Posted on March 6th, 2011, by Trina

My stylish friend in Milwaukee introduced me to these Polish donut-like confections, paczki. Her mother and grandmother made them every year the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. Just like we followed my grandmother as she made her famous rolls, or “Clouds” as my brother called them, to measure and write down the recipe, Shelly and her family collected the recipe from her grandmother. Shelly’s mother passed away last year, but I thought of both of them a lot today while making these, and I think that’s the whole point of passing on a recipe.

As I was eating them, they reminded me of a Dutch New Year’s Eve tradition, olibollen. The texture was different, and the olibollen contained raisins (which I would probably leave out next time) and apple, but they were both fried balls of nutmeg-y dough-y goodness tossed in a paper bag with some sugar. I don’t get all of my validation from wikipedia, but in the above-referenced article, it mentions olibollen as a paczki variation.

(original/quartered recipe)
1 1/2 (3/8) c milk
1 (1/4) tsp salt
3 egg yolks (omit)
1 (1/4) tsp vanilla
1/2 c (2 T) butter
2 cakes (1 1/4 t) yeast, 1 oz. each
1/2 c (2 T) sugar
1 whole egg (1 yolk with ~1/4 of the white)
1/2 tsp (pinch) nutmeg
4 1/2 c (1 c + 1T) flour

Scald milk and allow to cool to lukewarm. Break up yeast into lukewarm milk. Beat sugar and butter together until fluffy. Add eggs, salt, and flavorings. Mix well. Add flour and milk gradually, beating well. Let rise in warm place until double in bulk (about 2 1/2 hours). Punch down, knead, and let rise again. Place dough on lightly floured surface and stretch towards you. Cut with a glass dipped in flour. Place on lightly floured surface and let rise again. Cover with dish cloth to hold warmth. Fry in deep hot fat, turning only once. Paczki should have a very dark color before turning to ensure that they are thoroughly fried. Drain on soft, absorbent paper. Roll in powdered sugar while hot.

Shelly’s notes:
- Don’t underestimate the time it takes to make paczki; with three rises, this takes the better part of a day.

- When cutting out the paczki, instead of turning out the entire bowl of dough, pull off pieces, stretch flat with floured hands to ~1/3″-1/2″ thick, and cut, placing the paczki on cookie sheets or trays to rise.

- Use blocks of lard, melted in the frying pan (we use the electric frying pan), for frying the paczki. It’s part of what makes the flavor. Depth of fat should be about half the height of the risen paczki. Turn when the half in the fat is medium caramel-colored.

- Paczki can be filled! Traditionally, they’re filled with prune, but anything you’d fill a donut with can be used. Fill after frying and sugaring.

- Don’t crowd the frying pan! The paczki can expand even further in the hot fat.

- Eat them while they’re still warm; this is when they’re absolutely the best. And whatever you do, don’t inhale the powdered sugar! This is a rookie mistake. ;-)

She made these today with her dad, and they made 107 paczki! I knew I didn’t need that many in the house, so I quartered the recipe (in parentheses). They were DELICIOUS, and this is one Polish tradition I’m happy to adopt! After rolled and cut and rerolled and cut, I took the scrap dough and wrapped it around a dark chocolate Hershey kiss. That was one darn fine paczek, if I do say so myself!

I also got a mini-lesson in Polish pronounciation:
one is paczek (poonch-eck), many are paczki (poonch-key)

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  1. Ashley Says:

    you exhaust me with all your cooking!

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