>> Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Traditionally celebrated on the THURSDAY before Ash Wednesday, Paczki Day was a way for Poles to use up all of those ingredients that were not to be used during Lent - cream, milk, butter, sugar. Nowadays, Paczki Day is usually observed on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, when the rest of the Christian world is celebrating Shrove Tuesday, or Mardis Gras.
Paczkis are Polish filled doughnuts. Known for their heavy, rich dough, they are made with anywhere between 4 and 8 egg yolks. Paczkis, packed in reassuringly familiar red and white boxes, make an appearance at neighbourhood grocery stores in the week or so before Lent begins. Those golden, round beauties covered in granulated sugar or glaze are enough to make your mouth water. And woe to you if you should pass by the boxes in the market - they don't last long!
Just in case you don't live in a Polish community, or you *did* pass by them in the store; and just in case you don't have a babci to fry some for you, here is a recipe I modified from the Felician Sisters' cookbook given to me by my Nana in the 80's. You still have time to get some made for a before bed treat!
2 c. milk (warm)
1 yeast cake (or 1.5 tsp instant, or 2 tsp. active dry)
7.5 c. sifted flour (I use bread flour)
4 egg yolks plus 1 whole egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. salt
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
grated rind 1/2 lemon (I've also seen recipes that call for orange zest)
1.2 melted butter (cooled)
1/2 c. sifted flour
Jam (you can also use custards, or thick pie filling)
In a very large mixing bowl, combine milk, yeast (dissolve the cake if using cake yeast), and 2 c. flour, set aside. Blend together eggs, salt, sugar, vanilla, and rind, add to flour mixture. Beat butter into the batter and gradually add remaining flour, knead for 10 minutes. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes. Punch down the dough and divide into quarters. Taking one quarter of the dough at a time, form a roll about 16 inches long, and cut into 16 1" rounds and flatten. Place a spoonful of filling on half the rounds, leaving a margin around the filling. Dampen the dough around the edge and place the other rounds on top, pinching the edges to seal. Set aside and let rise a second time, about 30 minutes. Repeat for the remaining dough. Fry in deep oil at approximately 370 degrees F until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towelling, sprinkle with plain white sugar, or cinnamon sugar, or drizzle with a glaze made from confectioner's sugar (my oldest son used to say "confessioners sugar" - very appropriate to Shrove Tuesday, no?), vanilla and cream or milk.