It’s Paczki Time!
That time of year when you brave the winters chill to stuff your face with rich pastry dough, fried in lard, filled with your favorite sugary jams, dusted with more than a generous amount of confectioner’s sugar. At South Shore Kitchen we have dusted off Babcia’s top secret recipe for making pączki. We may get disowned for sharing this with you but that’s a small price to pay for having hot fresh pączki in your very own kitchen.
Isn’t It Just Another Jelly Donut?
Was Michael Jordan just a basketball player? No! While similar in appearance pączek and a donut are definitely NOT the same thing. In certain circles, the comparison is downright inflammatory. Read on to learn what makes a pączek a step above the humble jelly donut.
Spotting The Real Deal!
Living in the Chicago metro area there are pączki to be found on every corner. Bakeries, grocery stores and even gas stations. Some taste better than others but there are imposters out there. Jelly donuts hiding in iconic white boxes emblazoned with pączki in a fire truck red font across the top and sides. You crack open the box, take one bite and mentally scream, “LIAR, FILTHY LIARS” because you just paid way too much money for a everyday jelly donut and all you have left to show for your troubles is a trail of powdered sugar down the front of your shirt.
If you have never had a pączek there are a few telltale signs of authenticity. First, the exterior will have a dark golden-brown color on the top and bottom with a honey wheat colored ring around the middle of the pastry. When biting into it you will also notice there is a slight crispiness to the exterior. At this point you can see the interior of the pączek and will notice the dough has a distinct yellow coloring. This comes from the egg yolks used in the dough which is a major difference from most yeast donut doughs. The last point to notice is the texture of the pastry. It will be dense with lots of little holes that give it an almost light spongy feel and most importantly it will be moist. Your pączek should never be dry.
Why Does It Taste So Good?
The short answer is because it uses all the good stuff. In Polish tradition pączki are made right before the beginning of the Lenten season to use up ingredients that are considered indulgent before fasting begins. Making a pastry dough that uses butter, sugar, eggs, alcohol, filled with fruits and jams, fried in lard and dusted in sugar checks all the boxes.
Time To Make The Paczki!
Overall our recipe is straight forward. There are only a few points to keep in mind. Do not over mix your dough. You want it to be soft and sticky when you set it aside to rise. Keep an eye on the mixer during the last few minutes of it being in the mixer. Once it begins to pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl, shut the mixer off and set your dough aside for raising.
When you put your cut dough in the oven to proof make sure the oven has been turned off. You are not baking the dough. The oven is just a cozy place for your dough to rise for exactly 30 minutes. Mind your times and do not let them raise for longer. If you over raise the dough you will notice a wrinkly texture begin to form on the top of the dough. Also, if they have raised too long the centers will cave in during the frying process.
Speaking of frying, we 100% recommend using lard. If we knew you better, we would say, don’t you dare use any other fat for frying. We understand if you are thinking ewww, gross! It’s ok we understand but give it a whirl. Frying in lard makes a world of difference. It will give your pastry a lightly crisped exterior and no heavy greasy feeling in your final product.
Get Your Fill
Pączki are typically made with a fruit or custard filling. At South Shore Kitchen we love apricot filling. If we were better people, we would make the filling from scratch, but alas we are not. A quick hack we enjoy is to mix up some apricot preserves and pastry filling. It is quick and easy and as a bonus a nice consistency to pipe into your paczki. Go crazy and choose your favorite!
Happy baking! Comment down below and let us know your favorite pączek filling flavor. Tried this recipe? Show us on Instagram, #theshouthshorekitchenPrint
Pączki – Polish Jelly Donuts
- Total Time: 1 hr & 45 min
- Yield: 18 three-inch pączki 1x
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Polish
- 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 cup whole milk, warmed to 115°
- 1 Tablespoon vodka (we used whipped cream flavored, but any kind will do)
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 whole egg, small (1.5 ounces)
- 8 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, heaping
- 1/3 cup butter or 5 Tablespoons, melted and cooled to room temperature
- 3 1/4 cups bread flour (we used King Arthur)
- Lard, for frying (YES LARD!)
- Pastry bag
- Wilton #230 tip
- Cooling Rack
- 1 cup apricot preserves
- 1 can apricot Solo pastry filling (12 ounces)
Blend apricot preserves in small personal blender for approximately 30 seconds to give it a slightly whipped texture. Next, stir in apricot pastry filling. Set aside.
First, combine milk, yeast, egg, egg yolks, sugar, melted butter, and vodka in a stand mixing bowl. Attach dough hook mix on low, slowly adding the salt and then flour. Let mix on low speed for approximately 4 min. Stop mixer and push down sides as necessary. You want to have a sticky dough. To gauge if it is mixed properly your dough will cleanly pull away from the sides but still stick to the bottom of the bowl. Take care not to over mix.
Remove bowl from mixing stand and cover with cling wrap. Drape bowl with a clean dry cotton kitchen towel and let rise in a warm area free from drafts for 1-1 ½ hours.
- Once dough has risen preheat oven to the warm setting.
Turn dough out on lightly floured surface. Let dough rest for 2 minutes and then press out evenly to ½ inch thick. Thickness is important be sure you are accurate. Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut circles in the dough. Once dough circles are cut gently place on parchment lined cookie sheet that has been lightly sprinkled with flour leaving 2 to 3 inches between each pączek allowing room for proofing and to easily lift off for frying.
Place approximately 1 cup of warm water in an oven safe pan. Set on bottom of oven. Slide sheet pans of dough onto the oven racks. Turn oven off and shut the door for 30 min.
In the meantime, melt lard fry temp needs to be at 3500 F. Once dough has proofed for 30 minutes and your lard has reached 3500F you are ready to fry. Fry each pączek for approximately 30 to 40 seconds per side until a deep golden brown. Remove from lard and place on wire cooling rack. Once cooled, using your pastry bag fitted with your #230 tip you are ready to fill your pączki. Insert tip and squeeze in as much filling as you can without breaking the pastry. Once all your pączki are filled roll them in powdered sugar and enjoy.