Ich Bin Ein Berliner

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On June 26, 1963 US President John F. Kennedy came to West Berlin to give what we now look back to as one of the most famous political speeches of the 20th Century underlining US support for West Germany.

It was a remarkable speech, one of the best, had it not been for a slight misconception.

The young president said not once but twice – ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ – implying he is a Berliner or a person from Berlin – however in the German language – this directly translates to ‘I am a jelly doughnut’. And what a slip in translation! It would have been more correct to say ‘Ich bin Berliner’ omitting the article – but German grammar has never been a walk in a park – so all was forgiven and the crowd cheered anyway. Take a peak at the speech here.

The Berliner however remains one of Germany’s most favourite desserts or snacks – you can purchase it from any German bakery or grocery shop and it is as fantastic as you can imagine. Forget Crispy Cream and Dunkin Doughnuts – this the real deal.

Years ago it would have only been served on New Years Eve, now it can be purchased throughout the year – however in Berlin it is a common joke on New Years to offer someone a Berliner filled with mustard rather than jelly. Funny for some, I’m sure. But here is how to make it, replete with jam and not mustard.

Now I’m not much of a dessert cook – but Berliners are fairly easy to make – given that you have the right ingredients.

All you need is milk, butter, yeast, sugar, egg yolks, flour, a bit of salt, some canola oil, raspberry jam and of course powder sugar. Sounds a lot but nothing out of the ordinary for a dessert and we all know desserts can be quite difficult to make.

Begin by heating a cup of milk in a pot until there are bubbles. It should not boil but just bubble a bit at the side.

Take the pot away and melt 3 tablespoons of butter in it and let cool down. Sprinkle 1 package of rapid rise yeast on the mixture and add the sugar. Stir gently until everything starts to dissolve.

Wait for about 10 minutes until the foam starts to fizz. That’s when you know the yeast is active. Use one of them mixers with a dough hook and mix in 3 slightly beaten egg yolks. The dough should then start to come together – once this happens – add half a teaspoon of salt. Mix and mix until the dough is stretchy.

Ok there you have the mixture ready. Take it out and kneed it on a surface that has been lightly floured (obviously this is done to avoid it from getting stuck to the surface).

Then place the dough in a greased bowl. Make sure all sides are greased so turn it around a few times. Cover the bowl with cling film and put it in a fridge for about an hour or more – just to let it rise.

Once this rather lengthy process is done with, it is time to make the doughnuts. Roll the dough out (again) on a slightly floured surface and using a water glass cut about 3 inches in diameter. The dough should not be thicker than half an inch. Now the donoughts must rise so you can fill them with jam – and here how this is done – this rising part is the most important part so try to do it as correctly as possible. First wait 30 minutes for the doughnuts to rise. Once this has happened, heat 3-inches of vegetable oil in a hot electric fryer or deep saucepan. Slip the doughnuts in the hot oil with the top-risen side down and fry the bad boys until they turn brown. Spend no more than 4 minutes on each side.

Once this is done the doughnuts will obviously be quite oily so try and get the grease off as much as you can using a paper towel. Then acquire yourself a pastry bag – with a small tip – and fill it with jam. (Or if you don’t fancy jam, custard.. or mustard.. whatever fits your boot) and poke a small hole and stuff the jam inside the hot doughnuts.

Dust the doughnuts with powder sugar. Heavily and with confidence.

Und dann, Du bist ein berliner!


2 thoughts on “Ich Bin Ein Berliner

    Norman Van Treeck said:
    January 28, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    I am a jelly doughnut too! I love this historical mistake, but I think JFK could have said anything supportive at that point in time and he would have been cheered by the crowds in Berlin.

      Hristina Vasileva responded:
      January 29, 2013 at 9:53 am

      Definitely! Plus berliners have another name in Berlin – neh?

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