by Janice Sieg Bernard & Brigitte Sieg
Ahh, the Berliner Pfannkuchen! I can remember having these as a New Year’s Eve treat as far back as I can remember (even before we moved to Missouri when I was six). Traditionally, the doughnuts are filled with prune or other filling but my favorites were made after we moved to the farm in Southwest Missouri and Mom — Brigitte Sieg — made jam from wild plums she found growing in the wild.
Those were the best!
As soon as I was old enough, I remember helping Mom make the doughnuts (my job was to roll them in sugar while they were still hot from frying). It was hard to wait until they had cooled enough to eat! We would make lots of doughnuts — one year we made over 100! — and then distribute them to neighbors and friends.
Mom remembers how popular the Pfannkuchen were at New Year’s Eve when she was growing up. Mom doesn’t remember having the doughnuts at any other time of year (at least in the Berlin area). But on New Year’s Eve the bakeries were busy making the doughnuts. When the bakeries opened there would be a long line of people waiting to buy their Pfannkuchen for New Year’s Eve parties.
When you placed your order at the bakery, you could request one mustard-filled doughnut as a joke on some unlucky recipient!
I asked Mom if her mother ever made the doughnuts but she said no. When Mom was young they did not have ovens in their apartments.
She did say you could prepare your bread dough, let it rise, and when it was ready for the oven you could take it to the bakery and they would bake it for you. In some smaller towns they had community ovens. When I visited relatives in former East Germany, they had a small summer bungalow and the little town had one of the old community ovens still standing.
After the war, Mom remembers her uncle, who was a baker by trade, make the Pfannkuchen at home. According to the stories I’ve heard all my life, he was a jokester who would have most likely included a mustard-filled doughnut!
Mom remembers New Year’s Eve as being a special time: the one time children were allowed to stay up late and participate in the festivities which included fireworks, sparklers and — of course — Pfannkuchen!
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup butter, diced
- 4 1/2 teaspoons yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 3 egg yolks
- 3 2/4 cups all-purpose flour
- Red plum jam
- Egg white
- Oil for deep frying
- Heat milk in a small, heavy-bottomed pan until bubbles being to form. Remove from heat. Add 1/3 cup sugar, salt and butter, stirring to melt. Cool to lukewarm.
2. In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water. If possible, check temperature of water with a thermometer. Over 115°F could kill the yeast.
3. Stir yeast until dissolved. Add milk mixture, egg yolks and 2 cups flour. Mix at medium speed, beating until smooth (around 2 minutes). With wooden spoon, beat in remaining flour. Dough will be soft.
4. Cover dough with towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until double in bulk (several hours depending on temperature and strength of yeast). Punch down the dough. Turn out on a lightly floured surface and coat with flour. Knead until the dough is smooth and divide.
5. Roll out both doughs to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 3-inch rounds. Place 1 teaspoon jam in center of half the rounds. Brush edges with egg white. Top with remaining rounds. Press edges to seal. Place on floured cookie sheet.
6. Cover doughnuts with a towel. Let rise until double in bulk (about 1 hour). Meanwhile, in a deep-fat fryer or heavy skillet, slowly heat oil (2 inches deep or more) to 350°F on a candy thermometer. Gently drop the doughnuts, top-side down, three at a time, into the hot oil.
Fry, turning at they rise to surface, turning again, until golden brown — 4 minutes in all. Open one to test doneness. Fry longer if needed. Lift out with slotted spoon, draining slightly. Place on paper towels to drain. Dust with sugar while warm.
Makes 14 doughnuts.
Originally published December 23, 2014
Berliner Pfannkuchen: State of the Ozarks
Photo credits: J. Heston © 2014, December 23, 2014