Fat Tuesday: How to Make Authentic Polish Paczki

I grew up in a Polish family and every year, my grandmother made hordes of Paczki.   One day, my husband told me of how his friends would get up super early on Fat Tuesday to go the bakery and get Paczki’s.   He proudly presented his prized Paczki one day.

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

I was stunned.   I kindly informed him that a jelly doughnut, however tasty, is NOT paczki.   Then I let him fester.  For YEARS!   You see, I have a yeast-phobia.   Me + Yeast?   Well, let’s just say it’s hit or miss.   But this recipe from my great-great-grandmother is easy enough for anyone.   It just takes time and a little patience.

SIDE NOTE:   I acknowledge that there ARE people who insist that Paczki does have jelly filling.  They are wrong.  Just kidding — although in MY family it most certainly does not and you better not ask for it!  As such, I become entangled in the great Paczki debate every year on Facebook.  You could try adding a jelly filling to these if you want.  If you do, let me know how it turns out!   Now, on to the details.

1. You will need the biggest bowl you can find (well over 4 quarts), a heavy cast-iron pot for frying and:

· 2 c. warm milk
· 1 c. water- warm
· 2T sugar, divided
· 1T salt
· 1 pkg. FRESH yeast (found in refrigerator section in foil wrapped cubes — in a pinch, use 3 packets or 7 tsp of dry active yeast)
· 11 c. flour, divided
· 1 c. sugar
· 1 c. butter
· 8 eggs, well beaten

2. Put 1 c. warm water in a glass measuring cup and add 1 T sugar + yeast.  Let it sit for about 5 minutes to proof.

If you are yeast-challenged like I am, this is your best friend.   Proofing the yeast allows you make sure the water wasn’t too hot or too cold, killing the yeast.   It will start to form a layer of bubbles on top if the water was in the happy temperature zone (105-110 degrees is optimal).

3. Next, get out your monster bowl.   Mine is 13 quarts and I use it as a  dishpan when reenactment camping.   Around the house, I call it the Paczki bowl.

4. In your monster bowl, combine warm milk, 1T sugar, salt, 5 c. flour and yeast water with a wooden spoon.   Do not use the mixer.  Paczki requires a loving touch.   Besides, this recipe is huge — it won’t fit in a mixer.

5. Let it rest for an hour.

6. That’s what it looks like after an hour in the 4 quart bowl!   After you’ve caught up on your blog reader (isn’t that what YOU do when you have a free hour?), get out a smaller bowl (2.5 qts should do).

7. In your “small” bowl, beat the eggs well.  Add the butter and sugar, beating well.   (You can use a mixer for the eggs, butter, and sugar if you want.  But nothing else!)  Add to first bowl.

8. Stir in the last 6 c. flour.

9. At this point, you need to decide if you want it to look like a cake donut or if you want a jelly looking donut.

If you want to roll them out, you will need to make a bit stiffer dough and will want to add more flour.  And you’re on your own; I’ve never done it.

If you hand-form them, you can have a looser dough.   I hand-form mine because my busha said that when you roll them, you stand the chance of overworking the dough.  I don’t need that kind of pressure.  Besides, why fight tradition?   But, I digress.

10. Rise until doubled in size.

11. While you are letting it double, get out a large cast iron pot or powerful deep fryer (none of those pathetic FryDaddy machines will work, sorry), and start melting your shortening.    I use about 2 LARGE cans of shortening and a large, deep Lodge Dutch Oven to fry the Paczki’s.   I use my digital thermometer to ensure that the grease is around 350 degrees.   When the grease is not hot enough, the food just soaks it up.  Yuck!    Also useful is a metal hamburger spatula turner for plucking them out and turning them over.  (Mental note:  mine broke at Christmas — I need to get a new one.)

Also, start covering every available counter or table space with waxed paper, waxy side up.   Seriously, I used about 20 linear feet of paper.   I tried using parchment paper last year and don’t recommend it.   Use waxed — freezer paper is okay, too.

12. Put a generous amount of flour on your counter.  Once the dough has doubled, dump it onto the floured surface.

13. To hand-form the Paczki, pull off a ball of dough slightly bigger than a golf ball and smaller than a tennis ball.   Roll slightly between your hands, then pat down to as close to 1/4″ thick as you can get.

14. Place it on waxed paper and repeat.  Set aside and let rise.   By the time you are done shaping doughnuts, the first ones will be ready to cook.

15. Once your grease (shortening) is hot enough, place in enough paczki that they are not touching but have room to grow a bit.   Fry until the bottoms are a nice golden brown and then use a metal spatula to flip and cook on the other side.   The thinner you have made the dough, the better color you get.  If you make them thicker they will almost always LOOK burnt because they get so dark.

16. I place them on paper towels to catch any excess grease (though if it’s hot enough, there won’t be much).   While warm, you can roll them in cinnamon & sugar or powdered sugar.   Or you can use my family’s white frosting recipe.

This recipe makes from 4 – 8 dozen depending on thickness.   Four dozen if they are 1/2″ thick (pre-rise), closer to 8 dozen if they are 1/4″ thick.

It takes about 4 hours from start to finish, so free up some time and have someone watch the kids — especially while frying.    I tend to make sure I nurse the baby right before I start forming doughnuts so I don’t have to be interrupted.

These Paczki are not super sweet, so the frosting is perfect because everyone can customize the level of sweet.  They are puffy inside and have a slight crunch outside when cooked perfectly.  And as long as you don’t frost/sugar them, any that aren’t eaten by Lent can be frozen for Easter (or Sundays, if you don’t count those) and are no worse for the wear.

Will you be making Paczki with me this year?

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Jen can be found writing at Happy Little Homemaker.


  1. says

    Hi Jen-
    Thanks for the recipe…might have to give this a try and for reminding me I am NOT crazy about knowing what REAL Paczki’s are suppose to be… my father was P0lish and learned to make them from his mother and sisters… and to him… Paczki’s was pronounced Punchki and it literally to us meant pinching the dough off of the Easter Raisin Bread recipe and punching it down and then frying it and sprinkling with powdered sugar… NOT stuffing it with pudding like a jelly ball!!!!

  2. Amy says

    I have often wondered if my great grandfather just made the German version of Paczki, because his were NOT filled with anything either. But after seeing this site, I am glad to know that there are those who insist REAL paczki are NOT filled.