cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Portuguese Bolas de Berlim

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? 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.

a bientot

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.


Fee ist mein Name said...

even though i'm from germany, i feel a little homey now ;-)!

Anonymous said...

Well Mallory... your Bolas de Berlin are perfect, and just the way i like it with light pastry cream.
In Portugal we have the dark yellow pastry cream and the light pastry cream, the one you made wich is the real "creme de pasteleiro"
Congratulations! Your Bolas de Berlin are the most portuguese bolas I ever saw around the web.

Anonymous said...

Those are adorable and look oh so yummy! I love the slash as opposed to being injected with filling. They look like they have delicious mouthfuls of gooey cream. And now I'm imagining googly eyes on them all. Great.

Lori said...

These look just like the sonhos we get in Brazil! Same thing? So happy to have a recipes for these! Yum!

Cannelle Et Vanille said...

i spent a month outside of lisbon on an assignment working in the pastry kitchen of a well known hotel. we would pump out all kinds of portuguese delicacies and i remember these. the portuguese can really make creams and use egg yolks like no other!

Anonymous said...

Stop hanging around like a prostitute Mallory! Tsk tsk tsk!
Tes boules de berlin me font un grand sourire de crème. Miam

tunics said...

oh, well, a little brazilian girl lost in your blog... just to tell you that in brazil this balls are called sonhos. as you may remember from your time in lisbon, that's portuguese for dreams...

Antonio Tahhan said...

wow... I haven't had one of these in more than 6 years!! I used to buy them at a Portuguese-owned bakery near my house before I left for college. There they also sold another variation stuffed with dulce de leche, but I always preferred the cream filled ones best :) Thanks for sharing these!!

Clumbsy Cookie said...

What a lovely post for a true Portuguese girl like myself to read! Your Bolas are just perfect and reminded me of the days (or better said, the nights) I've spent frying them in a bakery. Beautiful pictures. I allways feel touched when someone says nice things about my country. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

You really try too hard with your writing. You come off as a pretentious nutter.

Mallory Elise said...

im sorry my writing style isn't to your liking, so i wonder why you keep coming back over and over to read it. my suggestion is this to you--stop reading it, then it won't put unfavorable emotions in your brain. i must say that i don't write for you, and i cannot please everyone. and next time please leave your name as it is obvious who you are.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Oh, they look fantastic and ever soooo scrumptious! I love Portuguese baked items... Your pictures are amazing too!



Siri said...

So cute and irresistible!

What gorgeous photos.

Thanks for sharing,


Emanuel said...

Obrigado,tank you, merci
This was a perfect description on one of our favorite pastries cakes.
those with cream are wonderful, but in south of Portugal by the summer time, at the beach you will find people walking the sand with baskets full with warm bolas de berlim freshly made, and screaming "olha a bola fresquinha!!!!" you need to try this ones also, with no cream at all.
here in Portugal we are glad to be consider "hospitaleiros" and we like to help.
As about the "king" cod you know what we say, there is more then 1000 ways of cooking it.
Tank you again

Anonymous said...

I was so proud when I read this... I just wanted to go and eat one of this. They actually look great in your pictures. Portuguese food is really really good, and I'm not just saying this because I am portuguese.
I am glad our food is being apreciated all around the globe.
Hope to see more.

Mil coisas said...

Hey Mallory
It´s a little after 5pm in this part of the Brazil & your pics of the "sonhos" - by now u know both PortP and BrazP for this pastry - made my water mouth for some, ´cause this is the perfect time of the day for them: late afternoon w/ a cup of black coffee or some tea!
Here in the South of Brazil we also like it w/ "doce de leite", so maybe what u think is a darker cream is actually this "caramel" kinda of custard.
My grandma, so my mom tells us, used to make them w/ bananas: U drop chunks of ripe banana in the batter and as u scoop it, try and get a piece of banana into each sonho, or pieces of guava paste which will melt when fried. Yyuummyy!!

Nani said...

Hi Mallory!!! I am happy to hear from you!!! Thank you for making me feel better, hehe :)
You did, really. And yes, these are called Sonhos in Brasil, and it's really a Dream, haha.
I used to eat those when I was a kid, it's been so long. Your post brought me memories!
Hope everything is going well with you.


Christy said...

So you don't just crumple up in a heap when your baking attempt fails? I do, sometimes. But much, much better than some of the other things, because once you know how to fix the mistakes, baking is a breeze. If only life was so simple.

Love these ones, I initially thought you were going to fill them by poking a hole in the bottom ala profiteroles, but no, you slice them in half! How fantabulistic!

PS. I'm done with mine ;)

AndreaDomingas said...

Wow, I am totally impressed with the result of yours „Sonhos“! Thanks for sharing!

Mil coisas said...

Just one more thing:
If the "sonhos" taste fatty, or greasy or stale or the filling is rancid, then we say it´s a "pesadelo" (nightmare), hehe.

Miriam said...

Lovely blog indeed, filled with humour, good recipes and beautiful pics! This type of pastry is quite common in Spain too.


Sierra said...

i want to go to portugal now by the way....or brazil. i'm fine with either one haha

Laranjinha said...

Hi Mallory,

I liked your post very much especially the way you speak about the Portuguese. You made me feel very proud to be from such a culture. I also like the way you describe your passion about the food made in the Portuguese tradition.

When will we have the pleasure to have you around here again?

Um grande beijinho da Isabel.

Manuela © said...

Your Bolas de Berlim are perfect!

Now to complete your portuguese album you need to visit the islands as well ;-)

Carolyn Jung said...

I, too, shy away from frying dough at home. So messy, and well, there are the added calories involved. But I so love these custard-filled donuts (have had them at bakeries), that oil and calories be damned. I must try making these soon.

Joana Cabral said...

If you love BOlas the Berlin here's a tip for you:

Go to Viana do Castelo, small city north of Porto, and try the Bolas de Berlim from Natário pastry shop..:The best in the world by far!

Yours look delicious by the way! Have to try it at home.

Belinha Fernandes said...

Just to let you now that I linked to this post about Bolas de Berlim because you can write better than me!Thank you so much!;)