Mar 2, 2019
Paczki - atlasobscura.com/Public Domain
These Polish pre-Lent doughnuts have taken on a life (and an eating contest) of their own in the United States according to atlasobscura.com.
The clock counts down as the crowd goes wild. A row of competitors push toward the finish line. It’s not a bike race or a 5k. It’s a paczki-eating contest. Every Mardi Gras, from Tappan, New York, to Hamtramck, Michigan, these fried, sugar-dusted fluffs of pastry have become an occasion for celebrating pre-Lent excess, Polish culture, and of course, gastronomic athleticism.
Golden-brown with a characteristic light ring around the middle, these yeast-risen doughnuts are deep fried and covered with powdered sugar or fried orange zest. They were first made by Polish people using up the last of the sugar, lard, and fruit in the house before the austerity of Lent. In Poland, they’re filled with rose petal, prune jam, and even fried rose buds, and are eaten on Fat Thursday (the Thursday before Lent) as part of the zapusty, or “carnival season.” These pre-Lent festivities continue to the present day, and bakeries making pa
czki are known to be the site of hours-long lines on Fat Thursday.
Paczki immigrated to the United States alongside their Polish creators and became ubiquitous in Polish communities on the Eastern seaboard and in the Midwest. In the United States, they’re eaten on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), the day before Lent begins. While some paczki are filled with the traditional rose and prune, they’ve also become a vehicle for more inventive fillings, ranging from banana cream to charred rosemary.
They’ve also become a vehicle for some serious celebration. Fat Tuesday has officially been dubbed “Paczki Day” in Hamtramck and Chicago. Celebrations in Hamtramck include beer, music, dancing mascots in P?czki costumes, and of course, the annual paczki-eating contest. Meanwhile, Chicago bakers estimate that they sell tens of thousands of the fried treat each day between Fat Thursday and Fat Tuesday every year.
While your average Chicagoan has no problem eating a paczki or 12, they disagree on how exactly to pronounce the beguiling bread’s name. For the record, p?czki is the plural form of the singular, p?czek, and the proper pronunciation is “pownch-key,” though “delicious” works just fine.
Need to Know
Paczki are also eaten in the United States on Casimir Pulaski Day, which is particularly observed in the Midwest. Born in Poland, Casimir Pulaski was an American Revolutionary War hero who has been dubbed “the father of the American cavalry.” Raise a toast—or a doughnut—to Polish American culture by enjoying one of these clouds of dough on the next Casimir Pulaski Day.
Polish Doughnuts – Paczki Recipe
Paczki are traditionally fried but they don’t have to be according to jennycancook.com. These are oven-baked and delicious. Paczki are usually filled with jam but you can also use lemon curd, chocolate pudding, or custard. It's best to have the egg yolks & oil at room temperature and be sure to aerate your flour before measuring. - Jenny Jones
Prep Time: 30 min Cook Time: 10 min Total Time: 1 hr, 30 min Makes: 12
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons (1 packet = 7 grams) yeast (instant or regular)
2/3 cup 1% milk – warmed to 120°F for instant/110°F for regular yeast
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil or extra light olive oil
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
about 1/4 cup extra flour
1 Tablespoon melted butter
1/3 cup sugar for coating
1 cup jam, custard, or filling of choice
Place flour, sugar, salt, & yeast in large bowl.
Stir in warm milk, followed by oil, egg yolks & vanilla.
With electric mixer, beat for 2 minutes on high speed.
Stir in enough flour until the dough holds together.
On a floured surface, knead 50 turns, cover with plastic and let rest 10 min.
If using custard filling, make it now so it can cool. (see recipe below)
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
On a floured surface, roll dough 1/2-inch thick. Cut circles using a 2 1/2 -inch round cutter, dipped in flour. Re-roll scraps.
Place mounds on baking sheet, cover with a towel, and let rise in a warm spot about 45 minutes. (1 hour at room temp.) During this time, preheat oven to 375° F.
When paczki are puffy, but not necessarily doubled in size, bake for 10 minutes.
Melt butter and place 1/3 cup sugar in a plastic produce bag. Lay down some wax paper to save cleanup.
Remove paczki immediately from pan to wax paper. Brush each one while warm (top & sides) with melted butter and roll in bag to coat with sugar.
Fill using a pastry bag with a long tip, pushing into the side, or cut a slit in the side and insert filling with a spoon. Best served while still warm.
In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup sugar + 4 teaspoons cornstarch.
Slowly stir in 1 cup low fat or whole milk + 1 egg yolk.
Bring to a boil.
Cook & stir about a minute. (it thickens more as it cools)
Spread onto a dinner plate and let it stand, undisturbed, to cool thoroughly before using - refrigerate if necessary.
Note: If using a pastry bag, choose a smooth jam and not one with pieces of fruit as they can clog the tip.
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