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State Plate Recipe: Michigan’s Paczki

Paczki. A Fat Tuesday Polish Tradition You’ll Love Any Day!

While the throngs of people wearing beads and ornate masks descend upon New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras, in Polish communities, such as Hamtramck, Michigan, people are gathered to celebrate Paczki Day. Paczki (Pronounced “poonch-kee” or “pahnch-kee,” among other regional variations.) is a fruit preserves- or cream-filled pastry, similar to a doughnut, but made from a rich, yeast dough that keeps its shape when you bite into it.

Traditionally, Paczki are deep-fried, and filled with prune, but today many prefer apricot, blueberry, raspberry, lemon, custard or, if you’re making your own, any type of fruit mixture that suits your taste.

Most Paczki recipes are involved and time-consuming, but your taste buds will love the delectable results.

Paczki

Makes up to two dozen paczki

Total time: 2-1/2 hours

This recipe calls for 1 whole egg and 3 egg yolks so freeze the leftover egg whites and save them for recipes

Ingredients:

  • 2 C warm whole milk (to 110 degrees F)
  • 4-1/2 tsp. active dry yeast (2 pkgs.)
  • 3/4 C + 1 pinch granulated sugar, divided
  • 5 to 6 C all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 4 egg yolks

Note: You can freeze the egg whites and use them for other recipes or omelets, etc.

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1-1/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted, cooled
  • Peanut oil, canola oil or lard, for frying

Note: Paczki can also be baked. See instructions at the end.

  • Fruit preserves, jelly or custard for filling
  • Powdered and/or granulated sugars, for coating (or if you prefer, make a glaze or frosting)

Directions:

  1. Pour warm milk into the stand mixer bowl.
  2. Stir in the yeast and a pinch of sugar. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it bubbles.
  3. Add 2 cups of flour to the mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a smooth batter.
  4. Cover the batter with plastic wrap, and set in a warm spot for 30 minutes. The mixture should bubble and rise.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg and egg yolks about 3 minutes, until frothy.
  6. Add the sugar, vanilla extract and salt, and whisk until smooth.
  7. Add the egg mixture to the dough. Mix on medium-low using the dough hook, until it’s almost combined.
  8. Add the melted butter and mix until it’s thoroughly combined.
  9. Add 3 cups of flour, gradually, to the mixture and continue to knead until a soft dough forms. Note: It will be sticky and slack, not a “traditional” ball of dough. You may have to add another cup of flour, but do it very gradually, just a spoonful at a time, and just until the dough takes shape.
  10. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm spot until it doubles in size.
  11. When the dough has doubled, place it on a well-floured surface, and with your hand, push the dough into one even layer.
  12. Flour the dough, and roll it out 1/2 inch thick.
  13. Using a biscuit cutter (about 3-inch circumference) cut out round paczki shapes.
  14. Move round dough to parchment-lined baking sheets.
  15. Roll out the scraps of dough, and cut round shapes until you’ve used all the dough.
  16. Cover the baking sheets with plastic wrap, loosely, and place in a warm spot, free from drafts or open windows, until the shapes almost double in size. It should take around 30 minutes.
  17. While the rounds of dough are rising, line a baking sheet with paper towels.
  18. Heat a minimum of 1-1/2 inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot or deep skillet. Use medium heat up to 350 degrees F.
  19. Using great caution, place 5 or 6 paczki into the oil. Do not over-crowd.
  20. Fry until the bottom browns golden.
  21. Turn over and fry until the other side browns.
  22. Using a slotted spoon, lift fried paczki out of the oil and place on lined baking sheet to drain.
  23. When the oil reaches frying temperature, repeat the process until all your paczki are fried.
  24. While your paczki are cooling, but still warm, you can roll them in granulated sugar, if you like.
  25. When your paczki have cooled to the point that you can pick them up with your hands, you’re ready to fill them.
  26. Poke a hole in the side, and using pastry bag and tip, squeeze fruit preserves or custard into the paczki.  
  27. Dust pastries with granulated sugar, powdered sugar, glaze or icing.

Paczki, especially when fried, do not keep for very long. They can be stored for up to two days, at room temperature in an airtight container. But they are best eaten the same day they’re made.

Please remember to be very careful when frying any foods, especially when there are children in the house. Always have a fire extinguisher available, should a grease fire occur.

Baked Paczki

To significantly reduce the fat and calories, yet preserve the delicious flavor of this irresistible dessert, you can bake your paczki. Follow all the directions in the above recipe, except when it comes to frying. Simply, bake your paczki for 8 to 10 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Baked paczki keep longer than the fried version. You can freeze the pastry, but whether baked or fried, they taste best fresh.