Berger’s Cookies from Baltimore

27 Dec


I read about these decadent cookies in a recent issue of Saveur.

My mother in law (Pat Gunzelman) is a Baltimore native and she kindly sent us some for Christmas. The cookies are truly delicious and, to my surprise, taste just like a slice of rich chocolate cake.

Give them a try sometime and pick some up if you’re passing through the “Charm City.”

Berger Cookie History In 1835 two brothers named George and Henry Berger traveled to the United States from Germany. George, was a metal worker and lived in West Baltimore, Henry, was a baker and lived in East Baltimore. Henry had three sons, George, Henry and Otto. Each brother opened their own little bakery, with the exception of Henry who took over his father’s bakery.In the late 1800s “open air” markets dominated the way people shopped. They could purchase all their food needs in one general area. Each vendor had their own little shop, or as they were known, stall. It is believed that each brother maintained a stall in one of about five markets throughout the city.

Around the turn of the century Otto died and George and Henry combined the three bakeries, thus forming “Bergers”. As the automobile became more of a way of travel, the brothers expanded the business to the other markets. Sadly, Henry passed away and that left George as the sole proprietor of the bakery.

George had a young man by the name of Charles E. Russell in his employ. When George was ready to retire he sold the bakery to Mr. Russell. The bakery flourished under the care of Mr. Russell.

When Mr. Russell retired his son, Charles E. Russell, Jr. took control of the bakery operation. The bakery continued to prosper through the depression and two world wars. Mr. Russell, Jr. along with his two sons, Charles 3rd and Dennis, worked together in the business. He also had two brothers working for him by the name of Charles and Benjamin DeBaufre. Mr. Russell retired in 1967, turning over control of the bakery to his sons, the DeBaufre brothers branched out on their own, creating DeBaufre Bakeries, Inc.

The first two years were a struggle to make a fledgling company profitable. However in 1969 the bakery had become profitable enough to purchase Berger’s from the Russell family. In 1978 Charles’ son, Charles, Jr., purchased a portion of the bakery. In 1988, Charles, Sr., passed away, leaving Benjamin and his son Charles, Jr. along with John Koehler, in control of the company. In 1994 Benjamin retired. Charles, Jr. was now the sole proprietor of Berger Cookies.

The bakery has continued to prosper and grow from its relatively modest roots to one of the most recognized cookie in the Maryland region. We still maintain the same recipes, with some minor adjustments to adapt to the changes in processing of the raw ingredients, as in the 1800s. The same commitment to produce a quality product that our loyal customers can enjoy is maintained in our production today.

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