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Polish Donuts (Pączki) Recipe

Celebrate Fat Tuesday - or Thursday - the fried way
Paczki recipe - Polish donuts
Photo courtesy of Polish Your Kitchen

In Poland, these donuts are traditionally eaten on the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, to celebrate "Fat Thursday" (while in the US they are typically eaten on Fat Tuesday). Known as pączki (pronounced ponchkee), they are fried, fluffy balls of dough dusted with powdered sugar and commonly filled with jam or custard. With this recipe, your donuts will be super soft and not greasy at all. 

Adapted recipe courtesy of Polish Your Kitchen

Notes

Two pounds of lard may sound like a lot, but believe it or not will result in a less greasy donut than canola or vegetable oil. Tallow makes a good substitute, or for a vegetarian option you can use palm oil shortening or coconut oil. You can use vegetable shortening as well, though some chefs argue that it lacks the flavor of the other alternatives.

If you'd like to fill your donuts but don't have a pastry bag, simply snip a bit of corner off a zip top baggie and fill with jam. Use your finger or a skewer to poke a hole in the donut then put the tip of the jam-filled bag in the hole and squeeze gently.

Ingredients

  • 7 1/2 Cups bread flour
  • 1 3/4 Cup warm milk
  • 3 1/2 Ounces fresh yeast
  • 1/ Cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice (plus 1 more for optional glaze)
  • 3.5 Tablespoons high proof alcohol (like vodka)
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 7 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 Pounds lard, for frying
  • Jam, for filling
  • 2 Cups powdered sugar
  • Candied lemon peel (optional)

Directions

Step 1: In a large mixing bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups of the bread flour, 1 cup warm milk, 3 1/2 ounces fresh yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Place in a warm spot covered with a kitchen towel and let rise for 1 hour.

Step 2: When the hour is almost up, fit a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. To the bowl of the stand mixer add 6 eggs yolks, 1 whole egg and 1/2 cup sugar. Whisk on medium-low until white and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes).

Step 3: Change whisk to a mixing paddle, add the yeast mixture and start mixing. Gradually start adding the remaining 6 cups bread flour alternating with the remaining 3/4 cup warm milk. Add the juice and zest of 1 lemon, 3 1/2 tablespoons vodka, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and a pinch of salt and continue to mix. When it becomes too thick to mix with the paddle, start kneading by hand. Knead until dough is smooth and it doesn't stick to your hand anymore (about 10 minutes).

Step 4: Finally, slowly add 7 tablespoons melted butter and keep kneading until incorporated.

Step 5: Place dough in a large bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 1 hour.

Step 6: After 1 hour, divide dough in half and roll out to about 1/2-inch thickness. With a glass, metal can or biscuit cutter cut out circles and place on a cookie sheet. Do this with all of your dough. Cover dough circles with a towel and let rise for 1 hour.

Step 7: About 15 minutes before the hour is up, put the 2 pounds lard in a rather narrow pot (we'll be frying only 2-3 at a time, and we need some depth of the oil) and heat on medium heat until the grease reaches 350℉/180℃ (or until a piece of dough placed in grease starts bubbling immediately).

Step 8: Be very careful when placing donuts into hot grease. I use a wire colander or spider strainer to place 2 or 3 donuts at a time. Fry donuts until they are golden brown (about 45 seconds to 1 minute per side) and flip. Transfer to a paper towel lined sheet and repeat with remaining dough (allow the grease to return to 350F in between batches).

Step 9: If you'd like to fill them with jelly, let them cool first. Fill a pastry bag (with a long nozzle) with your favorite jam or jelly. Insert nozzle into donut and push on bag to fill them with about 1 teaspoon of jelly. Repeat with remaining donuts.

Step 10: If you'd like to glaze your paczki, place 2 cups powdered sugar in a bowl and add the juice of 1 lemon plus water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it reaches the desired consistency. Pour over donuts and garnish with lemon peel, if you like. (Alternately, you can just dust the donuts with powdered sugar instead of glazing.)

For other Fat Tuesday recipes, click here.