Pączki: Polish doughnuts

Often misspelled as: punchkees, poochkie, punski, poochkis

What are pączki?

Pączek (plural: pączki) is a traditional Polish doughnut made of yeast dough consisting of wheat flour, eggs, milk and butter.

Pączek is formed into slightly flattened ball, injected with rosehip filling and deep fried – traditionally in lard. As a finishing touch, they’re bathed in a flat icing and sprinkled with candied orange peel on top.

How to pronounce “pączki” in Polish?

The closest way to the Polish pronunciation would be: “pownch-key”
Non-Polish speakers often use the plural form “pączki”, even if they’re referring to a single doughnut.

A single “pączek” sounds like: “pownch-eck”

Fat Tuesday paczki donut

Pączki history

Early on, pączki were made with bread dough, filled with pork fat and topped with pork scratchings. In the late 16th century they evolved into a sweet pastry, but they were much tougher then those we know today. In 18th century yeast was added to the recipe, and the doughnuts became larger and softer.

Fun fact –

Old Polish custom associated with pączki involved placing an almond (or any other nut) in some of them. The one who came across this “surprise” was to be guaranteed happiness and prosperity throughout the year (perhaps with a tooth missing as well…)

Fat Tuesday, Fat Thursday & Pączki Day

Pączki are sold in Polish bakeries on everyday basis, but in leading to Lent, millions are sold in mere hours.

In Poland we enjoy them in large quantity while celebrating “Tłusty Czwartek” (“Fat Thursday”), the last Thursday prior to the beginning of Lent.

Abroad, pączki are accompanying Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras. On the same day in North America – particularly where the large Polish communities reside – “Pączki Day” is celebrated annually.

Pączki vs doughnuts

What’s the difference between pączki and doughnuts? Pączki are made of a yeast dough – enriched with eggs, milk and butter. The texture is quite dense with an almost chewy texture that stretches delightfully over the tongue. Doughnuts are much lighter and crumblier in comparison.

Moreover, pączki are filled with a hearty amount of jam (or other fillings), while doughnuts often have a hole punched in the middle.

Pączki (Polish donut) recipe

Popular pączki fillings

  • rosehip marmalade
  • prune filling / damson jam
  • fruit jam / fruit jelly
  • budyń (Polish custard)

Save this homemade Pączki recipe to your “Polish desserts” Pinterest board!

Pączki

Polish name: Pączki Also known as: Polish donuts/doughnuts

The warm ones disappear the quickest, although they're still delicious on the next day.

Course Dessert
Cuisine Polish
Total Time 3 hours
Servings 20 servings
Calories 325 kcal
Author adapted from Marek Łebkowski "Kuchnia Polska: Dania na każdą okazję" 1997 p.610

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour 500g
  • 1.8 oz fresh yeast 50g
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup milk 250ml, whole
  • 1/4 cup sugar 50g
  • 1 egg
  • 5 tsp alcohol 25ml, can be rum
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 3.5 tbsp butter 50g
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • salt
  • 7 oz rosehip marmalade 200g
  • 3.3 oz lard for frying

Icing/Topping

  • 1 cup icing sugar 125g
  • 2 tbsp water warm
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • candied orange peel optional

Instructions

  1. Blend the yeast with 1 tablespoon of sugar, a cup of flour and half a cup of milk. Set aside in a warm place for an hour.

  2. When yeast raises, add egg yolks with egg and sugar, the rest of the flour - together with milk, lemon juice & zest, alcohol, grated vanilla and a pinch of salt.

  3. Knead the dough until it becomes shiny is no longer sticky. Add melted and chilled butter, knead again and set aside in a warm place again for an hour or so.

  4. Grab a spoonful of dough (around 40g / 1.4oz) and form small discs by hand (it's easier if you grease your hands beforehand). Place 1/2 teaspoon of marmalade in the middle of a disc and close the dough together.

  5. Place each doughnut onto floured worktop (with the seam facing down). Keep some space between them. Once you're done, cover pączki with a cloth. 

  6. Once they're risen, start heating up the fat in a large pot. Test the temperature with a small piece of raw dough. If it browns immediately, that means we can start frying. 

  7. Submerge a few doughnuts into the fat, make sure they don't stick to each other. Cover with the lid and fry on a medium heat until golden. Turn the sides and repeat the process - this time without the lid. Once pączki are fried, rest them on a paper towel.

  8. Blend icing sugar with water and lemon juice. Cover each pączek with icing, sprinkle with candied orange peel.