In the USA it’s known as Fat Tuesday, in England it’s called Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day and in many parts of Eastern Europe, Fat Thursday (the last Thursday before Lent) heralds the winding down of Carnival season ending on the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. In Poland, this is known as Tłusty Czwartek. Polish Americans celebrate Pączki Day on Fat Tuesday.
This was a way to use up any stocks of milk, butter and eggs which were forbidden during the abstinence of Lent.
Pączki (POHNCH-kee) are fried rounds of yeast dough with rosehip, prune, apricot, strawberry, raspberry or sweet cheese filling.
Polish (Donuts) Paczki
- 1 1/2 cups warm milk (no warmer than 110 degrees)
- 2 packages active dry yeast (remember to proof yeast before you begin)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 ounces (1 stick) room-temperature butter
- 1 large room-temperature egg
- 3 large room-temperature egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon brandy or rum
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 gallon oil for deep frying
- Granulated sugar (optional)
- Confectioner’s sugar (optional)
- Favorite fruit paste for filling (optional)
- Add yeast to warm milk, stir to dissolve and set aside. In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in eggs, brandy and salt until well-incorporated.
- Still using the paddle attachment, add 4 1/2 cups flour alternately with the milk-yeast mixture and beat for 5 or more minutes by machine and longer by hand until smooth. My grandmother used to beat the dough with a wooden spoon until it blistered. Dough will be very slack. If too soft, add remaining 1/2 cup
- Place dough in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, anywhere from 1 to 2 1/2 hours or follow this Quick Tip to cut the rise time. Punch down and let rise again.
- Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Pat or roll to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut rounds with 3-inch biscuit cutter. Remove scraps, and re-roll and re-cut. Cover and let rounds rise until doubled in bulk, 30 minutes or longer.
- Heat oil to 350 degrees in large skillet or Dutch oven. Place pączki top-side down (the dry side) in the oil a few at a time and fry 2 to 3 minutes or until bottom is golden brown. Flip them over and fry another 1 to 2 minutes or until golden brown. Make sure the oil doesn’t get too hot so the exterior doesn’t brown before the interior is done. Test a cool one to make sure it’s cooked through. Adjust cooking time and oil heat accordingly.
- Drain pączki on paper towels or brown paper bags, and roll in granulated sugar while still warm. Note: You can poke a hole in the side of the pączki and, using a pastry bag, squeeze in a dollop of the filling of choice. Then dust filled pączki with granulated sugar, confectioners’ sugar or glaze.
Eat immediately or freeze