Frosting Delivery Devices: Baltimore's Berger Cookies

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I’m something of a sucker for local foods—not sprouts grown on a farm just down the road or chickens raised in someone’s backyard a block from where I live, but local specialties that never quite migrate from their home regions, like D.C. half-smokes or Pittsburgh’s Primanti Bros. sandwiches: the type of food that locals dream about when they leave home, the taste they just can’t shake and just can’t find anywhere else.

So when the Washington Post ran a feature article on a type of cookie native to the Baltimore region, my taste sensors went on high alert. Andrew Reiner’s article (“Baltimore’s storied Berger cookies come to Washington,” April 19, 2012) looks at the famed (in Baltimore, anyway) Berger cookie, made by one and only one bakery, Bergers.

Thanks to a dear co-worker who lives in Baltimore, I was able to get a pound of Berger cookies straight from their Lexington Market outpost.

Berger Cookies

The samples I got from Lexington Market appear to be rather more refined than the cookies Berger sells through grocery stores, with delicate curls rather than heaping glops of fudge frosting, but the effect is the same: lots of sugary frosting atop a nondescript cookie.

The cookie itself is somewhat crumbly, akin to a shortbread but without much flavor at all. It plays the role of vanilla ice cream in an overloaded sundae—just there to hold it all together and cleanse the palate for the next sugar-sweet explosion. Without the slightly greasy cookie to cut through the frosting, the fudge flavor is overwhelming; with the cookie, the balance feels closer to right. Eating that much fudge is a bit decadent, but the cookie brings it back to the realm of dessert rather than pure abandon.

And as for the proper eating technique? Reiner suggests eating them the way natives do:

The most popular way to eat Berger cookies in Baltimore is from the freezer. There’s just something so deeply gratifying—empowering even—about experiencing the fudge creme frosting in this altered state. It’s enough to enjoy a Berger at room temperature, but to have the option of frozen? Well, that’s a degree of luxury that aristocrats understand.

While I can’t imagine eating these often—even a half-cookie sates the brain’s chocolate pleasure center—I’m delighted to have had a chance to try these big bites of charm from Baltimore. Now I just need to pop the remainder of my initial pound into the freezer . . .

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