This morning while sipping my coffee I realized it was Fat Tuesday aka Paczki Day and I was without a paczki. While in some parts of the world revelers are dancing in the streets for carnival, today is the day I always indulge in one (or a few) of Poland’s most calorie-laden pastries, the paczki.
You may notice these deep-fried, sugared puffs of dough pop up at the bakery or grocery store right before Lent, that’s because in Poland, paczki were made to use up all of the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in the house, as they are forbidden during the Christian season of Lent.
Although pazcki may look like a regular ol’ doughnut, I assure you they’re not. Paczki came about during the Middle Ages and are made from an especially decadent dough containing whipped eggs, butter, sugar, yeast and milk. To be even more indulgent they are filled with a variety of fruit or creme fillings and covered in granulated or powdered sugar. Traditional fillings include: prune/plum jam, as well as strawberry, Bavarian cream, blueberry, custard, raspberry or apple.
In some parts of North America Paczki Day is celebrated by immigrants and locals alike, in fact, there are parades, paczki-eating contests and long lines at bakeries just for the beloved self-indulgent paczki.
Today, instead of standing in line at the bakery, I, an amateur baker, decided that I would make my very own paczki, how hard could it be? After a pretty intense Google search I settled on what I deemed a legit Polish grandmother’s recipe. Thanks to the Brown Eyed Baker, my Paczki Day was a sweet success. Twenty-nine homemade paczki’s later along with a kitchen floor scattered with granulated and powdered sugar — I could indulge.
Paczki (Polish Doughnuts)
Recipe by Brown Eyed Baker
Note: I added 3 Tbsp of rum to the dough because a small amount of grain alcohol is added to the dough before cooking; as it evaporates, to prevent the absorption of oil deep into the dough.
-The common opinion is that the ideal pączek is fluffy and at the same time a bit collapsed, with a bright stripe around – it is supposed to guarantee that the dough was fried in fresh oil.
-I also used pure lard because why not!?
- 2 cups whole milk, warmed to 110 degrees F
- 4½ teaspoons active dry yeast (2 packages)
- ¾ cup + 1 pinch granulated sugar, divided
- 5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 egg
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1¼ teaspoons salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- Peanut oil, canola oil or lard, for frying
- Fruit preserves, for filling
- Powdered and granulated sugars, for coating
- Pour warm milk into bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in the yeast and a pinch of granulated sugar. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it has become bubbly.
- Add 2 cups of flour to the mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a smooth batter forms. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot for 30 minutes. The mixture should have risen and be very bubbly.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg and egg yolks until pale yellow and frothy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar, vanilla extract and salt, and whisk until combined and smooth.
- Attach the dough hook to the mixer, add the egg mixture to the dough and mix on medium-low speed until mostly combined. Add the melted butter and mix to combine. Gradually add 3 more cups of flour to the mixture and continue to knead until a very soft dough comes together. (It will not clean the sides of the bowl or form a ball; it will be rather slack and a bit sticky.) If necessary, add up to another 1 cup of flour, a spoonful at a time, until the dough forms.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm spot until it has doubled in size.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and turn out onto a floured work surface. With your fingers, push down the dough into an even layer. Sprinkle flour on the dough and roll it out to ½-inch thickness. If the dough doesn’t hold its shape and springs back, cover with a damp towel and let rest for a few minutes and try again.
- Use a 3-inch biscuit cutter to cut out rounds of dough.
- Transfer the dough rounds to parchment-lined baking sheets. Gather scraps of dough and again roll out and cut until you have used up all of the dough. Cover the baking sheets loosely with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free spot until almost doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat at least 1½ inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot or deep skillet (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet) over medium heat to 350 degrees F. Carefully lower about six paczki into the oil at a time (be sure not to over-crowd the pan) and fry until the bottom is golden brown.
Carefully turn them over and continue to fry until the other side is golden brown. Use a spider strainer or slotted spoon to remove them to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Allow the oil to come back to temperature, then repeat until all of the paczki have been fried.
- Allow the paczki to cool until you are able to handle them easily. Using a filling tip, pipe fruit preserves into the sides of the paczki, then roll in sugar. The paczki are best the same day they are made, but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days
I used three different fillings: A black cherry jam which I acquired on a trip to Paris, sweetened ricotta (ricotta, confectioner’s sugar, rum, orange zest) and my favorite, prune butter (1 cup dried prunes, 4 Tbsp fresh orange juice, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup brown sugar, orange zest, pinch of salt. Bring all ingredients to a boil, then simmer 30 minutes, puree with an immersion blender) I didn’t have a pastry bag, so I DIYed it by cutting off the corners of plastic Zip-Loc bags and using them as make-shift pastry bags.