With Mardi Gras right around the corner, there’s a lot of incredible food you should make a point of squeezing in before Fat Tuesday draws to a close. For your meals, a traditional fried chicken and andouille gumbo, a chicken and shrimp jambalaya, or perhaps a different spin on gumbo with a bit more winter squash will suit your fancy. However, all of these options neglect the sweet tooths out there, and for you, my people, there are paczkis.
I only recently heard of paczkis. These treats are Polish in origin (and pronounced like “poon-shkee”) and, to completely over-simplify them, resemble cake-like jelly doughnuts. The idea, as with all Fat Tuesday-centric food, is to use up and indulge in all of the things that aren’t to be consumed during Lent, and as such, these are more exciting than your everyday doughnuts.
Traditionally, these are a bit large and contain a small bit of some sweet filling (usually a fruit preserve). The dough is yeast-based, somewhat dense and cake-like in texture, and either dusted with sugar or lightly glazed. For this recipe, the paczkis are slightly smaller than usual, but otherwise, true to form and absolutely delicious. I tend to prefer them for dessert, but if you’re a doughnuts and coffee type at breakfast time, these will bring a smile to your face.
As an aside, if you’ve spent much time searching for paczki recipes before, you might know its a frustrating endeavor. Most of the recipes are either…questionable (to put it nicely)…or produce a convenient nine dozen in one batch and don’t scale down easily. If you’re a home cook and not a professional bakery, that probably doesn’t have much appeal. This recipe yields a much more manageable amount, coming in at slightly over two dozen paczkis–just enough for you and some family/friends to enjoy before any staleness sets in (they transition from cake-like to more bread-like as they go stale–still delicious, just different).
- 0.375 oz yeast (that’s 1.5 envelopes)
- 1/8 cup warm water
- 1 cup milk
- 1.5 cups flour
- 5 Tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup sugar
- dash salt
- 1 Tbsp whiskey (or similarly high alcohol content liquor)
- 1 cup warm milk
- 4.5 cups flour
- ~30 oz of some filling (I used ~15 oz cherry jam and ~15 oz lemon curd)
- A bunch of confectioner’s sugar
- Oil (enough to deep fry–lard, canola, or vegetable oil)
Begin by making the sponge. In a medium-sized bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and warm milk. Mix in the flour just until well integrated. Set this aside in a warm place for a half hour–it should eventually show holes and look somewhat spongy.
Once the sponge is ready, you’re now ready to make the dough. In a large bowl/the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter (which is at room temperature) and work in the sugar.
Beat in the eggs, salt, and whiskey. Add the slightly warm (not hot enough to melt the butter–closer to room temperature) milk. Once mixed in, slowly mix in the sponge, finally followed by the remaining flour.
Mix only enough to get things reasonably homogenous. The dough will be rather tacky and somewhat annoyingly sticky.
Set this aside in a lightly oiled bowl in a warm place.
After the dough has proofed and approximately doubled in size (~2 hours), you should divide the dough and roll them into anywhere between 24 and 30 balls. Lay these out on a lightly greased sheet of parchment paper to proof for another 30-45 minutes.
Preheat enough oil to fry (and don’t expect these to sink in the oil–they’ll float on the surface and only be approximately halfway submerged) in a deep pot to about 350°F (for the candy thermometer-less like myself, this is approximately low-medium heat, pre-warmed for 5-10 minutes). Once the oil is hot, ease in three or four at a time (don’t crowd the pan–oil temperature will drop and the paczkis will get oily in a bad way!).
They should bubble and brown some, but not furiously or rapidly (if so, drop the temperature). Flip each one after one minute, and after another minute, remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a paper-towel lined plate to drain the oil.
Once cool enough to safely handle (a few seconds, really), you should stuff in a piping tip as close to the center of each freshly fried paczki and squeeze in whatever filling you’re using. Squeeze until you see just a bit coming out around the edges.
After filling your batch of three or four, toss these in a bowl of confectioner’s sugar, roll around to coat, and set aside. During all of this, you should fry the next batch, and get a good groove going. Having two people for this instead of one will make this process go a lot smoother.
Once you’re done, promptly grab yourself the hottest one and enjoy!