One Delicious Berliner Donut

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on January 25, 2011

I am a sucker for a good donut…but then again, I don’t know of too many people who aren’t.  Berliner donuts are actually known as Berliner Pfannkuchen,  kräppel or fastnachtskuchelchen in Germany, but also go by many other names such as Krapfen (Austria), Bismarck (Canada), Sufganiyah (Israel), kobliha (Czech Republic), Paczki (Poland) and Fánk (Hungary) but it is all basically the same product. I fell in love with these on my many trips to Germany but had never had the chance to make them. It is hard to describe these donuts in words…they are made of the most exquisitely rich dough full of milk, butter and egg yolks. Suffice it to say, the eating experience is one that you will definitely repeat…and often. Traditionally, the donuts are filled with assorted flavors of jams/jellies or custard and then dusted with powdered sugar or rolled in granulated sugar.

There is actually a funny story about a famous speech that President John F Kennedy gave before the Berlin wall in 1961. Kennedy’s speech revolved around his desire to establish solidarity between “the West” and West Berlin by taking a stand against communism. As part of his speech, he said “ich bin ein Berliner”, meaning to say “I am a citizen of Berlin” and intended it figuratively to mean “we’re with you.” But what Kennedy, and apparently his speech writers didn’t know, was that people from Berlin do not refer to themselves as Berliners. This term is lovingly used to refer to a jelly-filled donut, often eaten for breakfast. So, while they understood and appreciated the sentiments behind the President’s impassioned declaration, the audience smiled when he exclaimed, ‘I am a jelly donut.’

But I digress, back to my donuts…

This recipe was originally taken from the book called The German Cookbook, by Mimi Sheraton, but I have changed a few of the procedures and ingredients to improve the final product. In the recipe she has you cream the butter and the sugar, and then pour in the warm milk on top of this, which melts the butter. I find that this creates a greasier product, so instead, I added the butter last when the dough was cool. I also added fresh yeast as opposed to dry, simply because I believe it results in a better quality product. I hope you have an opportunity to make these because they are truly incredible in every way.

Berliner Pfannkuchen (makes about 2 dozen)

4-4 ¼ cups flour

1 heaping tablespoon Rapid Rise yeast, about .5 oz (or 20 grams fresh yeast)

2 teaspoon salt

¼ cup sugar

1 cup milk, warm

¼ – ½ cup water, warm

3 egg yolks, room temperature

1/3 cup butter, room temperature

Jam of your choice, about 2 cups

2 tablespoons canola oil

Powdered sugar or granulated sugar for coating

Canola oil for frying, about 2” in pot

Remember that your environment will always have an influence on the amount of liquid that you will use in all of your yeast raised products. So it is always better to start conservatively and add more if you need to. Add the yeast to the bowl of your stand mixer. Heat milk and ¼ cup of water and pour over yeast. Use a whisk and dissolve this completely. Add all of the flour to the bowl along with the salt and sugar and begin mixing the dough with the paddle. Slowly add the 3 egg yolks and continue to mix until well incorporated. Then, slowly begin to add the butter in small pieces until it is all incorporated. Remember that we reserved ¼ cup of water, so if you feel that the dough is too stiff, add more a little at a time until you have a dough that comes together but is not sticky. You may need to turn this out onto a lightly floured surface to knead for another 5 minutes. Add the 2 tablespoons of oil to a large stoneware bowl, and use your hand to coat the entire inside of the bowl. Put the ball of dough in the bowl, and swirl around until it is completely coated with a little oil. Cover this with plastic wrap and then again with several tea towels, and allow to rise for approximately 60-90 minutes minutes until doubled in sized.  In the book, she rolled out to a ½” thickness and used a 3” cutter to cut rounds of dough. I scaled out small pieces of dough and rolled them as if I were making rolls. Whichever procedure you choose to do, make sure to put these onto a half sheet pan and cover them again with plastic wrap and allow them to rest for another 30 minutes to rise again before frying. Make sure your oil is not very hot, or they will get very dark on the outside and stay raw in the center. Try to keep the temperature between 350°-365°F. Fry about 5 or 6 pieces at the same time. Drain on a paper towel lined plate and move to a cooling rack. Once cooled, equip your pastry bag with a tip like this…

Then fill your bag with jam and begin filling your donuts. Be careful not to fill them too much or they will burst because of the tender dough. Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy. **If you will be using granulated sugar instead, roll the donuts in the sugar before filling…it easier that way.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar heather February 12, 2011 at 12:54 p

I’m too time poor and a bit challenged to make this recipe. But I’m happy to come over to your place while you make them for me. X

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet February 12, 2011 at 8:30 p

Glad to oblige…anytime!

avatar marjorie Helbling October 13, 2013 at 11:08 p

left Attleboro MA 26 years ago miss the Bismarcks only sold in the fall and winter months, worked in Texas Instruments we would take turn bringing in the doughnuts that is when I introduced and hooked on Bismarcks. I will try your recipe thank glad I found this site. Margie

avatar Susan@LunaCafe July 1, 2014 at 12:55 p

Wow, these look amazing. Hope to try them this weekend. :-)

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet July 6, 2014 at 5:40 p

Hi Susan! Thanks for writing in, let me know if you had a chance to try them. I am a huge fan of all that you do at the Luna Cafe that I wrote about your stovetop custard. Thank you again!

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