The past month has not been kind to us.
It started with a snowstorm that dumped almost a half foot of snow and was quickly followed by the Polar Vortex (with the temperature plunging to -22 degrees Fahrenheit), which kept the kid at home for three days in one week.
Then, the following week the kid stayed home yet again from school for two days because of a fever. We figured it was just weird virus that his body was fighting off…until we got the dreaded note from school that one of his classmates was being treated for strep throat. Out of an abundance of caution, we brought our kid to the pediatrician, and sure enough he tested positive for Strep A.
Once the kid was almost done with his course of antibiotics, both he and I got sick with a wicked bad cold virus that kept us pretty bedridden for a couple of days. It was during those couple of days that 40 MPH winds blew down our next door neighbor’s tree, causing their power – and our internet – to go out. Although our power wasn’t knocked out by the felled tree, the power lines were dangling from our house and causing a bit of a fire hazard, so the power company came out and cut our power, which remained out for two days. Thank goodness we were able to borrow a friend’s generator, and added power from our next door neighbor’s generator so that we could hook up our fridge and our furnace.
Then, my husband caught the cold virus from my son and me, and I got food poisoning, because the events of the past month just weren’t crappy enough. At least this time around I was able to watch Netflix and not worry about whether the power would come back on, so that was a plus. Having your power cut for a couple of days really makes you realize just how much you take it for granted, let me tell ya!
Normally I try not to be too much of a complainer, but the sheer unrelenting sequence of these events was seriously wearing me down. I went into this winter wanting to not become my usual depressed, SAD-afflicted self. It’s like the universe heard me, laughed, and was like “Oh yeah?! Nice try!”
Hence why this blog has been extremely quiet since January. I am just now starting to reemerge after all of the sickness and all of the other unfortunate life happenings listed above. Although I still feel a bit nauseous from the bout of food poisoning, I was determined to not be a total Netflix zombie anymore!
When I realized that Fat Tuesday (aka: Paczki Day!) was coming up rather quickly, I decided – nausea or not – it was time to make some Paczki to properly celebrate my Polish heritage.
Paczki are essentially deep-fried donuts that are filled with jam or curd and covered in sugar. They are traditionally eaten on Fat Tuesday, and since the Chicagoland area has a rather large Polish population (which is why we also celebrate Casimir Pulaski Day), pretty much every bakery within shouting distance is making and selling these sugar-covered delicacies.
The traditional reason for making Paczki was to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in the house, in preparation for the fasting of Lent ahead (source). I’ve always said it “Pack-Zee-Kee,” but apparently the correct Polish pronunciation is “Pownch-Key.”
I’d never made donuts before, and was a bit intimidated by yet another recipe using yeast (like Apfelkuchen), but still I wanted to give it a go. Plus, I had all of the ingredients on hand – minus some canola oil, which my husband graciously volunteered to procure from Aldi – so it felt like it was meant to be!
First, I warmed the milk to about 100-110 degrees and combined it in a mixing bowl with melted butter, two eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla extract and instant yeast. After mixing all of the wet ingredients together, I added in a couple of cups of flour and mixed them together using the dough hook attachment on our KitchenAid until the dough came away cleanly from the sides. I actually ended up adding more flour than the recipe called for since the dough was pretty wet, and I thought it needed it.
Once the dough was ready, I took it out and kneaded it by hand for a few minutes on a lightly-floured surface. While kneading it, I was amazed at the dough’s ability to soak up flour; no matter how much flour I threw at it, it didn’t dry out! I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a dough like that before, so that was something new for me.
Once it was nice and soft, I put it into a large, oiled bowl and sprayed the dough with cooking spray. I let it rise for about a couple of hours – since we’re getting yet another cold snap, I had to turn the heat in the house up to help the dough rise.
After the dough doubled in size, I rolled it out to about a quarter-inch thick and cut them with a round cookie cutter. I placed them on a cookie sheet and let them sit for about a half hour for the final rise. During that time, I heated the canola oil over high heat. It was supposed to be at 350 degrees, but I didn’t have the proper thermometer, so I just winged it by using what I affectionally called a “sacrificial Paczki,” which is one that I sacrificed so I could tell when the oil was ready.
Once the sacrificial Paczki was bubbling away in the hot oil, I added in the rest of them, 3-4 at a time, turning once until both sides were golden brown. I had my husband help with the frying while I rolled the Paczki around in Caster sugar since they cooked a lot more quickly than either of us had anticipated.
When the Paczki were cooled enough to handle, I grabbed a piping bag and filled it with raspberry jam because that’s what we had in the house. I carefully inserted the tip into each one of the sugared Paczki and filled then with jam, which was about as messy as you might imagine it was. The cavities in the Paczki were a bit larger than I had anticipated – turns out they really expand quite a bit when you fry them!
As for taste, they tasted exactly like how you’d expect them to: like jelly-filled donuts! My husband and kid loved them. Since I was still getting over food poisoning and was still a bit queasy, I only had a small piece, but I have to admit it was quite delicious.
Would I make it again? Not on a regular basis, since they required quite a bit of work and proofing time. At least not until Fat Tuesday 2020!
This recipe was made and adapted from JoCooks.com.