When living or working abroad, it is important to find a taste of home, which might mean creating it yourself. I’ve been doing this a lot lately. Sometimes out of necessity, sometimes out of curiosity to see if I can successfully replicate something. Today, in honor of Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras/my childhood memories, I bring you homemade paczki! These fatty fried dough delights have roots in European pre-Lenten celebrations and were transported by Polish immigrants to the United States. Paczki are very popular in Michigan (my home state) due to the large number of Polish immigrants that flourished in the area and introduced this delightful tradition to the rest of us (I do not have Polish ancestry, but fully embrace this tasty ritual. I missed them so much while living in Minnesota that I made them from scratch one year and decided to do it again here in Kazakhstan!).
“So what is the big deal with paczki? They are just doughnuts…”
No, no, no, my ignorant friend. They are not simply doughnuts. While both are fried dough, there are some core differences that set them apart. For one, the dough of paczki differs from doughnuts and the German Berliners, another type of pre-Lenten fried delight. It is very rich with egg yolks, milk, sugar, yeast, and butter. It also contains a small quantity of high-proof alcohol. This apparently helps paczki from absorbing too much oil while frying, which keeps them lighter and spongier than other types of fried dough (this means you can eat at least two—the world record stands at 23!). The insides are stuffed with a variety of fruit or custard fillings, then either glazed or dusted with powdered sugar.
Paczki are a big deal in Michigan. People pre-order them, wait in line at 4 AM to get them, and post about their goodness all day on Facebook. Such deliciousness should be honored in this way. I started working on mine at 9 AM today and finished dusting them with powdered sugar at 2:30 PM. A lot of that time was spent doing dishes while waiting for the dough to rise, different parts of the process take some time as well—the frying took about 30 minutes, grinding my own powdered sugar took about 15 minutes, and filling them, always a messy and sticky challenge, took at least 45 minutes, plus making the actual dough! They are a lot of work, but worth it.
I filled this year’s paczki with either Nutella or cherry preserve. Both were delicious. If you hurry to Kazakhstan for a visit, you might be able to grab a few before we eat them all!