The Portuguese love their pastries, even at the beach! The Bola de Berlim or “Berlin Ball” is Portugal’s version of the German Berliner, a sugar-raised hole-less doughnut filled with a fruit jam. This original German recipe was supposedly first brought to Portugal by Jewish refugees who fled Germany (Berlin) during World War II and started making them at home to sell. They eventually became a staple in pastelerias around the country. Some years later, the recipe was modified to be filled with an egg yolk – based custard (egg sweets are traditional in Portugal) called creme pasteleiro or “pastry cream” which is injected through a lateral cut across the side for show. They are also typically larger than a Berliner and covered in white sugar in the South while it’s powdered sugar in the North.
Now how this ridiculously sweet and fatty doughnut made its way to the beach here where people are usually trying to keep their bikini-bodies in shape no one knows for sure! But what is certain is that EVERYONE here loves a tasty bolinha after an invigorating swim in the ocean and then ready to lay out for a lazy afternoon in the sun, including myself! From the most crowded to the most secluded beaches, there is always café/bar selling them nearby for about €1- 2.00 or a vendor walking around the beach with a picnic basket filled with bolas de Berlim, calling out “Olha a bolinha!”. However, most beaches only sell bolas sem creme – without the pastry cream as people realized that the egg custard doesn’t fair too well in the heat. Though in recent years there’s been a surge in popularity in the business for these beach pastries, one of the most successful businesses just launched last year is Bolas da Praia, who actually cater to those who can’t make it to the beach or it’s too cold to go, by making and delivering Bolas de Berlim to groups and events all year round in the area of Porto. And they have them with or without cream as well as mini ones, sweet!
So if you make it to the beach here this summer, make sure you listen for the vendor’s call and get your hands on a scrumptious Bola de Berlim!