Fat Thursday – Polish Doughnuts

Over 100million Pączki are consumed on Tłusty Czwartek

Tomorrow, Thursday 8th February, Poland celebrates ”Fat Thursday’, (Tłusty Czwartek).  The tradition is to eat at least one doughnut, known as Pączki, some say you have to eat at least three!

Fat Thursday marks the end of Carnival, and beginning of Lent here in Poland.   On Fat Thursday you have to queue at the most popular places, with customers aat teh most popular pączki purveyors waiting up to 2 hours!!  Many bakers operate a more convenient pre-order option.

It is reckoned that a mountain of 100 million Pączki, are consumed across Poland on Fat Thursday.

What are Pączki?
Traditional Pączki are doughnuts which are deep fried, made with yeast dough and filled with rose petal jam, with either a light covering of icing or dusted with icing sugar.  Often the recipe in the most popular bakers is a closely guarded family secret passed down through the generations.  

Pączki have been the snack of choice on Fat Thursday since the 17th century and, according to superstition, not eating one brings bad luck for a year.

Where to find the best Pączki in Kraków?

A fairly recent trend has seen more modern high street Pączki shops appearing in Polish cities, selling several variations of topping and filling, often still warm from the oven, making them even more delicious.  Vegan Pączki have also become increasingly popular. 

We even have a ‘pączkimat’ automated vending machine in Kazimierz.
It has become a tradition for local media, to invite a jury of  ‘pączki professionals’ and ‘dedicated doughnutter’s’, to carry out a blind taste test, or hold public polls to select the best doughnuts in town.This years results are;

Pączki Fun Facts:

Statistically, every Pole eats two and a half doughnuts, which adds up to a Pączki mountain of 100 million, consumed across Poland.

The big supermarkets, here in Poland, are of course doing their bit, with one offering 22 varieties of doughnut, whilst another is giving 4 free Pączki to each customer.

The best Pączki bakers have long queues , and longer order lists, on Fat Thursday.

One option to avoid the long queues, or disappointment of empty shelves, is to make your own.

Pączki Recipe
Prep time: 2 hours
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Makes about 20 to 24 pączki

Traditional Polish pączki – yeast doughnuts filled with fruit preserves (rose jam) topped with icing or icing sugar.

2 cups whole milk, warmed to 110 degrees F
4½ teaspoons active dry yeast (2 packages)
¾ cup + 1 pinch granulated sugar, divided
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 egg
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Peanut oil, canola oil or lard, for frying
Fruit preserves, for filling
Powdered and granulated sugars, for coating

1. Pour warm milk into bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in the yeast and a pinch of granulated sugar. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it has become bubbly.

2. Add 2 cups of flour to the mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a smooth batter forms. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot for 30 minutes. The mixture should have risen and be very bubbly.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg and egg yolks until pale yellow and frothy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar, vanilla extract and salt, and whisk until combined and smooth.

4. Attach the dough hook to the mixer, add the egg mixture to the dough and mix on medium-low speed until mostly combined. Add the melted butter and mix to combine. Gradually add 3 more cups of flour to the mixture and continue to knead until a very soft dough comes together. (It will not clean the sides of the bowl or form a ball; it will be rather slack and a bit sticky.) If necessary, add up to another 1 cup of flour, a spoonful at a time, until the dough forms.

5. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm spot until it has doubled in size.

6. Remove the dough from the bowl and turn out onto a floured work surface. With your fingers, push down the dough into an even layer. Sprinkle flour on the dough and roll it out to ½-inch thickness. If the dough doesn’t hold its shape and springs back, cover with a damp towel and let rest for a few minutes and try again.

7. Use a 3-inch biscuit cutter to cut out rounds of dough. Transfer the dough rounds to parchment-lined baking sheets. Gather scraps of dough and again roll out and cut until you have used up all of the dough. Cover the baking sheets loosely with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free spot until almost doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

8. Meanwhile, heat at least 1½ inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot or deep skillet (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet) over medium heat to 350 degrees F. Carefully lower about six paczki into the oil at a time (be sure not to over-crowd the pan) and fry until the bottom is golden brown. Carefully turn them over and continue to fry until the other side is golden brown. Use a spider strainer or slotted spoon to remove them to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Allow the oil to come back to temperature, then repeat until all of the paczki have been fried.

9. Allow the paczki to cool until you are able to handle them easily. Using a filling tip, pipe fruit preserves into the sides of the paczki, then roll in sugar. The paczki are best the same day they are made, but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Doughnuts to cost more ‘dough’ (2023 prices)

Bakers are reporting that pączki will cost more this year, with prices rising by 20%,  due to the increase in energy prices and “Polski ład” . Gazeta Wyborcza, undertook a survey of Paczki prices, and discovered: –

  • “Zaborowscy”  at ul. Sławkowska, has the cheapest doughnut costing 2.9 PLN.
  • ‘Steskal’  offer a traditional doughnut with candied orange peel costs PLN 3.9
  • Prices have increased on average from 3.5 PN last year to 3.9 PLN this year
  • ‘Nakielny’ have doughnuts with rose, frosting and orange peel at 4.9 PLN.
  • ‘Dobra Pączkarnia,’ sell theirs at 6 PLN.
  • Supermarkets such as Biedronka, offer a better deal, but often smaller size and lower quality, with packs of 12 selling for 9.99 PLN.   Source Gazeta Wyborcza


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