Pączki (poonch-kee) are these delicious, not exactly healthy, treats from Poland. My Grandma used to make them when I was young and I remember them being very round, rolled in sugar, and having this beautiful deep brown, almost crust-like, exterior. Grandma never filled hers with anything, so that gave me a little room for interpretation and artistic expression. I hope that Grandma would be proud of my work this year as she is looking down on me from heaven.
A Word About Fillings
Fillings can bring life into your pączki and there are some traditional fillings, strawberry, raspberry, and plum all come to mind. This year, I was trying out some new ideas, some worked out, which I have published here on my site, while others, unfortunately, did not make the cut.
First, I’ll tell you about my troubles, I attempted a Pineapple filling, but the texture was just not suitable for a pączki. I think I know where I went wrong, so I might revisit that next year! My second, not so ready for primetime, was a Creme filling (from scratch), which again did not have a texture that I was happy with.
What worked out deliciously was my Nutella Creme, Orange Creme, and Lemon Meringue. So that is what I’m going to bring you this year. The Nutella Creme is thick and smooth and packs so much flavor it goes perfectly inside the pączki. Being a huge citrus fan and having the smell of orange trees in the air here in Arizona, I went for an Orange Creme. This was my thickest creme filling and it tasted sweet and light, kind of like you stuffed a dreamsicle inside a donut! Finally, I decided to make a “competition” pączki, something that would serve as the queen of all pączki this year, the Lemon Meringue. Let me tell you, this one was the best of them all. The lemon curd oozing out with every bite and the sweet meringue on top, I’m particularly proud of this one!
A Few Tips
Making pączki can be a very fun activity to share with your family, but there are a few things to consider. Pączki are typically fried, I have seen some recipes where they are baked (you won’t find that here), but I doubt they have the same texture you get from a good fry. So because we are using hot oil, make sure to talk to your little helpers about safety in the kitchen, we want everyone to have a safe and Happy Pączki Day.
Working with yeast can be intimidating to many, but it does not have to be. Just remember to proof the yeast before adding your flour. First things first, you need to use sugar with the yeast during the proofing step in order to get the best activation of yeast possible. Sugar and yeast go hand in hand. Also, in this recipe, we warm milk and cream to 110 degrees F, exactly, before adding it to the yeast and sugar. Temperature is really important during the proofing and frying steps of this recipe, so it’s a good idea to have a candy thermometer on hand. Having the liquid at the right temperature will stimulate the best reaction from the yeast, anything higher than 110 degrees F could damage and kill the yeast, having a dramatic effect on your ability to get your dough to rise. Check the expiration date of your yeast, too. If it is past its date or has been opened for a long time, do not use it, likely the yeast will not rise. If you remember sugar and temperature, using yeast is actually fairly easy, just trust it will do the work for you.