Wandering through Berlin, you will see bakeries seemingly on every corner. Backerei Balzer though, seemed to have garnered itself especially good reviews, in particular remarking on how it is an old-school bakery, with wares that are both traditional and delicious. Rather than being part of a chain or franchise, it is independant and has been around since the 1920s. That sort of staying power surely indicates they are doing something right.
It is located in the genteel suburb of Mitte, and as we happpened to be staying in that same suburb, we couldn’t not visit. On the leafy street of Sophienstrasse, it has understated signage out front. “Backerei Konditorei”, or bakery and confectionary. “Balzer” is there on the shingle in smaller font. The pastries on display in the window though, will confirm that you are definitely at the right place.
Even the decor is charmingly traditional, with lace curtains at glass in the the door, and paper doilies under the trays of baked goods. Descriptions and prices are handwritten on little cards and placed near the respective items. A little bell jangles as you open the door. It is mostly set up as a takeaway, and although there is a little counter ledge along one side you can stand at, there isn’t much space, and you get the impression that you are meant to get your goods and go.
By the time we got there at about mid-morning, many of the loaves of bread had already disappeared from the shelves. No doubt the locals get in early. Fortunately for these holidaymakers, there was still a good range of other treats left.
Unfortunately for us, all those little cards only carried names in German, and the staff present spoke little to no English. So we guessed at what things might be like from appearance, and tried to pick from among the most appealing-looking things. There were so many oven-bronzed goodies and the prices seemed so budget-friendly..
We got the eponymous berliner, of course. Who doesn’t get a berliner in Berlin? The soft, fluffy doughnut pastry had a thin layer of sugar glazing over it, and in the middle, sweet jam. It would definitely satisfy any sweet tooth. It was a bit cloying by about halfway through though. The airy lightness of the pastry helped, but it was hard to get through a whole one.
Google translate managed to tell us that the “kase” part of the Kase blatterteig was cheese. The rest of it didn’t come through. It turned out to be a basket of layered buttery pastry that was dense but flaky, and slighty salty. The cheese on it was caramelised in parts, and had quite a mild flavour itself, but also had bits of sugar glaze on it. It was a better mix of sweet and salty, overall slightly more on the sweet side.
The third purchase was another pastry whose name has been lost now. It looked like another doughnut. It had an unexpectedly different texture though. It was airy when bitten into, and had a spongy, bouncy texture like egg waffles. It too was sugar-glazed, but didn’t turn out too sweet. If it didn’t have all those air pockets in its structure, it might have been stodgy, but because of the way it was made, it actually turned out to be quite light, in the way that honeycomb is not as heavy as it looks from its size.
We visited one more time before we left Berlin (a last chance to get local food just before we headed for the airport), and bought what was possibly labelled “Plunder”. This was a pinwheel of more golden, flaky pastry, more crunchy than brittle, with a dollop of slightly tart jam in the centre, and a brush coating of sugar glaze over it (it seemed to be a running theme).
We also bought a Nuss-schzeite. Our guess from its appearance was that it was going to be a hazelnut twist. Oddly enough, “schzeite” directly translates to “shame”, which seems to be a strange thing to call a pastry, unless it refers to shame at eating ten at a go.. It did turn out to be a chocolate and nut twist, with a good pastry to filling ratio.
Backerei Balzer is certainly a destination for some very affordable treats while you are in Berlin. Compared to the hipster places around, it is simpler, but good. It isn’t touristy at all, and is an opportunity to try something truly local.
Price point: €1.20 to €1.50 apiece for pastries.
Address: Sophienstrasse 31, Mitte, Berlin
Phone: +49 30 2826537
Website: They don’t have one.