Updated: Feb 10
The word pączki (pronounced ‘pownch-key’) stands for Polish doughnuts. Today we are sharing our approach to making Polish pączki.
We love fried dough! It comes in different shapes and forms: Italian Bombolini, Ukrainian Pamupushky, French Beignets, Dutch Oliebollen, German Berliner Pfannkuchen and... the list goes on!
Traditionally, Polish pączki dough is made with milk, butter, eggs, flour, sugar and yeast. If you read the recipe - there is no milk or butter in our dough. Instead, pączki are prepared using creamy roux (portion of pre-cooked flour), strong flour, eggs and egg yolks, a little bit of sugar and a touch of alcohol. You can have a selection of fancy fillings in pączki but for us it’s the dough that makes the difference. This pączki dough is light, airy and soft but in the same time, thanks to the overnight fermentation and full gluten development, the structure is firm, spongy and bouncy.
For a good doughnut:
Flour - use bread flour for this recipe (12g protein). If you are using Polish flour - use type 650. We are going for soft texture but in the same time springy and bouncy crumb structure.
Cream - there is no butter in this recipe. Fat and liquid are replaced by using cream. Cream here creates soft and feather-like texture. For this recipe we are using cream with 36% fat content (but 12 or 18% will work too; go for sweet cream not sour cream).
Yeast - if you can get it - use fresh yeast (yeast cake) as a first choice but if you can’t get it - active dried yeast will work too. Don’t use rapid rise yeast (with bigger granules).
Alcohol - in traditional Polish doughnuts, rum or vodka were used as it was believed that this will prevent the dough from soaking in too much fat when frying. This is a myth. However, in combination with egg yolks and frying (the goodness of Maillard reaction), alcohol helps to create soft, even-coloured, golden skin. It also adds to the flavour and knocks back oil-y or lard-y aroma.
Egg yolks - this recipe is egg-heavy. I was asked to prepare small-batch recipe for this blog - so here it is. However, usually we make these from 1 kg of flour - so you would use 13-14 eggs (mainly egg yolks). Egg yolks create enriched, soft dough with springy crumb. Thanks to the eggy richness the dough has time to slowly mature and develop flavour. Egg yolks also prevent (together with other factors) soaking in too much fat when frying (yolks are binding moisture in the dough).
Sugar - only small amount of sugar is used in this dough. For extra flavour - add some vanilla sugar if you have it at hand. Sweetness comes from icing and filling.
Pre-cooked flour - we will start our pączki by preparing creamy roux. Why do we use roux in this recipe? Pre-cooking flour will release additional starch. Thanks to this process the doughnut will have softer texture and improved flavour. Portion of flour and cream is mixed together, cooked (whisking) until reaches 60C and achieves creamy consistency. This roux needs to rest for at least 1 hr (refrigerated) and up to 2 days. The longer you refrigerate this roux the better the outcome. I usually let the roux mature for 12 hours in the fridge (shared sample timing below). Why does it need to mature? Time will allow flour (starch) and cream to gel. It will improve taste and texture of doughnut.
Cooked potato (optional) - source of starch and moisture. Adds elasticity to the structure of the crumb and if you plan to store doughnut for longer it will slightly increase its shelf life. This addition is optional - I add potato when I have it at hand, and as you can see only small portion is added to the dough (10% per kg flour). Blend or pulse cooked potato until smooth and add when at room temperature. This dough will work with or without it. You will be happy if you add it but nothing major will happen if you don’t have it at hand.
Kneading - you will first whip an egg and egg yolks with sugar until pale and fluffy, then add roux (all moisture comes from roux, rum and a bit of water used for yeast proofing) and whip until combined. Then, the rest of ingredients are added. Knead for 10 minutes and leave the dough to rest (covered) for 15 minutes, then go back to the dough and knead until it passes window pane test (usually after extra 10-15 minutes of kneading). What’s the window pane test? Stretch a portion of the dough and it should form thin film without breaking (see picture). It’s a sign that the gluten has been fully developed. This will allow your doughnuts to achieve firm and bouncy structure. What if the dough is breaking? Knead for a little bit longer or you have kneaded too fast (usually an issue when using stand mixer). If you are kneading using stand mixer - use low-medium setting and don’t knead on fast speed (you will break gluten as the dough is egg-heavy and enriched; take it slow and it will pay off). If you are kneading by hand - knead in short bursts - 5 minutes of kneading, 5-10 minutes break and then another 5 minutes of kneading. Usually, when kneaded by hand, this dough passes window pane test after 7-10 minutes of kneading (it takes about 10-15 minutes using stand mixer). When done kneading - transfer the dough onto the counter and do few slap and folds to do the final shaping. Transfer to the clean bowl lightly oiled with olive oil, cover tightly with cling film and let rest on the counter for 20 minutes. After that time, transfer to the fridge for overnight rest (at 3-4C).
Overnight rest - store the dough refrigerated at 3-4C for 8-12 hours. The dough will have time to mature and develop extra flavour. In the morning, there is no need to bring the dough back to the room temperature. Proceed straight to shaping.
Shaping - when ready, knock back (de-gas) the dough. Dust your work surface with flour. Try to use as little flour as possible. Raw flour when fried will create uneven doughnut surface and part of it will fall to the bottom of the pot impacting the flavour. Flour residue in the frying pot is not a big issue if you are frying small portion like in this recipe - but if you are preparing bigger batches (you will use fat for longer) try to take that into consideration. Gently roll out the dough into 1.5-2cm thick shape of your choice and cut doughnuts, brush off the excess flour. I’m not shaping the dough into separate rolls and prefer to cut out flat discs (1.5-2cm thick) - it yields nice and even, strong crumb without overworking the dough. I’m using cutter/glass with 6cm in diameter (doughnut will puff up when frying and if you are going for classic 10cm diameter and 6cm thickness of final fried doughnut then that’s the size of the cutter to use).
Final proof - cover shaped doughnuts and let rest for 35-45 minutes at cozy room temperature (24C-30C). These should increase by 1.5-2 times the initial volume. As the dough is enriched and eggy it will be hard to judge - but shaped doughnuts should look plump and visibly puffier at the end of final proof.
Frying - choose the type of fat first. The rule of thumb is that fat which is solid at room temperature is better for deep frying of doughnuts. These type of fats burn at higher temperatures. We like to use lard (good quality pig’s fat/smalec) - it also burns at higher temperature, it’s easier to maintain steady temperature of frying in home environment, is lower in saturated fat and gives nicer flavour to the doughnut. You can also opt to use sunflower or canola oil. If you are not using deep fryer, choose wide pot, at least 20cm deep. Slowly bring fat to 175C and start frying doughnuts. Try to maintain temperature between 175C-185C. You will notice that using lard allows for flexibility here. If you notice the temperature is getting too hot, reduce heat and take the pot off the heat for few seconds. Again - lard will maintain stable temperature for longer. Fry 3-4 doughnuts at a time, for 1-2 minutes each side. Before placing another batch of doughnuts - again, control the temperature and bring it back up to 175C. When fully done, transfer doughnuts onto paper kitchen towel for few seconds and then place on the plate.
Filling - we are filling doughnuts after frying. Use piping bag (you may make a small incision on the side or bottom of the doughnut first) to fill the doughnut with confiture (povidl) or filling of your choice. Traditionally, Polish doughnuts are filled with rose petal confiture, plum povidl or some sort of jam. Choose the filling of your choice - confiture, custard, vanilla cream diplomat, whipped milk chocolate/salted caramel from this recipe or mascarpone/cream/vanilla cream from this recipe (serve as chilled doughnuts sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar).
Glazing - traditionally, Polish doughnuts are glazed with icing. However, you can opt to roll these in caster sugar mixed with vanilla and cardamom (or cinnamon), serve sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar or coated with heavier/flavoured icing and toppings. I love these served with simple orange/rum icing and that’s what’s included in this recipe.
Pączki - Polish Doughnuts Recipe
Yield: 10 doughnuts
Equipment: wide pot (at least 20cm deep) or deep fryer
Sample time schedule:
10am - prepare roux and refrigerate for 10-12 hours
8pm - 8.30pm - bring roux to room temp; proof the yeast
8.30pm - 9pm - mix and knead the dough
9pm - 9.20pm - short proof on the counter
9.20pm - 10am - overnight proof in the fridge
10am - 10.45am shape doughnuts and final proof
10.45am - fry
For cream roux:
35g bread flour (12g protein)
175g cream (36% fat)
For yeast proofing:
25g fresh yeast (yeast cake) or 1 pack (7g) active dried yeast
1 tsp (5g) sugar
1 tsp (3g) bread flour
1 large egg (60g), room temperature
3 egg yolks (3x20g), room temperature
45g sugar (I use 30g caster sugar and 15g vanilla sugar)
1/4 tsp table salt
20ml rum or vodka
265g bread flour (12g protein), sifted and at room temperature
35g cooked potato (optional), room temperature
1 kg lard or 1L sunflower or canola oil
300g rose petal confiture or plum povidl
Or vanilla mascarpone & cream filling (serve chilled doughnuts, sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar and with warm fruit coulis on the side)
180g icing sugar, sifted
1 Tbsp hot water or milk
1 Tbsp orange juice (+1-2 Tbsps if too thick)
2 tsps rum
Prepare creamy roux: In a pot with heavy bottom whisk in flour with cream. Warm up slowly to 60C, whisking every so often (watch after reaching 40C as if not whisked it may create lumpy texture). When you reach 60C and the texture is creamy and smooth, transfer to a small bowl and leave at room temperature until cooled. Then, cover tightly with cling film and refrigerate for 8-12 hours (and up to 2 days). When ready to prepare the dough, take the mixture out of the fridge and bring to room temperature (30min-1hr) before adding to the dough.
Proof the yeast: Warm up 15ml water to 38-40C, mix in sugar, flour and yeast. Cover and let proof at warm temperature (24-30C). After 15 minutes the mixture should become visibly frothy and bubbly. If it’s not, start again - the yeast might have been too old or the temperature too high or too low.
Mix the dough: Place 1 egg and egg yolks in your main mixing bowl, add sugar and beat (using whisk attachment) until pale and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Reduce speed to low, add salt and roux (at room temperature) and mix until combined. Change to the dough hook attachment. Add proofed yeast, rum, sifted flour and smooth/blended cooked potato (if using). Knead on low-medium speed for 10 minutes. If you are kneading by hand - knead for 5 minutes, remembering to rotate the bowl every so often. When done kneading, cover the dough and let rest at warm temperature (24-30C) for 15 minutes, then go back to the dough and knead until the dough passes window pane test (10-15 minutes on low-medium speed or 5-10 minutes by hand). When done, tip onto work surface and slap and fold few times to shape the dough. Transfer the dough to the clean bowl lightly oiled with olive oil. Cover with cling film and leave on the counter for 20 minutes.
Proof the dough overnight: When ready, transfer the dough to the fridge (3-4C) and let proof for 8-12 hours.
Shape doughnuts: Lightly dust work surface. Knock back (de-gas) the dough, no need to bring it back to room temperature. Using rolling pin gently roll out the dough, 1.5-2cm thick. Using cutters (or glass) cut out doughnut shapes.
Final proof: Cover shaped doughnuts and let rest at warm temperature (24-30C) for 35-45 minutes. Doughnuts should become visibly puffy and plump.
Fry: 10 minutes before the end of proofing, place fat into frying pot and warm up (slowly) to 175C. Line one plate with paper towel and prepare one extra plate. When ready, place doughnuts in the pot (3-4 at a time) and fry for 1-2 minutes each side. When done, transfer onto the paper towel for a minute or so and then transfer onto the clean plate.
Filling: Using knife make a small incision on the side or bottom of the doughnut and using piping bag fill doughnuts with the filling of your choice.
Icing: Ice warm doughnuts. Beat all ingredients until smooth. Before adding extra liquid - remember that the glaze will become thinner when placed on warm doughnuts.