Delicious, Authentic Polish Paczki recipe traditionally made for Fat Tuesday or Thursday in February, to celebrate the last day before Lent fasting begins.
When it comes to Fat Tuesday, I'm all about the Polish tradition of Paczki! The Polish do it right, because these are definitely a worthy Fat Tuesday splurge!
What are Paczki?
Pączki are essentially donuts, made by frying dough, filling with a variety of fruit or custard fillings, and coated with sugar. Paczki are made from a rich dough containing eggs, fats, sugar, yeast and sometimes milk, so they tend to be a little more rich and dense than a typical donut. Packzi can have a variety of fruit or cream fillings. They can be glazed or covered with either granulated or powdered sugar. In Poland, a stewed plum jam or a wild rose hip jam are the most traditional fillings, but many others are used as well, including strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, apple, prune or custard.
When are Paczki eaten?
In Poland, Paczki are eaten on Fat Thursday, which is the last Thursday prior to Ash Wednesday (prior to lent). The traditional reason for making pączki was to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in the house, in preparation for the fasting of Lent ahead.
In North America, Paczki Day typically occurs on Fat Tuesday, the last day before the beginning of Lent. In some communities with large Polish populations, Paczki day is celebrated on both Fat Thursday and Fat Tuesdy.
How do you pronounce Paczki?
While there are slight variations, the typical North American pronunciation of Paczki is POONCH-key. Some prefer more of a PAUNCH-key.
Like jelly donuts, Paczki can be filled with any number of fillings. Any fruit jam, such as raspberry, strawberry, blueberry or plum. Apple jam/compotes are also good. On the creamy side, Bavarian Cream or custard fillings would also be nice.
Yeast - You can use either Active Dry or regular Instant yeast such as SAF Brand (not rapid or quick-rise instant yeast).
Flour - Use regular all-purpose flour. I like to use unbleached all purpose flour, as a rule, though regular bleached all purpose flour will work well here as well.
Milk - Whole milk is recommended, for best flavour and texture. Whole milk is full-fat milk, known as Homo milk here in Canada. It is generally 3-3.5% butterfat.
Filling - I have used raspberry jam here, as it is my favourite, but any jam is fine here. As noted above, you could also fill with apple, cream or custard. You want to make sure whatever filling you use is not too thin, but also, not too thick, as it needs to be pipe-able to fill the donut.
Oil - for frying the paczki. I like vegetable oil, for frying, though any neutral-tasting oil with a higher smoke point will work here.
You will also need - Eggs (2), white sugar, butter, vanilla, salt.
This is a visual summary of how the paczki come together. Always refer to the complete instructions in the Recipe Card below.
- I like my Paczki rolled in granulated sugar. There's just something about that sugar crunch! Some paczki are made with a thin glaze of icing sugar and milk, if you'd rather go that route. You could also dust them in icing sugar. Any way you eat them, they're a really delicious treat and definitely a splurge.
- Paczki are best eaten on the day they are made, although they do freeze well, if you have extras. You don't need a deep fryer to make these, although that's definitely the easiest route, as it keeps a constant temperature and is safer. If you don't have a fryer, use a deep, heavy pot and a portable thermometer to monitor the temperature. Do be careful though and have a lid handy, just in case.
- When deep frying, be sure to use a thermometer to keep the oil temperature constant. If the oil is too hot, it will cook the outside before the inside is cooked. If it is not hot enough, the dough will absorb oil, rather than just cooking the outside to seal the oil out. Also, avoid frying too many paczki at one time, as it will lower the oil temperature.
- Be sure to coat your Paczki in granulated sugar while they are still warm, so the sugar will stick. If opting for powdered sugar, obviously you'd want to wait until the Paczki are cool before coating. As powdered sugar will dissolve over time, add powdered sugar just before serving.
- I quickly got tired of trying to deep fry in a pot on the stove. Not only is it potentially dangerous, it's messy and really hard to control the oil temperature in. I invested in a small deep fryer that doesn't take up much room to store and doesn't need a ton of oil to fill it - about 1 large container. When the oil is cooled, I return it to the container and store it in the fridge to use again.
- Every deep fryer is a bit different, so if you find the specified 360F oil temperature is either too hot or too cool, don't hesitate to adjust up or down as needed, until you find the sweet spot for your fryer.
- If deep frying in a pot on the stove, never leave the hot oil unattended and have a lid handy at all times to cover the pot, if needed. Keep kids well away of the kitchen during that part of the process.
- 2 1/4 tsp dry active or instant yeast (not rapid or quick-rise yeast)
- 1 cup whole milk ((3% b.f.) scalded and cooled)
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
- 2 Tbsp butter (melted)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 - 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (use only as much as you need to make a moist, but not sticky dough)
- Oil (for frying)
- White Granulated Sugar (for dusting after frying)
- Jam or custard (for filling (suggested: Raspberry, Blueberry, Cherry or Strawberry Jam))
- In a small saucepan, heat milk until steaming with small bubbles forming around the edges (about 180F). Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm (about 105F).
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve yeast in the lukewarm milk and let stand for 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of the flour. Mix together and let stand for 20-30 minutes, until really bubbly.
- In the meantime, beat the yolks in a small bowl until they are light and fluffy.
- To the proofed yeast mixture, add the melted butter and sugar and mix. Add salt and vanilla. Add beaten egg yolks. Slowly add more of the flour to bowl in small increments, adding just until you have a soft dough that is moist ,but not sticky. Remove dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead 1 minute (adding a bit more flour if it is sticking to your hands or the work surface). Form dough into a ball.
- Grease a clean bowl and add dough. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled. (This dough is a bit of a slow riser, so expect this rise to be up to 90 minutes).
- Deflate dough and pat out onto floured cutting board. With a rolling pin, gently roll into a 1/2-inch thick circle. Gently cut out circles with 3-inch biscuit cutter. Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with a clean tea towel and let rise until doubled (about 30 minutes). *You can re-roll the scraps and cut more pieces, though they are never quite as neat as the first cuts. I like to use the ugliest of these ones as "test" ones, to test the temperature of the oil. I fry one, let cool, then cut it open to make sure it is cooking all the way through. I can then adjust time/temperature, as needed from there.
- Meanwhile, heat oil to 360°F. Fry paczki until golden on one side, flip and fry the other side. Don't try to cook too many at a time so you don't reduce the temperature of the oil by adding too many at once. Don't rush the frying, to be sure they are cooked through well. Fry until they are a deep golden colour. Remove paczki to a cooling rack for about 30 seconds, then immediately roll in granulated sugar. Let stand until completely cooled.
- Once cooled, using a sharp knife, poke a hole on the side. Use a pastry bag with a large plain tip to pipe the jam or custard filling inside.
- These are best when freshly made, but you can freeze any extras.