As the Easter season approaches, many of us in the Coal Region look to tradition for our final indulgences in foods that were often abstained from during the Lenten season. The day before the start of Lent, known as “Fat Tuesday” (or Shrove Tuesday) in many regions is often referred to as “Donut Day” or “Fasnacht Day” in the Pa Dutch and Coal Regions. Due to our heavy influence of Eastern European cultures and immigrants, it is also known as “Paczki Day” in many Polish households.
As with other cultures in our region, the making of paczki is traditionally a way to use up all of the fat, sugar, and fruit in the house–things that are forbidden during the strict Polish Lenten season.
In Poland, Paczki Day, the day when all of the last paczki are consumed, is the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. In the USA, Paczki Day is the day before Ash Wednesday.
The difference between these and a basic doughnut is that paczki are made with a very rich, sweet yeast dough consisting of eggs, butter and milk. Sort of like a brioche doughnut.
Traditionally, paczki are fried in hot fat, but many people either do not have the kitchen equipment to deep fry, or they prefer not to do so due to health or safety concerns. This is a recipe for BAKED paczki that are just as delicious as their fried counterparts and baking them gives you a great kid-friendly recipe and opportunity to involve the younger members of the household in the process to introduce them to family traditions!
Fill with your favorite fruit preserve or even lemon curd or custard. The most traditional filling is a stewed plum jam or rose hip jam. Baked paczki last longer than fried, but are still best consumed the day they are made.
Baked Paczki (Polish Doughnuts)Course: DessertsCuisine: Eastern European, Coal RegionDifficulty: Intermediate
Almost like a brioche doughnut, this recipe is for BAKED paczki that are just as delicious as their fried counterparts!
1-1/2 cups warm milk (105 to 110 degrees F)
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup white sugar
4 ounces (1 stick) room-temperature butter
1 large room-temperature egg
3 large room-temperature egg yolks
1 tablespoon brandy (or rum)
1 teaspoon salt
4-1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
- In a small bowl or measuring cup, add yeast to warm milk, stir to dissolve and set aside.
- In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in egg, egg yolks, brandy or rum and salt until well incorporated.
- Still using the paddle attachment, add 4-1/2 cups flour alternately with the milk-yeast mixture and beat for five or more minutes by machine and longer by hand until smooth. The dough will be very slack. If very soft or runny, add up to the remaining 1/2 cup flour.
- Place dough in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk approximately 1-1/2 to 2 -1/2 hours. Punch down, cover and let rise again.
- Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Pat or roll to 1/2 to 3/4-inch thickness. Cut rounds with 3-inch cutter. Remove scraps, and re-roll and re-cut. Transfer rounds to parchment-lined baking sheets, cover and let rounds rise until doubled in bulk, 30 minutes or longer.
- Heat oven to 375F degrees.
- Place pączki in the oven on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until toothpick tests clean when inserted into center.
- Remove from oven and roll in granulated sugar while still hot or confectioners’ sugar when cool.
- To fill the pączki, let them cool completely then pipe or spoon in filling.
- The easiest way to fill these is to use a pastry bag fitted with a Bismarck Tip. If you do not have a bag/tip, you can cut a slit in the side of the baked dough and spoon in some jam.