Updated: Feb 18, 2021
Let me tell you about one of my favorite lent traditions. Fat Tuesday! Who wouldn't love a day were you are expected to eat donuts, am I right! I grew up catholic and going to a catholic grade school, every lent papa johns pizza and fish Frys were a must. But little did I know I was missing out on the best part of the beginning of the season, something my ancestors had been making for years. The polish donut, pazckis.
My grandpa Ed was polish, and I grew up with all kinds of smells coming from his kitchen of stewed cabbage and meats. He loved to cook and he loved going to Chicago to visit the polish butcher shops, walking in the front door, taking a huge breathe and saying "I'm Home". Of course I'm sure your wondering what does this have to do with a donut? Because afterwords we would always go eat at a little restaurant called the The Jolly Luck club in Little Poland. Or go visit the local polish grocery store and see all the confections in the bakery. And let me tell you, growing up in America and then trying a polish pastry, we always found it lacking because they never had the same sugar levels we were use too.
Fast forward 10 years and I'm living in traverse city Michigan. Its winter, and they are having the most snow fall they had seen in 30 years. I'm locked in a tiny house in Interlochen MI, spending the winter preparing myself for my first real chef job on Mackinac Island coming up in the following summer. I have been told to create, write menus, come up with food ideas, and all I can think about is snow, snow and more snow. But little did I know that the universe had once again brought me to an area rich in European culinary finds.
I was out at the grocery store one day looking for inspiration when I got lucky enough to discover a little donut called the Paczki. I thought why not, I love donuts and it looked similar to my favorite beloved long johns growing up. One taste and I knew I had discovered the first polish pastry I had always dreamed of finding when I was a little kid looking into those bakery cases all those years ago.
Pazckis are little balls of fried dough, stuffed with custards or fruit jams and rolled in sugar. They're everything Fat Tuesday needs for a decadent beginning to a long lent season, which is also why they were traditionally made to use up all the lard, eggs, flour, and sugar in the house. They have been around since the Middle Ages, and were traditionally stuffed with wild rose jam and stewed plums. Since then the flavors for fillings are numerous (lemon, raspberry, chocolate, Bavarian cream). But at last my favorite will always be holland cream, something you can rarely find this south, its traditionally more a mid west thing.
In honor of Fat Tuesday I have decided to share my favorite Paczki recipe and healthier (healthish) recipe for holland cream! I hope you Enjoy and Happy Fat Tuesday!
2 1/4 tsp dry active or instant yeast, not rapid or quick-rise yeast
1 cup whole milk, (3% b.f.) scalded and cooled
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
3 - 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, use only as much as you need to make a moist, but not sticky dough
Oil, for frying
White Granulated Sugar, for dusting after frying
Jam or custard, for filling Try the holland cream recipe below or use any of your favorite jams
In a small saucepan, heat milk until steaming with small bubbles forming around the edges (about 180F). Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm (about 105F).
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve yeast in the lukewarm milk and let stand for 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of the flour. Mix together and let stand for 20-30 minutes, until really bubbly.
In the meantime, beat the yolks in a small bowl until they are light and fluffy.
To the proofed yeast mixture, add the melted butter and sugar and mix. Add salt and vanilla. Add beaten egg yolks. Slowly add more of the flour to bowl in small increments, adding just until you have a soft dough that is moist ,but not sticky. Remove dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead 1 minute (adding a bit more flour if it is sticking to your hands or the work surface). Form dough into a ball.
Grease a clean bowl and add dough. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled. (This dough is a bit of a slow riser, so expect this rise to be up to 90 minutes).
Deflate dough and pat out onto floured cutting board. With a rolling pin, gently roll into a 1/2-inch thick circle. Gently cut out circles with 3-inch biscuit cutter. Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with a clean tea towel and let rise until doubled (about 30 minutes).
Meanwhile, heat oil to 360°F. Fry paczki until golden on one side, flip and fry the other side. Don't rush the frying, to be sure they are cooked through well. Fry until they are a deep golden colour. Remove paczki to a cooling rack for about 30 seconds, then immediately roll in granulated sugar. Let stand until completely cooled.
Once cooled, using a sharp knife, poke a hole on the side. Use a pastry bag with a large plain tip to pipe the jam or custard filling inside.
These are best when freshly made
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup coconut butter (slightly melted)
1/4 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar
In a saucepan melt sugar and water. Stir until all sugar has dissolved, and pul from heat.
Once cooled add to mixing bowl with which attachment, followed by oil, butter, and vanilla. Start mixing and slowly add powdered sugar to mix. If mixture gets too thick you add water 1tbl at a time till you get to a frosting like texture. Add to piping bag to fill donuts. Leftovers can be stored in a airtight container for up to 3 weeks.