- $10 for Two Groupons: Each Good for One Dozen Donuts ($18.26 value)
The Berliner: From Jelly to JFK
One of the most popular treats here sneaks into bellies under several aliases. Read on to pull apart the history of the berliner, bismarck, or jelly donut.
Before they contained jam and jelly, filled donuts were generally for concealing savory foods and playing mean tricks on children. Bite into one, and you might find fish, meat, cheese, or mushrooms. A sweet recipe does appear in the 1485 German cookbook Kuchenmeisterei (Mastery of the Kitchen), calling for jam sandwiched between two balls of yeast dough and deep-fried in lard. But sugar was scarce, and the treat didn’t catch on until the 16th century, when the expansion of cane plantations in the Caribbean lowered prices and helped spread fruit preserves across Europe. To fill donuts today, chefs either ball the dough around a dollop of the sweet stuff, or, more commonly, pipe it in with a specialized syringe-like instrument after the dough has been fried and cooled.
Legend has it that the name berliner originated in the Prussian army. Unfit for military service, a certain Berlin native was allowed to remain as a field baker. With no access to an oven, he began frying donuts over an open fire, inspiring the soldiers to nickname his creations after his hometown. Years later, in 1963, this double meaning inspired a long-enduring myth. During a visit to West Berlin after the construction of the Berlin Wall, President John F. Kennedy gave his support to citizens by saying “Ich bin ein Berliner,” or “I am a Berliner.” Despite the phrase’s grammatical accuracy and positive reception, articles such as an op-ed piece in the New York Times perpetuated the myth that what JFK had really said was, “I am a jelly donut”—clearly an urban legend if only because nobody then tried to devour him.