Pączki – Polish Doughnuts

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Doughnuts seem to be the cupcakes of the season, judging by the recent spate of doughnut recipes and posts. There were these tempting Nutella-stuffed bunuelos from Cowgirl Chef and an oh-so-pretty banana variation with dried banana streusel from Tartelette and these Apple Cider honey-glazed doughnuts for Rosh Hashanah over at Cupcake Project. Reading all of them, I wanted in, and finally prepared my own batch today despite the hangover after a full day of networking, discussing and learning from some of the best and successful food bloggers out there. It was surreal to meet the people behind Simply Recipes, Steamy Kitchen and MattBites, and to hear them share their experiences about the challenges they faced in running a successful blog, blogging best practices, what a typical day is like, how to take our photography skills to the next level, and so on. It was packed schedule, but I soaked up every minute of it with pages and pages of copious notes which I will have to write up and share with you in another post.

But today we will talk about doughnuts. Polish ones, to be exact, which go by their seemingly unpronounceable name: Pączki (ponch-kee). Based on a yeast starter, the batter is then enriched with eggs, fat and flavorings before being filled with a teaspoon or two of your preferred confiture or cream and deep-fried to a golden hue. Although they require slightly more work than non-yeast variations, the final product yields a doughnut that is much lighter and softer than traditional versions, calling to mind the light and fluffy beignets that we sampled in New Orleans.

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This recipe should take about 4 hours from start to finish, with about two-thirds of the time spent leaving the dough to rise, allowing you to get on with other activities in your day. It’s also very versatile so if you’ve spent your summer preserving and jamming your favorite fruits for breakfast in the coming months, this would be another vehicle to revisit the tastes of summer at the Fall breakfast table. We used chocolate chips for half of the batch and couldn’t resist making the rest with a couple of teaspoons of our favorite coconut jam after a friend recently restocked our shelves with 3 jars of this sweet goodness from Singapore. As delicious as these are, I’m already thinking of light lemon creams, peach purees and strawberry jams for our next batch.

Pączki – Polish Doughnuts
Makes 20 doughnuts

2½ teaspoons/ 10 grams instant yeast
3½ ounces/ 100 grams all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1¼ cup/ 300 ml milk

Combine all the ingredients and mix until you get the consistency of pancake batter, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise for 1 to 1½ hours until the mixture increases in volume and turns all bubbly.

3 egg yolks
1 egg
3 tablespoons sugar
14 ounces/ 400 grams all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon rum (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Juice of ½ a lemon
4 tablespoons/ 50 grams butter, melted
3 ounces/ 100 grams of jam, cream or chocolate chips of your choice
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
4 tablespoons sugar, for dusting

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks, eggs and sugar together until smooth, then add the sugar, rum (if using), vanilla extract, salt and lemon juice and mix until incorporated. Switch to the paddle attachment, then add the starter and two tablespoons of flour and mix on low speed, adding the flour a tablespoon at a time until everything is incorporated. You might want to switch to the dough hook halfway through the additions of flour if you find that the paddle attachment doesn’t mix thoroughly enough.

The dough is ready when it comes away from the sides of the bowl and doesn’t stick to your finger when pressed. Pour in the melted butter and mix it just enough to be incorporated with the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rise for 45 minutes to an hour.

When the dough has doubled in volume, prepare to shape and fill the doughnuts. Dust a few baking sheets with flour. Pinch off some dough such that it fits your palm comfortably and roll it into a smooth ball. Flatten it on your palm, then scoop or place your preferred filling in the middle. Seal the ball by bringing the sides into the middle such that you wrap the filling securely. Patch up any lines that appear, then place the ball sealed side down on the floured pan, leaving an inch between each ball. Cover with a cloth and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

Fill a heavy-bottomed pot with 2 inches of vegetable oil and heat it to 350F/ 180C. Add the doughnuts to the oil, two to three at a time, depending on the size of your pot. They will float on the surface of the oil and the bottom will turn a golden brown. When this happens, flip the doughnuts over to cook the other side, which should take about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a wire rack set over a tray. Repeat for the rest of the doughnuts.

When cool enough to touch, roll each doughnut in the sugar and serve.

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I’m submitting this post to Yeast Spotting, a weekly round-up of all things good and yeasty hosted by Wild Yeast.


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