paczki-recipe

Traditional Paczki

Paczki (PAWNCH-kee or POONCH-kee) are deep-fried pieces of dough shaped into flattened spheres, fried, then filled. They bear a similarity to North American Bismarcks or jelly doughnuts.

The difference between these and a basic doughnut is that paczki are made with a rich, sweet yeast dough consisting of eggs, butter and milk. Sort of like a brioche doughnut — only better (yes, I did say even better!)

Paczki feature a variety of fruit and creme fillings and can be glazed or covered with granulated or powdered sugar. Powidła (stewed plum jam) and wild rose petal jam are traditional Polish fillings, but many others are used as well, including strawberry, Bavarian cream, blueberry, custard, raspberry, and apple.


Paczki and the past

Paczki have been known in Poland at least since the Middle Ages. During the reign of Augustus III, under the influence of French cooks who came to Poland, paczki dough was improved, so that paczki became lighter, spongier, and more resilient.

While the practice of Paczki Day is traditionally observed the day before Ash Wednesday in the United States, in Poland, paczki sales are the highest on Tlusty Czwartek, or “Fat Thursday.” (the Thursday before Ash Wednesday). This day marks the start of the final week of the pre-Lenten celebrations.

The traditional reason for making paczki was to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in the house, because their consumption was forbidden by Christian fasting practices during the season of Lent. (This is along the lines of the tradition among the Pennsylvania Dutch who cleared out the larder and made fasnachts for Fasnacht Day. Get my recipe for fasnachts HERE)

Paczki, paczki, everywhere

Paczki have become mainstream in the United States as a result of Polish immigrants and marketing by the bakery industry. In Polish American neighborhoods across America, there is more than likely a local bakery that sells paczki; they can even be found in some supermarkets, but what they often label as “traditional paczki” are far from it – often nothing more that regular jelly donuts with a fancy misleading label.

Paczki are particularly popular in areas where there is a large concentration of Polish immigrants: for instance in sections of Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, and right here in Pennsylvania throughout both the Anthracite and Bituminous coal regions (Pittsburgh and Northeast Pennsylvania) as well as areas of New Jersey, Connecticut, and Western Massachusetts.

If you don’t have a good old-fashioned bakery nearby, or you want to try your hand at making these treats, here is a modest-sized recipe and tips on paczki making.


Perfecting paczki

  • Paczki are best the same day they are made. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
  • If using active dry yeast rather than the instant yeast called for in this recipe, activate it first by dissolving it in the warm (105 to 110F degrees) water with a teaspoon of sugar added. If it does not get frothy, you need to get fresh yeast and start over! Instant yeast requires no “proofing” and can be added right in with the other dry ingredients (I love using it).
  • A table top electric fryer or a Dutch oven work well for frying paczki.
  • A frying thermometer helps you regulate the temp of the hot oil. Too hot and the dough will get too brown on the outside and remain raw on the inside; too cool and the dough sucks up excess oil. Test your oil using a scrap piece of dough when starting out and adjust as needed.
  • A kitchen spider is a great tool for flipping and removing the dough from the hot oil. A slotted spoon also works.
  • A Bismark tip and pastry bag is great for filling the pockets of fried dough. Otherwise, cut a slit in the side and use a small spoon to insert the filling.
  • Make sure the fried dough has cooled some before filling; hot dough can melt the filling and be hard to handle.

If you don’t have the equipment for deep frying or want a “lighter” version (they can only be made so light – they are meant to be decadent and enjoyed before fasting…), check out my recipe for baked paczki.



Traditional Paczki

Recipe by Lori Fogg, A Coalcracker In The KitchenCourse: DessertsCuisine: Polish, Coal RegionDifficulty: Intermediate

Paczki are filled doughnuts made from sweet, rich dough found in Polish cuisine

Ingredients

  • 2 whole eggs

  • 1/2 cup milk, lukewarm (105 to 110F degrees)

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast (see recipe “note” below)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • vegetable oil for frying

  • fruit preserves for filling, custard, or lemon curd

  • OPTIONAL powdered sugar for coating

Directions

  • In a medium bowl combine the eggs, milk, butter, sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Add the instant yeast and mix well.
  • Add the flour to the bowl of your stand mixer, then pour in the milk/egg mixture. Using the dough hook, mix well until well incorporated and the dough pulls cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. The dough will be soft.
  • Turn over the dough onto a floured surface and knead for a couple minutes by hand, then place the dough in a bowl that’s sprayed with cooking spray. Lightly spray the top of the dough with cooking spray so that it doesn’t dry out. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rise for a couple hours. The dough should double in size.
  • Roll out the dough on a floured surface so that’s it’s about 1/4 inch in thickness. Cut out rounds using a glass or a cookie cutter. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place the donuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and let them rise again for about 30 minutes until doubled in size.
  • To Fry
  • Add about 3 inches of oil to a deep frying pan or a Dutch Oven. Bring oil to 350 F degrees. Fry the donuts in batches, 4 or 5 at a time, until golden brown on both sides, turning them to the other side when first side is done.
  • Transfer the donuts to a baking tray lined with paper towels to drain some of the excess oil. Allow them to cool until you are able to comfortably handle them.
  • Using a piping bag and a Bismarck tip, pipe your favorite filling into the sides of the paczki.
  • Roll the paczki in powdered or granulated sugar. Serve.

Notes

  • If using active dry yeast rather than the instant yeast called for in this recipe, activate it first by dissolving it in the warm (105 to 110F degrees) water with a teaspoon of sugar added. If it does not get frothy, you need to get fresh yeast and start over! Instant yeast requires no “proofing” and can be added right in with the other dry ingredients (I love using it).
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