Bolas de Berlim
Makes about 22 pastries
Step into Confeitaria Nacional near Lisbon’s Rossio Square and you will find an array of pastries. Bolas de Berlim are doughnut like balls of yeast raised dough, dusted with sugar. Offered up are plain Berlims and those filled with a pastry cream. Now you can make them at home as a last treat for Carnival. A perfect holiday treat for breakfast as well as dessert. My friend Maria who is a pastry chef and instructor in Lisbon shared her recipe with me which I have adapted here. It isn’t difficult. Just patience is required. See note at end before beginning.
- 7 ounces (200 gr) whole milk
- Three ¼ ounce (21 gr)packages dry yeast or 1 ounce fresh cake yeast (30 gr)
- 3/4 cup (123 gr) sugar
- 5 cups (650 grams bread flour (T55)
- grated peel of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon (5 gr) fine table salt
- 3 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
- 4 ounces (115 gr) room temperature butter, cut in pieces
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 2 cups ( 250 gr) sugar for coating
- Kitchen scale
- 2 Sheet pans
- In a medium pot, warm the milk to 110 degrees F, over medium-low heat. Remove from heat.
- Dissolve the dry yeast in the warm milk and set aside for 10 minutes.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer or large mixing bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, salt and grated lemon peel. Make a well in the middle and add the proofed yeast and lightly beaten eggs and mix over medium speed. As it mixes, slowly pour in any remaining warm milk increasing the speed gradually to medium high. Incorporate the butter in small 1 tablespoon doses. Mix until the dough is smooth, pulling away from the sides of the bowl and become somewhat elastic. The bowl will not be completely clean. If the dough is sticky, dust with a tablespoon of flour and continue mixing. The dough should spring back slightly when pressed with your index finger.
- Cover the bowl and place in a warm spot to rise until double, about 1 ½ – 2 hours. (If you wish, you can place the bowl on the middle shelf of the oven with a pan of hot water on the lower shelf.)
- Dump the dough on a lightly floured workspace and cut pieces of dough, about 60 g (2 ounces) in weight. I would not make them larger. If they are too much bigger they may brown on the outside before the inside is thoroughly cooked. Shape into rounds and place on lightly floured sheet pans. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise again for about 45 min.- 1 hour. Steam proofing helps if house is cool.
- To Fry: Set up a tray and add about 2 cups of sugar to it. Heat the oil, about 5 inches deep, in a pot or fryer to the temperature of 320-350 degrees F., Don’t go over 350, may be too hot and brown too much before thoroughly cooked.
- Gently brush off excess flour and carefully add to hot oil and fry the Berlims, a couple at a time, turning , for 5 to 10 minutes . Remove with slotted spoon to a sugared tray or sheet pan and coat. If desired, when cool enough to handle, gently slice and fill with your favorite thick pastry cream.
Keep in mind the flour in Portugal is different, more French type in nature. According to my sources, the closest thing to the T55 is our all-purpose/bread flour.
I baked a few as a test, at 350 for 20 minutes. Baking them is an option although the flavor will be different and sugar won’t stick unless you add no-melting sugar before baking. Definitely better frying in vegetable oil.