A "House of Cards" star tweeted about them. Customers stockpile them. Some fans have even put their names on a waiting list to get them.
Charm City Cook's salted caramel brownies are a hot commodity.
Now Amy Langrehr's creations are available in more stores than ever, and she's considering expanding the line to include bourbon blondies and a cookbook.
"I want everything I do to be approachable and fun," says Langrehr, a 47-year-old baker, food writer, and social-media consultant.
A Kingsville native and Perry Hall High School graduate, Langrehr says she's surprised by the success. When people rave about the brownies, she still says, "Really?"
Langrehr created her website, Charm City Cook, in 2011 after an inspirational trip to France. It began as a cooking blog, as she wrote about culinary adventures such as making cheese, pasta and bread from scratch and curing her own bacon.
Although Langrehr prefers savory to sweet — think nachos or roasted chicken — friends raved about her brownies. In 2013, Susannah Siger, the owner of Ma Petite Shoe, who is also a friend of Langrehr's, suggested that she start selling her brownies at the Hampden boutique and cafe. And they were instantly a hit.
"They're dense and fudge-like," says Siger. "They have that lovely salty, savory, sweet, chocolately balance. … She really hit it out of the park with those brownies."
They were so successful that, initially, there was sometimes a waiting list for the brownies at the shop.
Even now, Siger says, "The people are quite disturbed if we run out."
In February, Langrehr left her job in fundraising and development at Friends School to pursue her baking and food-writing career full time. She bakes several times a month at two local commercial kitchens and flash-freezes the brownies so retailers can pull them out as needed.
Langrehr wants to continue writing, and she doesn't want to expand her baking business too quickly. She raises chickens in the backyard of her Hampden rowhouse, and every brownie batch has at least one home-grown egg — and she'd like to keep it that way.
While she believes there's a significant taste difference in a fresh egg, it might not be too discernible in baking. But she wants to make her brownies as personal as possible. "It's more of a gesture," Langrehr says.
She also makes the salted caramel used in the brownies from scratch.
Charm City Cook brownies and other baked goods from Langrehr, including peanut butter jelly bars, bourbon blondies and caramel toffee bark, can also be found on the set of "House of Cards." (A friend heads up the hair department.) Langrehr was thrilled when actor Michael Kelly — aka Doug Stamper — tweeted about them, saying he was pretty sure it was the best brownie he had ever had.
But you don't have to be famous to get them. Charm City Cook salted caramel brownies are sold online. (They're popular wedding favors.) They are featured occasionally on the menu at The Food Market and on pop-up basis at some stores, most recently at Becket Hitch in Lutherville. They also can be regularly be found at Parts & Labor, Local Pie, The Wine Source, Ma Petite Shoe, and — once it opens — Paulie Gee's in Hampden.