Have you heard of Polish donut day? One of the most loved foods from the spectre of Polish cuisine are pączkior donuts, because of the tradition of Fat Thursday (in Poland) or Shrove or Fat Tuesday (US or other), the last days before lent.
FAT THURSDAY POLAND
So what is Fat Thursday?
Let’s begin with Polish donuts... One of the best foods the world as we know it has to offer. Bread, sugar, sweet filling, grease... they may sound awfully unhealthy and not quite one of the typical Polish lenten recipes, but they sure are delicious!
Now imagine a holiday – or a tradition more likely, that makes it okay to stuff your face with as many donuts as you want. Fat Thursday, or Tlusty Czwartek, really does exist, and is celebrated in many cultures around the world, but most especially, in Poland. Fat Thursday in Poland is celebrated by eating pączkidonuts, a Polish of a bit fuller dough with jam filling.
SHOVE TUESDAY AND FAT THURSDAY
As Christian Easter always falls on different dates, but always the same days of the week, Polish Fat Thursday occurs six days before the beginning of Lent or before Ash Wednesday (a holy day of prayer).
Fat Tuesday or Mardi Grass is a similar custom falling on the very last day before lent, which some celebrate by eating pancakes or other rich foods that are not allowed during the time of lent. Another practical reason for this day was that it made it easier to get rid of sugar, eggs, fruit and foods which you wouldn’t otherwise be able to use up days before lent.
Some Poles, especially in US, celebrate a Polish Fat Tuesday instead, while some prefer the Shrove Thursday. Either way, during this time, you will see shops filled with these lent donuts!
SHROVE THURSDAY IN POLAND
As you might’ve already guessed, this will not be an article on Polish lenten meals. Quite the opposite!
Pączki are not the only food you can eat to feel like celebrating Tlusty Czwartek. Actually, anything fatty and sweet is considered okay, and people also often eat another Polish cuisine staple called faworki (dough finger-like sweet covered with powdered sugar) or even placki (a kind of potato pancakes,served with sour cream). As this is the last time you can enjoy meals forbidden during lent, and especially so in preparations for Easter and the holy week, make paczki a dessert that will follow such specialties of Polish food as: kotlet schabowy (as you should abstain from meat), sour rye soup (containing hard boiled eggs), pierogi (often containing fried onions). If it’s any consolation, polish cuisine staple pickled cucumbers can stay on the menu even throughout the Lenten fast.
THURSDAY BEFORE LENT TRADITION
Interestingly, paczki are not new news. They have been around for as long as Middle Ages, and their roots take back even to the Roman times. Their recipe was supposedly improved thanks to the French pastry chefs who came to Poland, and these are the donuts eaten on the last Thursday before lent we know now.
As already mentioned, Fat Thursday is celebrated widely in Polish communities around the world and in the United States. Some areas even create pączki-eating contests!
But were to buy pączki? Although you can buy traditional Polish food pączki from Polish shops across the United States, if you find it more convenient, you can celebrate the day by getting any type of donut that you come across. Also, you can decide to make the day more special and make your own!
Here is a simple Polish pączki recipe for you to try out. It does take some time to prepare, about an hour and a half, depending on how much time you’re used to spend in the kitchen, so why not make a fun time out of it, inviting your family or friends to join in, especially since it’s so rewarding!
You can fry pączki or bake them in the oven. We suggest you opt for the second choice, just because it’s healthier and a bit safer that way.
Tamara Bosak Djordjevic
1½ cups of all purpose flour
¼ cup of sugar
¼ teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of instant or regular yeast
2/3 cups of milk
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 egg yolks
½ teaspoon of vanilla
Another ¼ cup of flour
1 tablespoon of melted butter
1/3 cup of sugar for coating (you can opt without any)
1 cup of jam or any other filling of your choice
Pour the first round of flour, sugar, salt and yeast into a large bowl, then stir adding oil, egg yolks and vanilla. Using an electric mixer, mix everything together until the mass is consistent. Then, add some more flour until you see that the dough holds together.
Then, take the dough out and knead until it’s not sticking to your fingers anymore. Put it in foil and let rest for about ten minutes.
Then, take the dough and roll it so it’s about half an inch thick. Cut circles (you can use a bowl, a cup or a cutter for measure). Keep going until you’re out of dough.
Once you’re done, place the circles on a baking sheet on a pan, cover with a towel and then let rise for about an hour. You can get your oven started in about half an hour – preheat it to 375° F.
While you wait, you can also prepare butter by melting it, and pour sugar into a bowl or on a surface that is easy to clean.
When your circles become puffy, you can put them in the oven and bake for about ten minutes.
Once your circles have become pączki in the oven, remove them from the pan and place them on a plate or anything you have for that purpose. Brush them with melted butter and roll them with sugar. Then shake the excess off.
How do you fill pączki, you may ask? Just pierce them using a pastry bag and fill them with a filling of your choice. Traditionally, plum jam would be used, but you can get creative if you want to. Also, it’s fun to know that not eating a donut is considered to bring you bad luck and finding a donut with a nut or almond inside will bring you good fortune.