Ich bin ein Berliner!

Indefinite articles aside, all the chatter about JFK’s embarrassing error during his 1963 speech in West Berlin is actually more of an urban legend than an actual error. Our former president didn’t really declare himself a jelly doughnut. In fact, his statement was grammatically correct (though the indefinite article ein can – and usually is – dropped when referring to one’s place of residence) and was not misunderstood in the context of his speech.

Further, though many other parts of Germany, and the world, refer to jelly-filled doughnuts as Berliners (named as such because they are thought to have originated in Berlin), residents of Berlin usually refer to them simply as Pfannkuchen – not Berliners.

There. Now that we’ve got the history lesson out of the way (thank you, Wikipedia!)… let’s get down to the real business at hand. Doughnuts!

Me and doughnuts, we go way back. They were a fun weekend treat that I made with my dad as a kid. The corner gas station had the best doughnut holes when I was a teenager (they came in a little white bag – ten or twelve for a dollar). I’d treat myself to a sour cream cake doughnut every Saturday after I’d done my weekly grocery shopping during the “single years.” And, every once in a while, the Hubby and I have a breakfast date at Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s been a long standing love, and one I don’t really intend to let go of anytime soon!

Of course, then, I was thrilled to see that Tartelette and Peabody, amazing bloggers that they are, had decided to co-host an event centered around everybody’s favorite fried dough… Time to Make the Doughnuts!!

I immediately turned to my newest cookbook, The German Cookbook by Mimi Sheraton. After all, why not turn to a German cookbook for a classic German doughnut? There, under the “Deep-Fried Pastries” section was a recipe for Berliner Pfannkuchen… perfect!


I got to work on the doughnuts early Sunday morning knowing that there’s a lot of fussiness that comes with any yeast dough. Add in the need for frying and filling and it’s a good thing I’m a pretty patient person. Mix, rise, cut rise, fry, dust, fill… whew! But the results are totally worth the effort – even if most of my kitchen (and most of me) ended up covered in flour and powdered sugar. Three hours later… doughnuts! Just file this one under “labor of love,” I promise you won’t regret it and you’ll have plenty of time while these little guys rise to go walk on the treadmill and burn some of the calories you’re about to consume.


Berliner Pfannkuchen
(adapted from The German Cookbook by Mimi Sheraton)

1 envelope dry powdered yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup milk
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks
3-4 cups AP flour
melted butter
1 cup jam of your choice
vegetable oil or shortening for frying
powdered sugar for dusting

Combine yeast, water and sugar and set aside in a warm place until bubbly.

Scald milk to 110 degrees F and remove from heat.

Cream butter with sugar and salt. Add milk and stir until butter melts. When cooled to lukewarm, mix in egg yolks, 1 cup flour, and dissolved yeast.

Add the remaining flour gradually until dough is soft and light but smooth and not sticky.

Knead on floured surface until elastic and smooth. Shape into a ball and place in a floured bowl. Brush top of dough with butter, cover with a thin kitchen towel, and set to rise in a warm draft-free place. Let rise 1 hour, or until doubled in size. Punch down and roll on floured surface to 1/2″ thickness. Cut rounds with a 3″ cookie cutter (or, if you’re me – a juice glass).

Cover again with a towel and allow to rise another 45 minutes.

In a dutch oven, cast iron skillet, or other high-sided, heavy pan, fill with oil or melted shortening to 1.5″ – 2″ deep. Heat to 365 degrees F and deep-fry doughnuts a few at a time. When golden on one side, flip and cook until golden on the other. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

When cool, fill with jam (I used seedless blackberry mixed with about two tablespoons of vanilla pudding) and dust with powdered sugar. (Makes about two dozen doughnuts and lots of tasty doughnut scraps.)

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14 thoughts on “Ich bin ein Berliner!

  1. Tartelette says:

    Oh wow!!! These are wonderful….Love filled donuts! Thanks for your entry! Don’t forget to send us an email!

  2. Polliwoggy says:

    Wow, they’re beautiful! Nice job! I’m still trying to figure out when I’ll have the time to make doughnuts. I really want to participate in this one.

  3. a. grace says:

    i find myself very attracted to your donuts. perhaps it’s because of the lovely jam oozing out. perhaps it’s because pretty much everything fried is beautiful. either way, nicely done!

  4. Lydia says:

    I remember listening to that JFK speech (yes, I am old…) — it was such a powerful moment, and nobody misunderstood. Leave it to the press to point out the “mistake” afterward, and for all time. But I’d be proud to call myself a doughnut if it was one of your jelly doughnuts — they are beautiful, lush, and probably quite delicious!

  5. Oh, Michelle… I love donuts and if they’re filled with jam, even better!!

    And you made me miss Berlin. Such a wonderful city full of polite and great people!

  6. K says:

    You’re right: this most definitely looks like a labor of love, especially for us non-bakers. But they look oh-so-delicious, so now I’m torn… :)

  7. Erin says:

    These look amazing! I have this fear of baking dough, it just seems that there is so much that could go wrong…but the look of these doughnuts make me think it’s about time to overcome that fear!

  8. Nemmie says:

    Great minds think alike! I made Berliners as well, with the same JFK story!! Yours look just lovely, by the way. Great job!!

  9. Madam Chow says:

    These look amazing. Would you believe I have that cookbook, and have yet to make anything from it? I must remedy this immediately!

  10. Ann says:

    What gorgeous doughnuts! Love the filling oozing out so seductively…

    Thanks for the history lesson, too. I actually had not heard about the “misunderstanding” on the part of the “Fourth Estate.”

  11. brilynn says:

    I love the way the filling oozes out, they look delicious!

  12. Cheryl says:

    Just absolutely perfect shaped and filled donuts. Outstanding job.

  13. Cakelaw says:

    I love a good jam donut – these look terrific.

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