A delicious, authentic Polish Pączki recipe (Polish donuts), 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 Polish donuts are definitely a worthy Fat Tuesday splurge!
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.
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 Tuesday.
While there are slight variations, the typical North American pronunciation of Paczki is POONCH-key. Some prefer more of a PAUNCH-key.
Traditionally, Paczki are filled with a prune filling, plum jam, custard or a poppy seed filling, but that said, you can fill with any filling you enjoy. I love fruit jam, such as raspberry, strawberry, blueberry or plum. Apple jam/compotes are also good. On the creamy side, Bavarian Cream would also be nice.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Yeast – You can use either Active Dry or regular Instant yeast such as SAF Brand Instant Yeast (my yeast of choice)
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.
Tip! Sometimes, traditional Paczki recipes call for a small amount of vodka to be added to the dough, to enhance the flavour and foster a more light and airy texture. If you’d like to experiment with this addition, add about 1-2 Tablespoon of vodka to the dough with the eggs.
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/confectioners’ sugar. Any way you eat them, they’re a really delicious treat and definitely a splurge.
- You don’t need a deep fryer to make these, although that’s definitely the easiest route, as it keeps the oil 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. In the unlikely event the oil ignites, simply cover the pot with the lid to extinguish. Keep kids well away from the deep frying process and take care yourself!
- 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, to avoid melting it. As powdered sugar will dissolve over time, add powdered sugar just before serving.
- 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.
Making Ahead, Storing and Freezing
Paczki are best enjoyed the day they are made, though they are still nice the next day. Don’t store too tightly wrapped, or the sugar coating will get quite moist. Paczki freeze beautifully, so rather than let them get stale, wrap well and freeze up to 3 months. Thaw on the counter for 30 minutes to enjoy.
Get the Recipe: Authentic Polish Paczki
- 2 1/4 tsp (7 g) dry active or instant yeast, not rapid or quick-rise yeast
- 1 cup (227 ml) whole milk, (3% b.f.) scalded and cooled
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup (50 g) granulated white sugar
- 2 Tbsp butter, melted
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 – 3 1/2 cups (360 – 420 g) 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 the milk until steaming with small bubbles forming around the edges (about 180F). Do not boil. Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm (about 105F). *It's important to ensure the milk has cooled to lukewarm, of it may kill the yeast.
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the 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 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 flour just until you have a soft, moist, but not sticky dough. Remove the 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 the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled in size. (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 a 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. in a deep fryer or in a large, heavy pot. Fry the Paczki until golden on one side, flip and fry the other side. *Tip! chopsticks are great for flipping the Paczki! 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 ensure that they are cooked all the way 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.
- Paczki are best enjoyed when freshly made, but you can freeze any extras up to 3 months.
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Hi! I’m Jennifer, a home cook schooled by trial and error and almost 40 years of getting dinner on the table! I love to share my favourite recipes, both old and new, together with lots of tips and tricks to hopefully help make your home cooking enjoyable, stress free, rewarding and of course, delicious!