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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Happy Pączki Day!

What is Pączki Day you ask? For that matter, what is a pączki?

I'll answer that in a minute.

Looking at history, Fat Tuesday / Mardi Gras was an opportunity for Catholics to eat all of the eggs, lard, fruit and sugar that was still in their house before Lent.

Polish immigrants settled in the Great Lakes area (Michigan) towards the end of the 19th century, to work in the steel mills and iron ore / copper mines. They established in places like Hamtramck, and also brought wonderful eateries, giving us things like pierogis (filled Polish dumplings) and pastry shops, with pączkis of course.

The pastries were eaten on Fat Thursday, the last Thursday before Lent. In Detroit, Milwaukee, and Chicago, Pączki Day is more commonly celebrated on Fat Tuesday instead of Fat Thursday.

Various Pączkis - source here.

Most of us Michiganders knew this was a good holiday when we tasted it. Yum!

Go find a Polish bakery on Fat Tuesday, but don't wait till the last minute. We love these pastries so much, you may not be able to find any if you hesitate. Some places even have pączki eating contests. Ugh, I could only eat about one.

I grew up in Michigan, and even though I wasn't from Detroit, and I'm not Polish or Catholic, I was still able to enjoy a few pączkis when I was younger.

My mouth waters just thinking of them.

Pączki is pronounced [poon-shki] or [pun-shki] depending on where you're from. It is often Americanized and spelled "punchkies" for those of us from the north.

Mmm! [drool] - source here.

These pastries are delicious. Don't they look wonderful?

They are deep fried until golden, can be filled with a traditional rose hip jam, cooked prunes, or various flavors of jams. Many times they are covered with a dusting of powdered sugar or a light glaze.

You might say they're like Bismarcks (American jelly doughnuts), although pączkis are better in my opinion.

Here's a recipe that I found from The Sour Dough:

This recipe was reduced. The original made twenty large or forty small pączki.

1 1/2 packages active dry yeast
10 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 ounce rum or whiskey (I don't think they all use liquor.)
1/4 cup lukewarm milk
1/2 cup melted butter
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups canned prune filling or cherry jam

Note - you can substitute any flavored jam to your liking. Be careful to avoid the really sweet ones, they will be a bit overpowering. Some recipes also use poppy seed paste.

1/2 cup milk, scalded & cooled
1 teaspoon salt
powdered sugar

Step 1 - Make the sponge

Activate the yeast by dissolving in the 1/4 cup lukewarm milk (milk will become slightly bubbly and frothy in about 5-10 minutes). Scald the 1/2 cup milk while waiting for the yeast to become activated and gradually add the flour into the scalded milk (I sift my flour before adding it to the scalded milk). Add the yeast mixture and stir until smooth. Cover and let rise until very bubbly (about 1/2 hour)

Step 2 - Make the dough

Beat the salt into the egg yolks. Then add the sponge to the egg yolks and salt. Mix very well until smooth. Add the sugar and rum again mixing well. Knead in the bowl until a nice smooth dough ball forms. Next, form a well and pour in the melted butter and combine with your hands until thoroughly mixed. Place in a greased bowl, coat with nonstick cooking spray, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled (about 1 - 1 1/2 hours). When dough is doubled, punch it down and let rise until double or triple (about 2 hours).

Step 3 - Form the pączki

Divide dough in half, set one half aside in covered bowl so it doesn’t dry out. Roll out the half you are working into a rectangle that is about 1/4 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter or the mouth of a glass (2" or larger) cut as many rounds as possible.

Place a about 3 tsp of filling in the center of one round. Brush edge of round with egg white and cover the filling with another round. Seal edges very well so filling won’t leak out and rounds won’t separate during last rise. Place the filled pączki greased baking sheets. Leave about 4 inches of room between each pączki to allow for rising. Repeat the process until all the dough is used (this recipe will make between 10 - 12 good sized pączki depending on amount of dough). Lightly cover with greased plastic wrap and let the pączki rise until doubled (about 1 hour).

Step 4: Fry the pączki
(note: if you have a deep fryer, make sure you change the oil if you have fried anything other than pastries)

Pour a neutral tasting oil into a deep fryer or deep pan (about 7 inches if you are using deep pan).

Heat the oil until it is about 360 to 370 degrees. Deep fry the pączki for about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown on both sides and it floats to the top. Let drain on cooling rack covered with paper towel to absorb any excess oil (flip over after about 2 minutes or so) Dust with powdered sugar when slightly warm. Let cool completely before serving, the filling will be too hot otherwise.


Happy Pączki Day / Fat Tuesday / Mardi Gras!

1 thoughtful comments:

breadchick said...

Thanks to linking to my recipe for Paczki! Great post about a very regional food.

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