Ich Bin Ein Berliner
President Kennedy said it best, we're all a bunch of jelly doughnuts. That we are indeed. However, as with most things in life, i like the way the Portuguese do things better. So when thinking about what little morning pastry delight i could bring in to my tuesday morning senior history seminar on the day of first draft submission, the choice was clear. After all, my classmates and professor do call me Portuguese girl. on y va.
Bolas de Berlim are traditional Portguese Berliners found in nearly every single pastelaria from Valencia to Sagres. Plump little ovals of fried dough--white flour tanned by the ovens heat, sit piled up one on top of the other in windows staring out at you almost as if from a cats eye; for these bolas are not the traditional center-filled berliners, but are slashed down the side and filled with a custard that oozes out like a scorn maple tree bleeding of its sap. These have been on my mind since the day last May when my virgin eyes fell upon them; it was in a small pastry shop with a rather unpleasantly kept exterior down a small dirty ally in Oporto where i found myself wandering lost with a poorly drawn map from a flight attendant. Blech, i thought as i scrunched my nose at the rows of shabby shop exteriors, the Portugese know nothing about presentation, this pastry shop could never exist in Paris. Though as i crept closer to the window, the magical little bouncy bolas seemed to glow brighter as i stared, dissolving away the glamour-less exterior to where my eyes could see nothing but the natural brown and white hues of the bolas and the mountains of pastéis de nata that flanked either side. Whoa....what the hell are those?
Apparently i appeared as lost as i was, for as i was leaning tete a tete against the shop window with my little red suitcase, blue leather bag, and very large camera, a man approached and asked if i was lost. He then went on to warn me that i should be careful hanging around that area else i might be mistaken for a prostitute. The Portuguese are very kind people, they are always looking out for others. The stranger helped me find my way after laughing at the miss marked map with the circled location that ironically did not exist, and offered to get for me one of the cream filled pastries he referred to as bolas. Thank you but i'm allergic to wheat, erm, eu sou allergico de trigo, do trigooo?...how the hell do you say this...esto doente! Oh screw it. Yes please i'll take one! After cuddling it for a few minutes, it found its new home inside the stomach of a mangy cão (that's dog for you unintelligents out there) but i had been bought. These are Salty Cod doughnuts indeed. Apparently i promised myself that some day i'd make these. And this day, i did.
I must say, this was the first time i have fried a dough. First time i have made a classic pastry cream. First time in revisiting my first time in Portugal in pastry form . A lot of first times in my life non? First times are tricky, they can either be the greatest and most memorable of all experiences, or they can be painstakingly frightening, or they can be laughable and learnable. First times in the pastry world are always the later; laughable and learnable, You're right, learnable is not a word, but it should be.
The entire first batch was a dud. Ce n'est pas grave, pas grave! it's ok, i'll just try it again. I fail continually at things, and usually feel the role of the dejected criminal failure at the end, but not with baking. With baking i muck up a first try at something 70% of the time, but for some reason this type of failure is the only type i do not burst a spleen over and crash to the ground in pathetic tears of romantic tragedy. No, i just, fix it, and do it over. So the second time decided to actually kneed the dough, and maybe use a recipe that didn't involve fresh yeast (yeah there's a difference, oops) and maybe boiling oil is a little too hot. But i learn. And guess what; sucesso.
Bolas de Berlim:
ingredients: 1 cup milk ~ about 4 cups flour ~ .3 cups butter ~ 1 packet yeast ~ 1 tsp salt ~ 2 eggs ~ .5 cup sugar ~ .25 cup lukewarm water
method: 1) dissolve yeast with water in a small bowl, set aside 2) heat the milk in a sauce pan until bubbling 3) in a separate bowl dump sugar, butter, and salt. when milk is ready dump over it and mix 4) add 1 cup of flour and mix again, then add the yeast water 5) add another cup of flour, and mix until smooth. add the beaten eggs and the rest of the flour 6) kneed, yes kneed the dough. i can not tell you how long, kneeding is a feeling. you will know when it's ready when you know 7) put the kneeded dough in a ball in a greesed bowl, oil the top of it, then cover and let it rise in a warm spot until doubled. then punch it down, let it rest on the counter 5 minutes 8) shape into balls/ovals, and let sit covered on a floured towel for 30 minutes 9) fry em up baby.
Pastry Cream (real bolas de Berlim are made with a very dark yellow cream, but i could not find a recipe for this, and it's called creme pasteleiro, so why not just make a regular pastry cream)
ingredients: i cup half cream half milk ~ 1 packet vanilla sugar ~ 3 egg yolks ~ .3 cup sugar ~ 2 tbsp cornstarch
method: heat milk in a saucepan till boiling, while in the meantime whisk sugar, egg, and cornstarch till creamy. when boiling, pour half oer mixture and mix with enthusiams! then pour back in the pan and cook for a minute with even more enthusiam! then when thick pour in a bowl, cover with plastic, and refrigerate until cold.
I don't know what it is about Portugal that draws me in so tightly and makes me feel so at home. Everything she touches, i seem to fall in love with. Evidently it's enough to push me into a senior history thesis on Portuguese colonization. But whatever it is, i don't think it's a coincidence, you see the salt cod is the national dish of Portugal and her former colonies. Yeah i know im not Portuguese girl, i'm just a silly american. But Atlantic cod is not an indigenous peixe to Portuguese, Azorian, Brazilian, or East Timorian waters, yet he finds himself
at home in these places. He's a foreigner, but he fits. And he loves to eat cream filled doughnuts, and letters in the mail. so watch out for that little bugger.
PS. in Brazil they are named Sonhos and are for all purposes, the same thing. thank you to everyone who explicitly made that clear to me in the comments. hehe. the ironique thing is though, if you think i sound obsessed with Portugal, then just wait until you get me started on the subject of Brazil.