Who doesn’t love doughnuts? How about a filled Polish doughnut know as a Pączki, pronounced (POHNCH-kee). These little pillows of rich egg dough, scented with dark rum and vanilla, are fried until golden brown and then filled with generous amounts of fruit or custard filling and then finished with a liberal dusting of powder sugar. Indulge your friends and family with these decadent sweet treats this coming Fat Tuesday or any time of the year.
Pączki Day is a time to celebrate: Fat Tuesday (Tuesday, February 13) also known as Pączki Day here in the Detroit-Metro Area is just around the corner. The bakeries in the Polish neighborhood of Hamtramck are starting to gear up and are already taking orders for this special day. This is when Detroiters from all backgrounds happily flock to the bakeries in Hamtramck to brave Mother Nature’s wintery winds and snow while waiting in long lines for hours at a time to purchase their own boxes loaded with these decadent little-fried pillows of sweet goodness. The tradition comes from Eastern European Polish Roman Catholics. Pączki is a traditional food the week before Lent or the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. For many Polish families, Pączki is a treat for Sundays, holidays and other special occasions.
Enriched Doughs means a sticky dough: Before you start my recipe for Pączki, know it is highly enriched with eggs, butter, sugar and whole milk. This makes for a dough that is very sticky when kneading and handling it. Don’t be deterred by how sticky the dough is throughout the kneading. There is no need for extra flour at any point while kneading the dough. Keep a plastic dough scraper handy to help with kneading and to move the dough.
As with all baking recipes I recommend you weigh the ingredients for the Pączki. Weighing ensures you have a consistent dough each and every time. As a baker, we are always striving to remove any variables from the process of baking.
If you like to make your own Custard Filling (Pastry Cream) check out my post for Double Stuff Chocolate Cupcakes for the full recipe and directions.
The full instructional video for Pączki is at the bottom of this blog post. Click this link to “LIKE” and “SUBSCRIBE” to my YouTube Channel “Just One Bite, Please?”
- Measuring Cups and Spoons/Electronic Bakers Scale
- Large Mixing Bowls
- Rubber Spatula or Wooden Spoon
- Plastic Bench Scrap
- Plastic Wrap
- Non-Stick Spray/Oil
- 4-inch Round Metal Cutter
- Wooden Cutting Boards
- Measurement Grams Ingredients
- 6 Tbsp. 85 g. Butter (unsalted, room temperature)
- 1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp. 82 g. Granulated Sugar
- 3 each 3 each Whole Eggs (large, room temperature)
- 1-½ cups 340 g. Whole Milk (room temperature)
- 2 tsp. 8 g. Instant Yeast
- 2 Tbsp. 17 g. Dark Rum
- 2 tsp. 8 g. Vanilla Extract
- 5-¼ cups 726 g. All-Purpose Flour (unbleached, unbromated)
- 1-½ tsp. 16 g. Sea Salt (fine)
Mixing the dough:
- In a mixing bowl combine the butter and granulated sugar. Blend and beat with a rubber spatula until light and creamy.
- Add 1 whole egg to the sugar/butter mixture and beat until well blended and creamy. Add the remaining whole eggs and beat until blended. The mixture will look curdled.
- Add the whole milk, instant yeast, and dark rum, vanilla extract, and half of the all-purpose flour. Stir to combine and then beat with the rubber spatula until the mixture is the consistency of a thick pancake batter.
- Add the remaining all-purpose flour and sea salt and stir until the dough becomes a shaggy mass.
- Scrape the dough from the bowl and turn the dough onto the work surface.
- Knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes. Gather the dough together from time to time using the plastic bench scrap. (This is a sticky dough: Do not add any extra flour while kneading)
- Form the well-kneaded dough into a tight round.
- Lightly spray or oil a clean mixing bowl and place the dough into it.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment the dough for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
- After the dough has doubled, lightly flour the work surface.
- Uncover the dough and turn it onto the floured work surface.
- Degas and then stretch and fold the dough. Starting with bottom 1/3rd of the dough, fold over the center 1/3rd of the dough. Fold the top 1/3rd of dough to the bottom edge. Fold 1/3rd of the dough from the right to the left and then fold the left edge to the right edge. (See video timestamp 2:31)
- Lightly flour the work surface and place the folded dough seam side down onto the floured surface.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.
Rolling and Cutting:
- Uncover the dough and lightly flour the work surface and place the dough onto the floured surface.
- Lightly press and degas the dough with the flats of your hands and then lightly flour the top of the dough.
- With a rolling pin, roll the dough to 14″x 15″ (36 cm x 38 cm) rectangle that is ½-inch (1.3 cm) thick. Flour the work surface if necessary.
- Lift and turn the dough while rolling to let it shrink back and relax. Continue to roll the dough until it is ½-inch (1.3 cm) thick.
- Lightly flour a large wooden cutting board.
- With a 4-inch (10 cm) round cutter cut out 12 Pączki.
- Remove the excess dough and set aside.
- Place the Pączki on a lightly floured wooden surface and cover with plastic wrap.
- Lightly flour a small wooden cutting board.
- Pinch and form the dough scraps into a 6″ x 9″ (15 cm x 23 cm) rectangle.
- Cut the reformed dough into 6 even pieces and place onto the floured cutting board.
- Cover the dough pieces with plastic wrap.
- Proof the Pączki and extra dough pieces at room temperature for 1 hour.
Pre-heat the oil to 350°F (176°C) 15 minutes before frying the Pączki
- 6 cups Vegetable Oil (or lard)
- 3 Quart Sauté Pan (with high sides)
- Wooden Chopsticks or Tongs
- Slotted Spoon
- Cooling Rack
- Sheet Tray lined with Parchment Paper
- Paring Knife
- Fruit or Custard Filling
- Piping Bag with ½-inch Round Tip
- Powder Sugar
- Small Sifter
Frying and Finishing:
- Uncover and test the Pączki to see if the dough holds an indentation when gently pressed with your finger.
- To fry the Pączki, carefully lower 3 to 4 proof pieces of dough into hot fat. Do not crowd the frying pot.
- Fry the Pączki on the first side for 1 minute. With tongs or a long chopstick turn the Pączki over and fry on the second side for 1 minute.
- Turn the Pączki over and fry for 2 more minutes or until golden brown. Turn the Pączki over one last time and fry 2 more minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove the Pączki from the fryer and drain on the cooling rack lined sheet tray.
- Continue to fry all the remaining Pączki and dough pieces.
- Cool the Pączki completely to room temperature before filling.
- Use a paring knife to pierce and form a hole on the sides of the Pączki and then fill with your desired filling. (Prune, apricot, lemon curd, custard, cherry, blueberry, or apple)
- Liberally dust the Pączki with powder sugar before serving.