This post started as a holiday project, that for lack of time, I ended up not participating in. I decided to share with you how this Berliner Tower came to mind anyhow. This is the Venezuelan version of a pastry cream filled doughnut that you can find in any bakery around the country. It’s origin dates back to Germany (Berlin, did you guess it?), it was brought to Latin America and it became popular in many of our Latin countries, each with a different name for it. In Venezuela we call it Bombas Rellenas. It is also known as Berlinesas, Bola de Berlim, Bolas de Frailes or Bollos.
When I was pregnant for the first time I craved this sweet treat like crazy. I tried to make it and I failed miserably – burned a pan, made a mess and gave up! I cried to my mom over the phone that I was really really craving Bombas. After I gave birth I went to Venezuela with my new born baby and the first night I was there my brother walked in the house with a huge smile on his face holding a greasy brown bag. Inside there were two of these Bombas Rellenas. I was in heaven! I opened the bag and took a sniff so that I could take it all in; I can’t describe the feeling but it was awesome!
I must say that since then I have improved my pastry cream making 🙂 For a holiday party I wanted to make something that resembled a Christmas tree. I liked the idea of a croque en bouche, even thou it’s is not “crunchy” I thought I could still stack them up and instead of the traditional sprinkle of powder sugar use the melted caramel to make it look pretty. I am not going to lie and tell you this is super easy, it’s in fact pretty ambitious, but if you enjoy a challenge like me you can do it! If you have time and want to impress your guests… let’s get cooking!
(makes about 24 x 1 inch diameter balls)
For the Berliner
3/4 Cup milk, at room temperature
1/4 oz. Active dry yeast
17 oz. All purpose flour (3 + 3/4 cup)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 oz. Granulated sugar
2 Eggs, beaten – at room temperature
Vegetable oil for deep frying
For the pastry cream
1 Cup half and half
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/3 Cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch
Dash of salt
For the caramel
1/2 Cup granulated sugar
1/4 Cup water
In the microwave warm up the milk for 10 seconds. Add the dry yeast and let it sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. In a wide bowl, add the flour, sugar and salt, whisk together to mix and break down any lumps. Move the flour to the side of the bowl making a well in the center. Pour the melted butter and beaten eggs start mixing in with a spatula, start adding the milk-yeast mixture a little at a time until a firm dough is form and it comes away from the sides of the bowl. The dough should not be sticky but it should feel smooth to the touch. Cover with a wet paper towel and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes (I use the interior of my microwave).
After 30 minutes the dough should have almost doubled in size. Using the palms of your hands make 1 1/2 inch balls and place them in a baking sheet (it should make about 24 balls)* cover with wet paper towels and let rest for another 30 minutes.
In the meantime make the pastry cream, scald the cream and vanilla in a non-stick medium sauce pan, it should not boil. In a small bowl whisk together the yolks, sugar and salt until the mixture is pale and thick. Dissolve the cornstarch in one tablespoon cold water and fold in the egg mixture. Temper the yolks bi whisking in 2 tablespoons of hot cream, then pour into the sauce pan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the cream gets very thick, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover with plastic wrap and let cool.
In a heavy bottom pan heat the oil on medium high, use enough oil to cover the Berliners. Start frying the Berliners until they are golden brown on the outside and cooked in the inside about 3 to 4 minutes. Take them out to plate prepared with paper towels to absorb the oil. Transfer to a cooling rack until they are safe to handle and start filling them. Pour the pastry cream in a piping bag with a thick opening tip, make a little cut on the top of the Berliner and start filling up with the pastry bag.
In a small sauce pan heat the sugar and water over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolve and starts getting golden brown, about 10 minutes. Keep warm placing the pan inside of a tin bowl with hot water. Use a wet pastry brush to push down the caramel sticking to the side of the pan.
At this point you have to start working really quick. Start by dipping a little bit of the Berliner in the caramel and placing in your serving tray, caramel side down so it sticks to the plate. The next one dip in two places to make it stick to the bottom and side. Keep going until you form a ring of Berliners. Keep stacking them on top, with one or two less than the previous ring and keeping them close together until you reach the top. Spoon some of the caramel all over the tower. Enjoy!
*The original size for Bombas Rellenas is bigger than this mini version. This recipe would make about 10 regular size Berliners (about 2 1/2 inches diameter each).