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in the kitchen with: luisa weiss’ berliner pfannkuchen

by Kristina Gill

My life with doughnuts: When I was little, my aunt used to make beignets and doughnuts for me. There was something a little magical about it, as I’d only been used to Fox’s Donut Den. Of course, I had eaten those small “donettes” with the waxy chocolate or dense powdered-sugar coating, and the occasional Krispy Kreme cruller or plain doughnut, but never ever Dunkin’ Donuts (I am from the South, after all), and never any type of filled doughnut. Not even the story in my 7th grade German class about President Kennedy claiming to be ein Berliner (a jelly doughnut) could spark my interest in jelly doughnuts. Fast-forward many years and my love of doughnuts was rekindled by Lara Ferroni’s book, Doughnuts.  I was therefore totally excited last month when Luisa Weiss, author of the blog The Wednesday Chef, sent over a recipe for Berliner Pfannkuchen, or jelly doughnuts filled with plum jam. They came out so fluffy and soft and good that I see what all you jelly-doughnut lovers have been talking about. The cinnamon sugar on the outside is tops for me. And though Luisa says not to bother keeping them overnight, I can say that we kept them overnight in a sealed container in the refrigerator, and they were still great. Nothing beats warm doughnuts, though, that’s for sure! — Kristina

About Luisa: Luisa Weiss, author of The Wednesday Chef, is a writer and home cook in Berlin, Germany, who used to live in New York City, where she edited cookbooks and blogged and ran around gaping at the wonders of the world around her. New York! Greatest city in the world. In the fall of 2009, she moved to Berlin, her hometown, to write full-time. Berlin’s pretty nice, too. It’s taking good care of her.

The full recipe continues after the jump . . .

Berliner Pfannkuchen (Jelly Doughnuts)


  • 4 cups (500 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 oz (30 grams) fresh yeast (compressed cake)
  • 4 Tbsp (50 grams) sugar
  • 1 cup and 1 tsp (250 ml) milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 7 Tbsp (100 grams) melted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • plum jam (apricot or red currant would be nice, too)
  • 32 oz (1 liter) vegetable oil or 35.25 oz (1 kilo) of shortening, melted
  • powdered sugar or cinnamon-sugar for sprinkling


1. The ingredients should all be room temperature, and the milk should be lukewarm — not hot. Pour the flour into a mixing bowl and make a well in the middle of the flour. Crumble the fresh yeast into the well. Sprinkle a tablespoon of the sugar over the yeast and pour in the milk, mixing and dissolving the yeast and incorporating some of the flour, but not all of it. Cover the bowl and let sit for 15 minutes.

2. Mix the rest of the dough together, including the rest of the sugar, the butter, yolks and salt. Knead the dough until it is smooth and satiny. Cover again with a towel, and let it sit for 30 minutes or until the dough has doubled in volume.

3. Gently push down the dough and spread it out on a floured work surface to about 1/2 inch thickness. Cut out 3-inch circles from the dough using a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass. Transfer the circles of dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover. Let them rise until doubled.

4. In the meantime, bring a pot of oil to 320ºF–360ºF (160ºC–180ºC). You must use a thermometer for this — keeping the oil temperature stable is essential for frying doughnuts. Too low and the doughnuts will be soaked with oil. Too high and the doughnuts will burn on the outside and still be raw on the inside.

5. When the doughnuts have risen and the oil is hot, gently slip a few doughnuts at a time into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown on one side — a few minutes — and then using a slotted spoon with care, flip the doughnuts to fry on the other side. When the doughnuts are nutty brown all around, remove to a cooling rack set over a sheet pan.

6. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a small metal tip with the jam. Stick the metal tip into the side of a doughnut and gently squeeze some jam into the doughnut. Roll the doughnut in the cinnamon-sugar. These are best eaten warm, but they keep for a few hours. Don’t bother keeping them overnight, though.

Note from Kristina: I took the remaining scraps of dough, rolled them into one sheet of dough and used the dough scraper to cut this dough into small inch-long pieces, akin to doughnut holes. I fried them all then put them in a plastic bag with the remaining cinnamon-sugar, shook them up and placed them in the freezer. Now I have “doughnut holes” waiting for me when the jelly doughnuts are all eaten up!

Photography by Kristina Gill. Medium dinner plate (dust) and large pebble bowl (milk) by mud australia. Linen by Fog Linen.

Why Luisa Chose This Recipe

I just made these for the first time a month ago, and they were surprisingly easy to make and incredibly delicious. It’s nothing simpler than making a rich, yeasted dough, which you form into balls, then quickly fry in vegetable oil/shortening. I loved the contrast of a puckery plum jam at the center. They are their best eaten still warm, dusted with cinnamon sugar. (If you want, you can skip the jam and just make more traditional doughnut rings, dipped in cinnamon sugar. Also delicious.) If you want to make plum jam instead of using store bought, here’s a recipe I’ve used from a German blog that reviews cookbooks that works well!

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  • Love Luisa. These are beautiful and perfect for this cool snap we just had here on the East coast, reminding us that fall (and apples! and donuts!) are right around the corner.
    Thanks, Luisa & Kristina!

  • WOW. Those look amazing!!! I’ve never made doughnuts before so this is definitely something I’d love to do soon. Thanks for sharing. Beautiful images!

  • I’m pretty sure those are paczki, the polish version of the doughnut-especially the plum jam. Best way to fatten up ever :)

  • I used to tell myself I don’t like donuts to avoid them attaching to my thighs, but let me tell you.. I would LOVE these donuts and they can attach themselves anywhere they please. I have a recipe to try out this weekend now. Amazing and photos are gorgeous as always.

  • oh yum, berliners! that topping sounds interesting, I always had them in Germany with a (plain) sugared top. Will give it a try, it sounds very tasty!
    btw: the link of the wednesday night chef doesn’t seem to work anymore, domain is up for sale (?)

  • they look great! i’ve made “berliner” quite a few times myself and it looks as if you’ve embraced the essence of these german doughnuts.
    greetings from germany!

  • Is that Pfannkuchen? From my recollection of Pfannkuchen, its something else entirely. Or maybe this is what is called “Berliner Pfannkuchen.” I just know them as Berliners.

  • Amazing! I’ve been itching to make doughnuts for ages now, and I’m sure that filling these with jelly makes them all the more fun to make. I’m going to have to find myself a pin-sized tip to fit my pastry bag.
    Kristina, have you had much success with the Ferroni book? I tried making the baked doughnuts for New Year’s (couldn’t be bothered with deep-frying at someone else’s house), but they turned out tragically bagel-like.

  • Hi katie!

    yes, though I haven’t tried the baked donuts! It sometimes takes me a couple of tries with yeasted products though… Like for this recipe. I didn’t do something right the first time and they were very good but flat. The second time they were so fluffy and soft…

    I’d say try Lara’s recipe again and note what goes wrong, then send her an email. She’ll be happy to help troubleshoot!


  • Fabulous donuts! I remember way back in my grade school years, our school service used to pass by a donut bakery every day…enough to make me feel full the whole day just by inhaling the aroma of donuts being prepared!

  • I made this recipe twice with amazing results. My husband requested the rectangular shape dusted with cinnamon sugar. They were a huge hit! Not one was left over. My daughter requests them for her birthday now.

  • I bake 40 of something for my church every week and look for different recipes and I found your donuts with jelly. My question is instead of frying them can I bake them then put the jelly in??