Monday, March 7, 2011

Pączki: a Polish Fat Tuesday Treat

Happy Mardi Gras, everybody!

Despite the fact that I am both Polish and live in a city renowned for it's celebration of Fat Tuesday, I had never heard of pączki until some Northern and Midwestern living friends of mine in an online forum started discussing them a few years ago.  I realized instantly that I needed to have these!  I found some last year at one of the local supermarkets and they were like powdered jelly doughnuts.  Nice, but nothing special. Turns out, true pączki "are *not* large jelly doughnuts, but small, delicate, rose-petal or plum-preserve filled balls of goodness. Possibly Avocat-cream, but that's dangerous territory for a filling. The only possible addition is icing (again, a shimmer of semi-translucent sweetness, not big blobs of white icing) and maybe a few (3-4) tiny squares of candied orange peel.", says my Polish friend Anna, from Ann Arbor, MI.  Even more intriguing!  But where to get them?

My friend Melinda, from Seattle, had the same dilemma and solved it by making them herself. She also volunteered to guest blog them for us, so we could try them ourselves. You may remember her from previous guest posts about Fig Butter and Vegetarian Pigs In A Blanket (Cabbage Rolls).   Hooray Melinda!


Fat Tuesday always fills me with nostalgia and longing for home. Not because I'm from New Orleans and I'm excited about Mardi Gras, but because I'm from Michigan, and I'm excited about Paczki Day. Paczki (pronounced punch-key) are traditional Polish pastries, something akin to jelly doughnuts. In Michigan, you can find them with a wide variety of fillings, but they traditionally come with red plum jam inside - it's not too sweet, so the whole thing isn't overpowering.

A few weeks ago, I asked my Polish friend, Ania, whether she knew where to find paczki here in Seattle. Her answer was "no, but we should make some". I certainly couldn't turn that down, so I invited her and a few other folks over for the occasion. We found a recipe, and using Google Translate and some help from Ania and her mother, we were set to go.

After confirming that I did, in fact, have to separate 8 eggs, I did so. Can you spot the free-range organic one?

I followed the instructions in the recipe and let the dough rise for a couple of hours while we all hung out and drank beer. After that, I kneaded the dough, adding plenty of flour and completely forgetting to put in the butter. Oops. Then I rolled it out. It's a little darker than you might expect because I used whole wheat pastry flour, on account of being a dirty hippie:

We formed an assembly line. I cut out circles of dough using a glass, Kevin put teaspoonfuls of plum jam in them, and Ania made little dough-and-jam sandwiches and rolled them in her hands to seal the jam inside.

It made a lot of paczki. Or at least, it made more paczki than any of us felt that we had a right to eat.

We let the paczki rise again while we ate dinner. My husband was kind enough to make some spelt kasha with mushrooms so that we didn't also all die of paczki overload. It was a very good idea. After dinner, we made the glaze with powdered sugar, water, and bits of orange peel. We fried the paczki in a cast iron skillet, and that worked perfectly, because it was just the right depth. Here I am frying while Kevin glazes.

It was glorious.

I ate two.

I highly recommend this exercise. The only thing I would do differently is invite more people over, because we still have a bunch of paczki hanging around.


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