20 January 2014

Better Berger Cookies Recipe

In November, my friend Amie posted a link on Facebook to an article from the North Baltimore Patch website about how the FDA's proposed ban on trans fats would destroy the beloved Baltimore tradition: The Berger Cookie.

For those of you who didn't grow up in Maryland, a Berger Cookie is a big, soft sugar cookie topped with a thick layer of fudge. And yes, they are delicious. It would be a shame if they disappeared.

The article states:
Berger Cookies, cake-like cookies topped with a thick slab of fudge, have been prepared with the same basic recipe since the 1800s in Baltimore.
But two of the cookies’ key ingredients—margarine and fudge—contain partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil, a source of trans fat.
And then we have this quote from owner and president Charles DeBaufre Jr.:
“We’ve tried it and trust me, it is nasty. It doesn’t taste right,” DeBaufre said. “The texture’s not there. It’s an entirely different product.”

But wait: If they've been using the same basic recipe since the 1800s, wouldn't they already have somewhere in the archives a solution to the trans fat dilemma? As far as I know, cooks weren't using partially-hydrogenated oils in their baked goods 200 years ago. But I'm not a food historian, so I might be wrong. It's entirely possible that trans fats have always been a part of the recipe. Still, I wasn't convinced that the trans fat ban (if passed - anyone know if it actually went through??) would spell doom for this decadent dessert. And to prove my point, I made my own Berger Cookies, which I believe are even better than the cookies I used to buy at the grocery store when I lived in Maryland.

*Note: The following recipe is not entirely my own. I combined my mom's recipes for Sugar Cookies and Fudge, with just a few minor tweaks.

 Better than Berger Cookies
Sugar Cookie Base
1 c. butter*
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. almond extract
4 c. flour

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, salt and flavoring. Beat until creamy.

Stir in flour.

Wrap dough with plastic wrap (I prefer to form the dough into a flat disc, rather than a ball, to make it easier to roll out after chilling) and chill in refrigerator for 5-6 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roll out dough and cut into circles. Bake on greased or parchment-lined cookie sheets for 8-10 minutes, just until lightly browned on the bottom, but still creamy white on top. (Don't over bake, or the cookies won't be soft!)

Cool cookies on wire racks, then transfer to sheets of waxed paper for the fudge topping.

Fudge Topping:
3 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter*
1 c. dry milk
1 c. + 2 Tbsp. water
1/4 c. cocoa powder (optional - for a more dark-chocolate fudge)
2 (12 oz.) packages semi-sweet chocolate chips
5 c. mini marshmallows
2 tsp. vanilla extract
    (OR 1 tsp. vanilla & 1 tsp. hazelnut extract)

Measure out marshmallows and chocolate chips into a large, metal or glass, mixing bowl. (I like to use my stand mixer for this, but if you have a hand-held mixer, you can use any good, sturdy bowl. You don't want to use a plastic bowl, as you'll be pouring boiling sugar into it, and it will melt!) Make sure your mixer is plugged in, with the wire whisk attachment ready to go.

Measure the vanilla extract into a small bowl and set it next to your mixing bowl, so it will be ready when you need it.

In a large pan, stir together sugar, butter, powdered milk, cocoa powder and water over medium heat until it reaches a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.

Continue to stir constantly, while allowing the mixture to boil for EXACTLY 5 minutes.

Remove from heat immediately. Pour over chocolate and marshmallows in mixing bowl.

Immediately begin mixing with your electric mixer, and mix until both chocolate chips and marshmallows have completely melted, and chocolate is smooth.

Add vanilla and mix until it is completely incorporated.

As soon as fudge is mixed, while still warm, drop generous spoonfuls over the top of each sugar cookie. You must work quickly, because the fudge sets as it begins to cool!

Allow the cookies to cool completely, then store in an airtight container, with waxed paper between layers of cookies.

*Note: You can use margarine instead of butter in this recipe, but that kind of defeats the purpose of a trans-fat free recipe.