It’s Fat Tuesday! And that means Paczki! Paczki are Polish Donuts, if you’ve never heard of them. And, if there are two things that make me smile, it’s my Polish heritage and my love of donuts.
Not sure how to pronounce them? It’s pronounced pawnch-key or poonch-key. Just in case you come across them in the store and need to ask for one. Or a few.
In Poland, these delicious jelly filled donuts are traditionally served on Fat Thursday, which is the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. They originally were made to use up the eggs, sugar, jam and lard before giving up those indulgences for Lent.
In the United States, Paczki Day is celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday, or Fat Tuesday. It is popular in Mid-West cities with large Polish populations. But Paczki are definitely gaining popularity all over because they are so delicious.
Paczki vs. Donuts
Paczki are a bit different from regular donuts, as the yeast dough is sweet and rich, made from milk, eggs and butter. Almost like brioche, but even more delicious. Deep fried brioche? Um, yes please.
The fillings range from jelly or marmalade, fresh fruit and whipped cream, and custard. I like to fill mine with a tart current jelly that compliments the sweet dough, but anything you use is delicious. Traditional Paczki are filled with rose jam or prune butter or left unfilled and simply rolled in granulated sugar.
If you are interested in some more delicious Polish recipes, you can check out my recipes for Karpatka, Chocolate Babka, Biscoff Cookie Butter & Walnut Babka and my Babci’s Beet Soup. You can also check out The Polish Housewife. She has so much information about Poland and amazing recipes.
- 1 1/2 C milk
- 4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/2 c vanilla sugar (use granulated if you can't find vanilla sugar)
- 1/2 c salted butter, softened
- 1 large egg
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 Tbls vodka
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3 1/2 c all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 c cake flour, see notes
- Oil for frying (vegetable oil or lard, which is traditional)
- Heat milk to 110F and add the yeast to the milk and stir to dissolve. Put aside
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the vanilla sugar and butter until fluffy and pale.
- Beat in the egg and egg yolks, vodka, salt, and vanilla until thoroughly incorporated.
- Combine the 2 flours together and add a little at a time, alternating with the milk/yeast mixture and mix on low for about 5 minutes.
- Replace the paddle with the dough hook and knead until smooth. Dough will pull away from the sides of the bowl when done.
- Flour your hands and place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover and let dough rise in a warm place* until doubled in size (approximately an hour).
- Punch the dough, recover the bowl and let rise again (approximately half hour)
- Place the dough on a lightly floured cutting surface and pat or roll dough to a 1/2 inch thickness and cut the dough with a 3 inch biscuit or round cookie cutter.
- Re-roll scraps and cut.
- Place cut doughnut on a parchment lined cookie sheet, making sure to give enough room to expand without touching each other.
- Cover and let them rise another 20-30 minutes, until doubled in size.
- Heat oil to 350F in a Dutch oven or heavy pot (make sure oil is about 6 inches deep). Make sure you are using a thermometer to ensure the oil temp stays consistent. Too hot and they'll brown too quickly and too cool and they'll be super greasy and heavy.
- Carefully place the paczki in the oil 2-3 at a time (don't crowd them). Fry approximately 2 minutes until the bottom is golden brown and then flip and fry an additional 2 minutes. You may need to adjust the time slightly.
- Remove from oil and drain paczki on brown paper or paper towels
- While still warm, roll in granulated sugar or powdered sugar (after they cool slightly or the sugar will melt)
- Once cooled, fill a pastry bag with your favorite jam and using a pastry injector or small round tip, poke a hole in the paczki and fill with about 2 tablespoons jam (depending on the size of your donuts)
*If your kitchen is cool or drafty, a great place to proof bread is in a closed oven with the oven light on
If you want to leave the vodka out, DON'T! It doesn't have a taste and it evaporates when cooking and prevents the dough from being absorbed
If you don't have cake flour on hand, you can make your own. To make 1 cup cake flour, use 2 cups all-purpose flour with 2 Tablespoons removed and add 2 Tablespoons cornstarch and whisk together.
This recipe came from one of my favorite Polish cookbooks Polish Classic Desserts by Laura & Peter Zeranski. It is not only filled with wonderful desserts, but also Polish traditions and history.