We’re already a week into Lent, but I can’t get paczki out of my head. Where I grew up, paczki are king. EVERYONE eats them. But when I moved to DC, I was shocked to find out that paczki aren’t “a thing,” and that many of my friends had never heard of these delicious treats. Maybe you’re one of those people. Let me explain.
Y’all know about Fat Tuesday, right? The day before Lent begins, it’s full of delicious food and debauchery, a kind of last hurrah before 40 days of fasting. Paczki are like super-heavy donuts filled with delicious jelly. Traditionally they’re made with lard, and one paczek (that’s the singular) sits in your tummy like a lead weight of regret… and yet, you want more.
I am so lucky to have beautiful, talented, hilarious friends who also love to cook and eat amazing food. My dear friend Ania is Polish, and also misses the “real paczki” you can get from a Polish bakery (as opposed to the imposters you can find grocery stores across the country). So this year, she proposed we make out own.
We spent an afternoon together whipping these bad boys up with our adorable friend Meghan. Ania’s puppy, Buster, served as sous-chef.
Here‘s the recipe we used. I will walk you through the steps.
1 1/2 C warm milk
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 C sugar
1 stick room-temperature butter
1 large room-temperature egg
3 large room-temperature egg yolks
1 TBSP brandy or rum (we used brandy)
1 tsp salt
4 1/2 to 5 C all-purpose flour
1 gallon oil for deep frying
Powdered sugar (optional)
Jam for filling (the recipe says optional but it is lying. Traditional filling is prune but you can use any good jam. We used strawberry and raspberry preserves from Bolton Orchards, near Ania’s parents’ house)
Optional needs: mimosas for enjoying while cooking. Meghan demonstrates:
Here’s what you do:
Add your yeast to the warm milk, stir to dissolve and set aside. Using either a stand mixer or your hand mixer, cream the sugar and butter together until fluffy. Beat in eggs, brandy and salt until it’s all mixed together.
Do that thing where you alternate dry-wet-dry-wet-dry with the flour and the milk-yeast mixture. Beat it all together until it’s super-smooth. The recipe said five minutes, but I say when the dough starts to climb your mixer, that’s a sure sign. Grandma Woho didn’t teach me bread for nothin’.
Put the dough in a greased bowl. Cover it and let it rise until it’s doubled in size, then punch it down to rise again. Note: The recipe says you can try to cut the rise time down by nuking everything in the microwave. Maybe don’t do that, because when we did, I think we lost some of the air out of the dough.
Ania demonstrates more patience than I have:
When your dough has risen twice (that’s what she said), roll it out or pat it down to about 1/2 inch thick. Cut little rounds with a biscuit cutter, or, like grandmas do, a drinking glass. Let them rise for about half an hour. Ania’s gran covers hers with a towel, so that’s what we did. While that’s happening, pour your oil into a deep pan and heat it to 350 degrees. When it’s time! Your oil is the right temperature, and your paczki have plumped up a bit, slide them into the oil. Flip them so you can see they’re uniformly browned, then pluck them out and let them drip-dry on paper towel.
When they’re cool enough to handle, poke some holes into the sides of your paczki so you can pipe in the filling. We didn’t have pastry bags, so we used the very unscientific method of poking holes with a meat thermometer, then spooning in the filling. We dusted the whole thing with powdered sugar to make it delicious and cover any imperfections.
So next year’s Paczki Day seems far off, but if you’re craving sweets, these little buggers are worth it. And if you can cook with your friends? So much the better.