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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Celebrating "Paczki Day"

As most Catholics are aware, Lent begins this week,starting on Ash Wednesday; one tradition celebrated by the Polish and Polish Americans right before the beginning of Lent is what is known as 'Paczki Day'.

Typically here in the Midwest, Paczki Day is celebrated on Shrove Tuesday, a.k.a. "Fat Tuesday", the day before the beginning of Lent. In other areas, it is celebrated on Shrove Thursday, the last Thursday before Lent.  Lent, for those not familiar, is the period of the liturgical year leading up to Easter. For Roman Catholics, fasting and self-denial (abstinence from certain foods) is part of the spritual focus, self-discipline and penance required for observers of the faith during Lent.

Paczki (pronounced poonchkee), also known as 'Polish Doughnuts', are deep fried pieces of dough shaped into a flattened sphere and either glazed or rolled in granulated sugar. Ususally there is some kind of fruit filling; either plum jam, a prune, or other fruit jams, like strawberry or raspberry jam. The dough is very rich, containing egg yolks, milk and sugar.

Traditionally, the reason for making paczki was to use up all the lard, eggs, sugar and fruit in the house because they were typically "forbidden" to be eaten during the Catholic fasting practices of Lent.

My mother's family is 100% Polish, which makes me half Polish (my father is 50/50 Belgian-Italian), so of course it is only natural that my mother's family loves to get together to make traditional paczki. Because it's difficult to get together during the work-week, we usually get together on the Sunday before Fat Tuesday to make the paczki.

This year I helped roll out the dough, cut out the doughnuts and fry them. This was my first year helping to make them.

We gathered for Paczki Day at the community center at my grandfather's condo complex. The community center used to be a church.

One side of the huge fireplace in the common area

Looking through the doorway into the full kitchen.


The other side of the fireplace, in the small eating area off the kitchen.



My sister, T, with my Grandpa Aloysius; 93 years old, WWII veteran, father of seven children, grandfather of seventeen, great-grandfather of twenty-seven, great-great-grandfather of two. We love to have gatherings at Grandpa's. He's the last living of my grandparents and we know that we are lucky every day that he is with us.


My mom made two batches of the dough ahead of time so that there was time to let it rise.


We like to use raspberry jam for the filling. I had the filler ready to go.

Once the dough has doubled in size, it's time to knead a little flour in.


Then it gets rolled out in a round shape to about a 1/4" thickness.


The frying oil is ready to go on the stove. Plenty of paper towels with cut up brown paper grocery bags underneath, to blot the excess oil after frying, are also ready.

We make both round paczki and also ones with a hole in the middle, because some people don't like fruit filled ones and like them plain. We also fry up the holes!


The paczki are then set on large trays and left to rise for about 45 minutes.


An oven set at 'warm' is a good place to let them rise. When we run out of room in the double oven, we set them on a table in the warm sun that comes through the windows.

After not too long they are ready to go in the frying oil.


It only takes a minute or two on each side to cook them through and turn them a nice golden brown.

After blotting and cooling them enough to handle, they get rolled in granulated sugar. The round ones without holes were filled with jam after sugaring.

The first batch we did, the oil was a little too hot and they got really dark, so they look almost like chocolate doughnuts! But despite their darker color, they tasted exactly the same as the lighter ones.......DELICIOUS!!!

Thanks for stopping by!

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6 comments:

Bead and Needle said...

Ah, Katie - now that I am sufficiently hungry this morning, thanks to you, Happy Paczki Day. I think I may love your grandfather - what a darling man! Have a wonderful week - Tanya

Tess said...

This brings back SWEET memories of living in Chicago. My -ex is from Poland and we used to go to this great bakery to buy fresh Paczki. They made the fruit filled ones (berry and prune) but also made them with vanilla cream and frosted them chocolate.

This makes my mouth water for them. Hope you all enjoy them; they look delicious!!!!

Heather said...

Oh my goodness, these look delicious!!

Pam said...

They look delicious! They sell them at the local grocery store, but it's not the same as homemade ones. My god-mother is Polish and she used to make these and they were soooo good. Now, I'm going to be dreaming of them tonight!

Tina Dalgren said...

K please send these pics to me!!!

Debbie@Debbie-Dabble said...

Katie,
This custom of the Polish Doughnuts is very big here in Northeast Pa. There is a very large population of Polish, Slovak and Russian descendents of immigrants here. Both my parents were Polish as my Dad's parents came over from Poland . My mom's great grand parents came over from Poland. Haluski and pierogies are also very big here as is nut and poppyseed rolls.
Joe's grandparents were also from Poland.

Hugs,
Debbie