Authentic Polish donuts {Pączki}

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Donuts {Polish Donuts}

Fat Thursday – tłusty czwartek [twoosty chvartek] is fast approaching! In Poland it celebrates the last day of festivities before Roman Catholics start fasting, and it is always on the last Thursday before Ash Wednesday. Next opportunity to feast will not be until Easter. 

Tłusty czwartek is all about eating pączki [ponchkee] and faworki (aka chrust or chruściki)Pączki are fried donuts often filled with marmalade or pudding, and sprinkled with powdered sugar or glazed. Faworki are made of thin sweet dough, twisted in a signature twist, deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar. On this day you can eat all the donuts and sweets guilt free, and yes, I do. 

Bakeries go into overdrive the night before this unofficial holiday. Everyone can hardly wait for the day when you are expected to eat as much as you want, no judgements passed.

There has not been a year when I would not have indulged in this tradition. Frankly, its unavoidable. Employers treat their employees to varieties of these sweet pastries, and everyone is expected to eat at least a couple. Jelly or custard filled, glazed or powder sugar-coated, everyone can find their favorite.

Parents bring home an assortment of the sweet pastries and kids, extra excited for this tradition are often, allowed to skip dinner.

After “tłusty czwartek“, Poland will enter a period known as “ostatki” meaning last days of carnival. This will continue until Tuesday of following week, and end on Ash Wednesday. Lent will begin and last until Easter.

Until then, donuts for everyone!

Authentic Polish donuts

Polish Donuts {Pączki}

  • Yields: 50 small donuts
  • Prep Time: 1.5 hours
  • Cook Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 3.5 oz / 90 g of fresh yeast (or 4.5 tbsp of active dry yeast)
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 1 ½ c / 200 g of bread flour
  • 1 c / 300 ml of warm (not hot) milk
  • DOUGH:
  • 6 egg yolks + 1 whole egg
  • ½ c / 100 g of sugar
  • 6 c / 800 g of bread flour
  • Additional ¾ c / 185 ml of warm (not hot) milk
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 3.5 tbsp / 50 ml of 75% / 151 proof alcohol
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 3.5 oz / 100 g of melted and cooled butter
  • 2 lbs / 1 kg of lard (for frying)
  • FILLING:
  • 1 jar of favorite jam
  • Powdered sugar (for garnish)
  • Or to make GLAZE:
  • 2 c / 250 g of powdered sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2-3 tbsp of water
  • Candied lemon peel (if you like)

Instructions

  1. Make starter by placing all ingredients in a bowl and mixing well to combine. Place bowl in a warm spot covered with a kitchen towel and let rise for 1 hour.

  2. When the hour is almost up, make dough by whisking eggs yolks, egg, and sugar in mixer bowl with a whisk attachment until white and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes).

  3. Change whisk to a mixing paddle, add yeast starter and start mixing. Gradually start adding flour, alternating with milk. Also add lemon zest and juice, alcohol, salt, and vanilla extract. When it becomes too thick to mix with the mixing paddle, start kneading by hand. Knead until dough is smooth and it doesn't stick to your hands anymore (no less than 10 minutes).

  4. Finally, slowly add melted butter and keep kneading until incorporated.

  5. Place dough in a large bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 1 hour or until it doubles in size.

  6. After 1 hour, divide dough in half and roll out to about ½ inch / 2 centimeter thickness. With a glass or a metal can, cut out circles and place on a cookie sheet. Do this with all of your dough. Cover dough circles with a towel and let rise for 1 hour.

  7. About 15 minutes before the hour is up, start heating the lard. Place it in a rather narrow pot (we'll be frying only 2-3 at a time, and we need some depth in the oil) and heat on medium til grease reaches 350℉ / 180℃ (or until a piece of dough placed in grease starts bubbling immediately).

  8. Be very careful with placing donuts into hot grease. I use a wire spoon to place 2 or 3 donuts at a time. Fry donuts until they are golden brown (about 2-3 minutes per side) and flip. Don't rush this process: we want to make sure dough cooks on the inside as well. If dough burns right away, turn heat down. Once golden brown, remove onto a paper-towel-lined sheet.

  9. If you'd like to fill them with jelly, let them cool first. Fill a pastry bag (with a long nozzle) with jelly. Insert nozzle into donut and push on bag to fill them with about 1 teaspoon of jelly.

  10. I like mine with powdered sugar only, but if you'd like to glaze yours, place powdered sugar in a bowl, add lemon juice, then add water 1 tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. Pour over donuts and garnish with lemon peel.

My home-made donuts do not look perfect, but this makes them special. They are just slightly sweet, super soft and not greasy at all. It will be hard to eat only a couple.

Good luck!

Anna


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30 Comments

    1. Laura, check out the MEATS section of my RECIPE INDEX, you will find the recipe for fresh kiełbasa there. I will be posting a recipe for “zimne nogi” next week 🙂

  1. Cant wait to try your punchkee. One of my favorite memories when growing up. Also loved chadninia (spelling). Dont know if I could eat it now that I know how my mom made it. Cant wait for your Christmas cookbook.

  2. Hi Anna. I tried this paczki recipe and it was a total disaster. They came out flat and crusty, more like an English scone. I don’t know what I did wrong. I halved the recipe and I used a scale and carefully weighed and measured all of the ingredients. My dough ended up really sticky but I didn’t want to add too much more flour. Could this have been the problem though? All of the proofing went well and the dough rose nicely.

    1. Curious… I was going to say that maybe your yeast was “dead” but if the dough rose (hopefully doubling in volume), I’m going to assume the yeast was good. Dough shouldn’t be very sticky… did you add butter? Did they rise again after cutting out the individual pączki?
      We’ll try to get to the bottom of this.

    2. It may be that the dough was not kneaded enough. Ten minutes of kneading is a LOT, I used the dough hook on my mixer to do that part. The dough stays fairly sticky until the kneading is almost complete. And then the dough is all nice and smooth and together. It’s all worth it in the end, nothing like fresh paczki! 🍩

        1. I had the same problem with bagels. I was told, by the author and other chefs, that the dough may have been over proofed. I haven’t tried to repeat the recipe but will try.

    3. I had the same issue, I kneaded my dough for 20 minutes and it was beyond sticky…and even worse after adding the butter. I had to add extra flour so I could work it by hand but it still remained pretty sticky. My other problem is that the dough didn’t rise well after I cut them out and barely puffed when frying them – I think the dough over-proofed the first rise, but not sure why it was so sticky….

  3. These turned out great! I substituted duck eggs for chicken eggs and I really like the results. Thanks for the recipe!

  4. Your recipe was fantastic. It came as close to tasting just like my mom’s that it was unbelievable. They were light but firm and they did not absorb the grease. Thank you so much.
    I have never had one filled with anything until I went to Poland. Is this something that evolved over time because even my grandmother never used a filling?

  5. I made these last night for today and they turned out beautifully! But- I live in FL and we have had rain, so over night they got sticky. They were completely cooled and in a sealed container. They were still delicious- but def better yesterday! How can I stop this from happening next time? I only sprinkled powdered sugar- no glaze! Awesome recipe!!

  6. I noticed the written recipe says to add melted butter gradually after the 10 minutes of kneading. Your video does not show you doing it this way. Did you put the butter into the dough with all the other ingredients?
    I am hoping to make this on Sunday with my aunt who was lucky enough to have grandma make these for her when she was growing up. Hoping to give her comfort with these…

  7. I live in high elevation and in a dry state. I can never get the full yield. Closest i get is 30. Nor can i get the full 6 cups into the dough. I must need more liquid somewhere. I was thinking maybe more milk or an additional egg. Either way i love this recipe! I love this dough!

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