Happy Paczki Day!
Mardi Gras might get all the attention, but for some Fat Tuesday is celebrated with a traditional Polish doughnut known as a Paczek. The plural is known as Paczki (pronounced “poonch-key), which are jelly-filled pastries cranked out by Polish bakeries across the United States on the special day to indulge before Lent begins.
Large Polish communities in cities like Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Boston commemorate Paczki Day by chowing down on the Polish pastries. Bakeries will sell tens of thousands of them on the special day with mega lineups that wrap around the block. At Delightful Pastries in Chicago 36,000 were pre-ordered forcing the Polish bakery to produce 1000s per day to meet the demand.
While major Polish communities in the United States tend to celebrate Paczki Day on Fat Tuesday, Chicago commemorates the day on both Fat Thursday and Fat Tuesday.
In Poland, the day is known as Tłusty Czwartek (Fat Thursday), and is observed on the last Thursday before Ash Wednesday. In the United States, Polish communities feast on the deep-fried delights on Fat Tuesday which falls on March, 4, 2014, this year.
For those that want to learn more about the traditional Polish treat, below are fun facts about Paczki:
What Are Paczek Made Of?
Paczki are made from deep-fried flat dough with fruit or cream filling and usually covered with sugar or icing. A small amount of grain alcohol is usually added before cooking, which later evaporates to prevent the absorption of oil deep in the dough.
The traditional recipe is "all about the dough. It's denser; it's a yeast dough that doesn't collapse when you bite in," Dobra Bielinski, partners of Chicago's Delightful Pastries, told ABC News about the pastries. The tiny doughnuts are known to pack a punch – averaging 400-500 calories and 25 grams of fat into a pastry the size of a hockey puck.
What Does Paczek Mean?
Paczek is translated as “doughnut” or “little package.” The recipe, which obviously involves egg, may stem from the idea of using up all the lard, sugar and eggs in the house before fasting begins during Lent.
The doughnuts themselves have existed since the Middle Ages. The recipe was modified when French cooks came to Poland and improved the paczki dough to make it lighter, spongier and more resilient.
Any Good Recipes?
For those that want to attempt to make the Polish pastries at home, here is a recipe to try from Food.com:
12 egg yolks (or six whole eggs, see note)
1 teaspoon salt
2 (1/4 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/3 cup room temperature butter
1/2 cup sugar
4 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup rum or 1/3 cup brandy
1 cup scalded whipping cream
1 1/2 cups preserves or 1 1/2 cups cooked prunes or 1 1/2 cups cooked apples or 1 1/2 cups poppy seed filling
Oil (for deep frying, The old-timers used lard, but vegetable oil will work)
1. Beat egg yolks with the salt in the small bowl of an electric mixer at high speed until the mixture is thick and piles softly, about 7 minutes.
2. Soften yeast in warm water.
3. Cream butter, add sugar to it gradually, beating until fluffy.
4. Slowly beat in the softened yeast.
5. Stir one fourth of the flour into the yeast mix.
6. Add rum/brandy and half of the cream.
7. Beat in another fourth of the flour.
8. Stir in remaining cream.
9. Beat in half of the remaining flour and then the egg yolk mixture.
10. Beat for 2 minutes.
11. Gradually beat in the remaining flour until the dough blisters.
12. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
13. Set in a warm place to rise.
14. When it has doubled in bulk, punch it down.
15. Cover and let rise again until doubled.
16. Punch it down again.
17. Roll dough on a floured surface to about 3/4 inch thickness.
18. Cut out 3 inch rounds using a cookie cutter or glass.
19. Put 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of half the circles.
20. Brush the edges with water.
21. Top with the remaining rounds.
22. Seal the edges very well.
23. Cover the paczki on a floured surface.
24. Let rise about 20 minutes.
25. Deep fry in the hot fat until they are golden brown on both sides.
26. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or drizzle with honey.