Feb 5, 2008

Pączki pączki

Outside of Halloween, one of the best holidays has to be Fat Tuesday. Accordingly, I prepared by buying some delicious Chinese pączki. They had some localized flavors, of course. Instead of plum, lemon, and raspberry for the filling, you had a choice of savory fermented tofu paste, gelatinous pork trotters, and minced donkey placenta.

I hope you can tell I'm kidding. Chinese don't get anywhere close to making edible donuts, let alone pączki. In fact, outside of Poland, Detroit, and Chicago, I've not seen commercially-prepared pączki anywhere.

Below: pączki filled with what?

So of course I had to make my own pączki. I used this recipe with some tweaks, although it seems like most pączki recipes are pretty much the same. It's a basic fried donut dough recipe, and then the filling is up to you. It shouldn't be a big surprise if you've ever made your own donuts before. I filled mine with a raspberry jelly I derived from some preserves.

Despite the dangers of playing around with 350 degree oil, it's very rewarding to make your own donuts or pączki. Some of the benefits:
  • I wanted big, fat pączki, that blow up like little spheres, not the supermarket pseudo-pączki that look like their regular donuts. This is easy enough to accomplish when you're doing it yourself.
  • The raspberry filling I concocted tasted better than the high-fructose corn syrup filler stuff they put into the mass-produced pączki. I left the raspberry seeds in the jelly, since I think it tastes more like fruit and less like Hostess pie corn syrup filler that way. Emeril would have you do otherwise, but I wouldn't take too much advise from him anyway.
  • There's nothing better than eating a hot, unfilled pączek right out of the frier. Note that you should probably let it cool for about 10 minutes so you don't burn the sh*t out of your lips. The dough will still be cooking inside the browned crust even after you take it out of the oil.
  • I'm not a huge fan of pączki glazed with thick, white fondant. It seems too much like Dunkin' Donuts to me. My preference is powdered or granular sugar for the coating. For a fried donut like pączki, I like the taste of granular sugar better, so I used that. I'd leave the powdered sugar to more delicate stuff like crêpes or chrusciki.
  • I've fried donuts in canola oil in the past, and it just doesn't cut it for flavor. I fried my pączki in peanut oil this time. It adds a nice, subtle flavor that goes especially well with the raspberry filling. Commercial operators are for the most part going to use plain vegetable oil because of the nut-allergy complainers, so you're not going to get this unique flavor outside of your own kitchen.
Work in progress: a risen pączki dough ball and a just-finished, empty pączki.


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