Happy Fat Tuesday

Also known as Pączki Day in my family.

paczki day

My mother has been making pączki every year for the past 39 years! She hasn’t missed a year. It is a tradition in our Polish family to eat these delectible donuts the day before Ash Wednesday.

Now these are not the pączki you find in your local grocery stores. No my friend these are the originals! The ones you find in the stores are filled with lemon, raspberry or custard, and they are the size of a jelly doughnut. Eastern European doughnuts, or pączki, are smaller in size and are mostly filled with prune butter. As a kid, I ate a lot of food filled with prune butter like pierogi and kolacky, so I am a big fan of it.

This year I actually had the privilage of watching my mother make these doughnuts. She says she wants me to take over someday but I just tell her that she has done them all this time, why not keep going? She rolled her eyes and smiled.

Note: Make sure that when you plan to make these doughnuts, you don’t have any errands to run for a few hours. Pączki take roughly three and a half hours to make from start to finish. Totally worth the effort though!

So, here is how to make authentic Fat Tuesday pączki – my mother’s way.

pączkiFirst, warm up some milk and shortening on the stove. Only warm it, don’t boil.

I didn’t take a picture of it, but in a measuring cup add in a package of yeast to some warm milk with a little bit of sugar. Set aside.

donut-2Add three eggs to a mixing bowl.

donut-4Next, add in the flour, the milk and shortening, and the yeast to the mixing bowl and turn the mixer on low. Mix until combined. If the dough seems overly sticky, add another cup of flour.

donut-3Grease a large bowl with shortening.

donut-5Plop in the dough and cover with a damp, clean kitchen towel. Let rise for one hour.

Once an hour is up, take the dough out of the bowl and knead it only a few times then return to the bowl. Cover with the kitchen towel and let it rise again in the bowl for another hour.

donut-6After hour two is up, take the dough and put it down on a floured surface. Roll out the dough to an inch thick. Take a circle cutter, or you can use a water glass, and cut small circles out of the dough. My mom also makes sugar doughnuts for those who don’t like prune filling (a.k.a – my husband and youngest son). She aims to please everyone!

donut-7Take the doughnut circles and place on a cookie sheet. Cover them with the kitchen towel again and let them rise for another 45 minutes to an hour. This is starting hour three by the way!

donut-8Finally, it’s time to fry! Use an electric skillet and add enough vegetable oil for the doughnuts to float on top. Be careful not to overfill the skillet. Carefully drop in the doughnuts and don’t crowd the pan. Let them fry for about two minutes then flip them over. You really have to watch these closely. If you let them fry too long, they can’t be flipped over because they become bottom heavy.

donut-9Take out the doughnuts and let them drain on a paper towel lined baking sheet. They need to cool a bit before filling them.

donut-10My mother prefers this brand of prune butter. She has been using it for years! I agree, it has the best flavor and consistency. Now, go find that piping bag that you never use. Oh wait, I am talking about me. I have piping bags that just sit in a drawer waiting for the day to come when they will be put to good use. Today is that day!

Fill the bag with the entire jar of prune butter. Take a cooled doughnut and stick a butter knife into the side making sure you only go in half way. This is to create a hole for the prune butter to go into. Place doughnuts down on a cookie sheet in nice, neat rows.

Mom’s tip: Make sure all the doughnuts with the holes are all facing the same direction. This will help you remember where the hole is since the slit can be hard to see.

Fill the pączki with the prune butter just until you see the doughnut puff up a little and you feel the weight of the prune butter. If you over fill it, it will ooze out the other end! Then you have to immediately eat it to destroy the evidence! Oh darn.

Continue to fill them one at a time. For the sugar doughnuts, just roll them around in sugar to coat.

donut-12Like this.

donut-final-2Finally, your perseverance paid off! Look at these beauties. Enough to sustain us the whole day and even appeal to everyone’s tastes. On Fat Tuesday I have these for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They only come around once a year so I make sure I get my fill.

I would love to hear your pączki stories or memories. Happy Fat Tuesday my friends!

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