***Update*** Hey y’all, WordPress has featured this post on their front page today! I hope this means a wee bit of Bawlmer and Bon Appetit Hon will find their way into kitchens around the world. Thanks for the love WordPress.
Ok class, I hope you all read the assigned material because today we’re having a pop quiz. Answer the following multiple choice question.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, BAH:
- Painted the bathroom
- Made a cheesecake for the first time
- Pigged out and then repented by making vegetable soup
- Made an at home version of a classic Baltimore cookie
- Attempted to recreate Grandma’s stuffed peppers
- All of the above
In classic, overachiever, BAH style, the answer is ‘All of the above’. That doesn’t surprise you does it? Given the number of tasks that were undertaken, the success rate was pretty high. The bathroom didn’t go quite as expected and will be seeing another round of painting as we try and correct both poor advice from the “experts” at Home Depot and our color selection. But everything else counts as wins. Stuffed peppers, cheesecake, and vegetable soup will all post after the holidays. Today though, we’re talking cookies. Berger Cookies.
The day after Thanksgiving, when most people were thinking about Christmas shopping, I was thinking about Christmas cookies. I try and feature a different cookie every year. For a while, I was pretty sure those Homemade Samoas were going to be the official BAH 2009 cookie. And then I stumbled across Leigh Lambert’s post about homemade Berger Cookies. Since most of my cookies get shipped to former residents of Charm City, I like to try and have some kind of Baltimore connection if possible. And it doesn’t get any more Baltimore than Berger Cookies hon.
These are a local icon. An institution. A tradition dating back to the 1800’s. And you either love them or hate them. There’s no in between. The cookies are firm and cakey, even a bit on the dry side. They have to be to support the thick topping of dense chocolate frosting. It’s a blessing and a curse because there’s a fine line between indulgence and overkill. And it’s an easy line to cross. One cookie, maybe two, is ok. But more than that and the appeal starts to fade for me. Others have noted a degree of staleness in the cookies. Again, it works for the cookies because they need to be able to hold up a mountain of frosting and a little staleness makes for a sturdier base. But it also works against them because stale just doesn’t taste good. So it was with no clear sense of how an at home version of these would turn out, or if it would be worth the effort, that I got baking. Now that the cookies have been baked, frosted, and consumed, I can render my own judgment.
Not only are homemade Berger Cookies worth the effort, they are better than store bought. Making them yourself completely eliminates the staleness issue. Although it’s worth noting that just four days later, I did begin to detect a bit of staleness creeping in. I need to either store them better or eat them faster.
I also was able to control the amount of frosting on the cookies which I think made for a better balance. As The Mistah said, biting into a Berger can make his teeth hurt because there’s too much frosting. So I employed a less is more approach. The recipe called for using 3 tablespoons of frosting per cookie. I know that I didn’t come close to that much. You’ll have to find the amount that works for you.
What I should have controlled was the size of the cookies. I used a standard ice cream scoop to portion out the cookie dough and no lie, the cookies were easily 3 inches across. This strikes me as being substantially bigger than what you get from the store bought Bergers. It also means that you’re only going to get maybe two dozen cookies, at most, from each batch. I plan on using a smaller scoop to divide up the dough next time.
Because I have decided that Homemade Berger Cookies are the Official BAH 2009 Christmas Cookie. I will be sending a bit of homemade Baltimore flavor to friends and family. You can too.
Homemade Berger Cookies
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
BAH Note: You could make this dough using a hand held mixer but I really think it’s better suited to a stand mixer. The dough uses a lot of flour and even though it’s alternated with an entire cup of liquid, it might be too much for a hand mixer. If you don’t have a stand mixer, don’t despair. Use your hand mixer but be prepared to have to do some of the mixing by hand.
Also, I was concerned that the frosting would not firm up enough to allow these to be shipped. It does. But it takes some time. So if you plan to make these to send, make sure you leave yourself enough time for the frosted cookies to set up before you package them. I can’t say how well they will hold up to the United States Postal Service but I’m hoping for the best.
- 2 sticks 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 all purpose flour
- 1 cup milk (whole or 2 percent)
- 3 1/2 cups (21 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
- 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1/2 stick butter, chilled
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line two or three baking sheets with parchment.
Beat the softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium high speed for about 3 minutes, until fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed.
Add the salt, vanilla, and baking powder and mix to combine. Add the sugar and mix until combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
On low speed, or by hand, add the flour and milk in several additions, beginning and ending with the flour.
Using a standard 2 1/2 inch ice cream scoop, drop six portions of dough, spaced 2 inches apart, onto a prepared sheet pan. For smaller cookies, use a 1 1/4 inch or 1 3/4 inch scoop.
Working with one sheet at a time, bake until the cookies puff, the bottom edges just begin to color, but the tops are still pale (no color at all), approximately 11 minutes. The tops will look a bit cracked when you pull them from the oven. Don’t be tempted to overbake the cookies or they will be dry.
Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely. Bake remaining dough and make the frosting.
Combine the chocolate chips, unsweetened chocolate, corn syrup, cream, and butter in a medium or large microwave safe bowl and heat on 50% power in 1 1/2 minute increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate has melted and can be easily mixed to a smooth consistency. Let stand at room temperature to cool completely, approximately 2 to 3 hours (seriously).
Once the chocolate has completely cooled, use a hand mixer or transfer the chocolate to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until the frosting thickens, approximately 3 to 5 minutes.
Spread a dollop of frosting on the top of each cookie and let it set up completely, approximately 30 minutes. Cookies can be kept in an airtight container. For longer storage, wrap in plastic wrap.