Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fat Tuesday! Polish Paczki Day!

My Aunt Sophie and my grandmother "Babci" would make these at Easter, but they take a lot of work to make. I am happy to find them here in Florida at my local Publix supermarkets.

It is the weekend before the beginning of Lent, a forty day period of fasting, sacrifice, and penance for those who are devout Catholics. My remembrance of Lent was of dry fish sticks, only marginally better than cardboard, with a little ketchup on them if we were lucky. We did have, on occasion, beet soup and potato pancakes, recipes I will post in the next few weeks.

A treat I did remember was Paczki, Polish jelly-filled doughnuts that were traditionally made on Fat Tuesday, except that in Detroit in the 1950s everyone had to work during the week, so my Grandmother and Aunt made them on the Saturday before Lent began.

Along the stairwell leading to the partially finished attic in the house on Florida Street, was a cutout pantry where many of the kitchen utensils were stored. I was especially amazed at the wealth and the large sizes of the mixing bowls, every color, size, and shape imaginable. The big bowls were brought out to make the Paczki.

They were nothing like typical jelly doughnuts found in a supermarket deli or even a doughnut shop. These were big, hearty, orbs of dense, rich, eggy pastry, often filled with jelly, usually raspberry, or sometimes only with a handful of white raisins in the dough.

Paczki are very labor and time intensive. The recipe I provide below is from our family, but I have never made them. In fact, I don’t remember having seen Paczki being made. I only saw and savored the end result! I called my sister before posting and even she, the great cook that she is, doesn’t make them by hand, but orders them from a bakery in Detroit.

I have no such nearby bakery, but this year our local supermarket, had something they called Paczki. They weren’t as brown or as dense or as rich as those of my childhood, but they will have to do. If you do make my recipe I would love to hear your comments. on how they turned out.

Polish Doughnuts (Paczki)

1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 whole egg and 3 yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
1/2 cup raspberry jam
Optional: 1/4 cup white raisins

Dissolve yeast in water. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, gradually beat in egg and egg yolks. Add yeast mixture, vanilla, orange rind and salt. Gradually add flour, blend ingredients well, and knead until dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Set aside in warm place until doubled. On floured board roll out until 1/2 inch thick. Cut into circles with glass or biscuit-cutter.

Place a spoonful of raspberry jam at center of each circle, fold in half, pinch and roll into balls snowball fashion.

Fry in hot oil or shortening until dark brown. Transfer to paper towels. When cool dust with powdered sugar.

Note: For a lighter texture, the formed and filled paczki can be set in a warm place to rise once again before frying.
Paczki come in several flavors, but I like the raspberry filling best.

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