The Pre-Lenten season in Germany goes by many names depending on the region. The traditions also vary. It is known as Karneval in Rheinland-Pfalz; Fasching in Bavaria, Berlin, and Austria; and Fastnacht in Baden, Swabia, and Switzerland. Karneval (nicknamed die fünfte Jahreszeit- fifth season) starts on November 11th at 11:11 in the morning and lasts until Fastnachtsdienstag, the day before Ash Wednesday. Today is called Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) and is celebrated with parades- the largest celebration takes place in Cologne.
More information on Karneval.
These doughnuts also go by many names. They are known as Pfannkuchen in Berlin, Brandenburg, Freistaat Sachsen, and Sachsen-Anhalt; Krapfen in Bavaria, Austria, and Northern Italy; Kreppel in Hessen; Fastnachtsküchle in Rheinland-Pfalz and Switzerland; and Fasnetskiachla in Swabia. The type of jam used also depends on the region. Fillings include strawberry, raspberry, plum, cherry, or apricot jam. Variations may also include cream or chocolate.
While looking for common Karneval foods, I noticed one common theme with many countries- fried dough. Berliners in Germany, Beignets in Louisiana, Chiacchiere in Italy- people around the world celebrate the Pre-Lenten season with different types of fried pastries. I rarely fry food, so this was a bit out of my comfort zone. Luckily, this was a fairly easy dough to work with and I used a thermometer to make sure the oil stayed at the right temperature.
I filled my Berliner with raspberry and strawberry jam. The strawberry ones were my favorite. Be careful with the size pastry tip you use. It needs to be the smallest possible, while also large enough to let the jam through. I ended up having to switch to an almost medium tip, because the jam kept getting stuck with the small tip. Practice piping first before you completely fill the pastry bag. It wasn’t very fun to have to empty out the bag to change tips.
Berliner (German Doughnut)
Adapted from Group Recipes
Berliner (German Doughnut)
- 1 cup warm milk 115 degrees Fahrenheit
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 3 1/2 cups cake flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 egg yolks
- Canola oil for frying
- 10 ounces jam raspberry, strawberry, plum, cherry, or apricot
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- In a small bowl, combine warm milk and butter, stirring to melt. Sprinkle yeast over the milk and stir to combine. Let sit until yeast softens and begins to foam, about 10 minutes.
- In the bowl of a large food processor fitted with a dough blade, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Add milk and egg yolks. Process until a smooth dough forms.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Time permitting, place bowl in refrigerator after doubling to chill, making the dough easier to roll out.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough until it is 1/2 inches thick. Cut with a 3 inch circular cutter and allow the cut doughnuts to rise until puffy, about 30 minutes.
- In a large saucepan, heat 3 inches of canola oil over medium heat to maintain a temperature of 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Fry the doughnuts, about 3 at a time to avoid overcrowding and top side down first, until they are golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove with a large slotted spoon to a towel lined plate.
- Fit a pastry bag with a small to medium tip and fill with jam. Use a toothpick to poke a hole in the side of each doughnut and pipe in the jam. Top with powdered sugar.