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Flour girl: The cookie that ate Baltimore

Berger Cookies. (Leigh Lambert/The Washington Post)

My name is Leigh, and I have a problem baking "small."

Admitting it is half the solution, so they say. Just about every kind of cookie I bake seems to turn out twice as big as intended. I know this about myself, and it's something I am working to fix.

Berger Cookies have exacerbated my Baking Big problem. Bergers are a Baltimore tradition traceable to 1835, when the Berger family opened bakeries and sold their goods in the city's open-air markets. (You can read about how Berger Cookies came to be baked by DeBaufre Bakeries here.)

Recipe Included

This is a cookie that doesn't mess around. It's big, loaded with chocolate frosting -- and kind of homely, truth be told.

A Food section reader contacted us recently, in search of a Berger Cookie recipe. Just what it takes to make Bergers is a matter still guarded with great secrecy, but the cookie's popularity has led many to try and replicate it.

I hoped the one I sourced from King Arthur Flour would hit home.

I figured I'd finally met my match: a cookie that measures more than 2 inches across and is topped with a hefty amount of frosting.

But my Baking Big problem persisted. I fell eight cookies short of the suggested 24 cookie yield from the recipe. My homemade Bergers were about 4 inches across -- salad-plate size. I'm not sure why. The ice cream scoop I used to form the mounds of dough is, well, ice-cream-scoop-size. If you're serious about getting a consistent size, invest in a few "dishers" of different sizes for making cookies.

Normally, I'd feel a little chagrined. But Berger Cookies are so over the top, anyway, that my inflated versions didn't seem that out of line.

The cookies smell like waffles as they bake. They have a cakey consistency and are not too sweet, which is a good thing because they are topped with three tablespoons of whipped chocolate ganache. This version maintains the balance of textures between cookie and frosting, but is a little less sweet than the real deal, a tad more sophisticated due to the blend of bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate.

You could really make Berger Cookies any size you like (provided you are not afflicted with my issues). They could even be miniaturized for tea, though this might be an affront to the original Berger spirit.

So, make room in your oven for these heavyweights. I offer you the biggest cookie I've ever made.

-- Leigh Lambert

Berger Cookies
Makes 16 to 24 large cookies

For the cookies
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
4 1/2 cups flour
1 cup whole or 2-percent milk

For the frosting
3 1/2 cups (21 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

For the cookies: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, until fluffy. Stop and scrape the bowl down once, or as needed.

Add the salt, vanilla extract and baking powder; beat on medium speed to incorporate, then add the sugar and beat to incorporate. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Reduce the speed to low (or do the following step by hand); add the flour to the bowl alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour.

Use an ice cream scoop to drop 6 mounds of dough on each baking sheet, spacing the mounds at least 2 inches apart. If you use a standard ice cream scoop, the yield will be 16 cookies. For a yield of 24 cookies, use a slightly smaller scoop, usually sold for the purpose of scooping muffins and dough.

Bake one sheet at a time for 11 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed and there is just barely a golden edge showing from the bottom, but not colored on top. (These cookies are meant to be soft and caky, so don't overbake them.) Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat to use all the dough.

To make the frosting: Combine the chocolate chips, unsweetened chocolate, corn syrup, butter and cream into a large microwave-safe bowl. Heat the mixture on HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes, then stir to combine. Return the bowl to the microwave; microwave on HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes, or until the mixture can be whisked together so it is smooth. Do not overheat the mixture or it may scorch. Let cool to room temperature; this may take a few hours.

When the chocolate mixture has cooled, transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer or use a hand-held electric mixer to beat it on low speed for 1 minute, or until the color lightens and thickens a little to form a frosting. (If you prefer a thinner coat, skip this step of whipping air into the frosting.)

Spread the top of each cookie with a generous 3 tablespoons of the frosting (about 1 1/2 ounces), leaving a margin around the edges. If you are making these in cool weather, the frosting will be firm enough to set almost immediately. In warmer weather, you may need to allow the cookies to set for about 20 minutes before storing.
Store in a single layer in an airtight tin for 2 days, or wrap them in plastic wrap for up to 1 week.

Per cookie (based on 24, using whole milk): 438 calories, 5 g protein, 50 g carbohydrates, 26 g fat, 17 g saturated fat, 74 mg cholesterol, 204 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 28 g sugar

By Leigh Lambert  |  October 29, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Flour Girl , Recipes  | Tags: Flour Girl, Leigh Lambert, cookies, recipes  
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My cookie-sizing problem was always that the cookies would get bigger as I went. The last batch would be huge compared to the first ones. Then I invested in a pair of cookie dough scoops. They make it easy to have evenly sized cookies, which means they bake at the same rate.

Posted by: margaret6 | October 29, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

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