product all across the world and makes a lot more money then they currently do.

    • coltonw-kul
      12/05/2016 - 01:57 p.m.

      You're right, the dipping would take so long I don't even think it would be fun. But, it would be a cool tradition to keep going.

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