Most people know paczki (singular: Pączek) as a Polish doughnut, jelly doughnut, or as Berliners (pretty much the same thing.) They are a soft, yeast-dough doughnut, traditionally filled with rose hip jam.
Paczki are imbedded in Polish cuisine like wódka, piernik, and pierogi. On Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek, the Thursday before Lent. The French have Mardi Gras and the Poles have Tlusty Czwartek), Poles traditionally eat paczki. Businesses order them by the bushel for their employees (I alone at five at work and brought another three home.) The only downside is that Paczki don't keep very well and are best eaten fresh. You can revive them by sticking them in an oven or microwave, but nothing beats that sinfully soft and chewy dough, mere moments from being pulled from the boiling vat of oil (get it all in before Lent.)
Without much further ado, here's a traditional recipe:
1 kg flour
100 grams yeast
1/2 liter milk (warm)
1 whole egg
3/4 cup sugar
100 grams butter (melted, cooled)
1 jigger (shot) of rum or spirytus (grain alcohol)
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
1.5 liters of cooking oil plus 2 spoonfuls of lard
Rose hip confiture (or any other fruit preserve) for the filling
Powdered sugar for dusting (or a mixture of lemon juice and powdered sugar for a glaze.) (Optional)
Candied orange peels (cubed into small pieces) (Optional)
Mix the yeast and 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2-3 teaspoons of flour with a little bit of milk and warm water until it starts foaming. In a large bowl, beat together the egg and yolks and sugar. Add in the milk, butter, yeast mixture and then flour. Mix together and add in lemon juice and alcohol. Knead for 20 minutes, cover in a bowl and let rise for 30 minutes to an hour.
Punch down the dough. Place the dough on a floured cutting board and roll it into a thick rope. Cut the dough into 1.5 cm lengths and roll out into fat pancakes. Add a spoonful the fruit preserves to the center of every-other pancake. Seal the paczki well using the other 'pancake', making sure they are round. Place the paczki on a floured surface, cover them, and let them rise for 30 minutes to an hour.
In a wide, shallow pot or wok, gently boil the oil and lard. Add the paczki to the oil, flipping them occasionally so they cook equally on either side—a nice brown. Set the fried paczki on a grate to drip dry or on paper towels. Place on a plate and dust with powered sugar, or sprinkle with candied orange pieces and drizzle with glaze.
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