I can hearing Wanda calling my soul. Wanda Danowski was my grandmother. She was my dad's mother and she was that beautifully typical Polish woman. She wore a light blue babuska with little green flowers. If she went outside, I remember she would wear a plastic bag babuska OVER hers so it didn't get wet. It made me smile. I lost my grandmother many years ago but the older I get, the more she tries to communicate. I swear, somehow she makes the Polish food cravings that I get. Now my grandmother, like many Polish grandmothers, made delicious food yet she never wrote down a recipe. She loved to collect and store any and EVERY little thing but recipes apparently. You should see my cousin, Jenn, with me and my mom and my Aunt Geri try to make pierogi every year without a recipe. It's a lot of "hmmm, let's add more flour or I think it needs more sugar." A lot of hmmmms.
Every time the calendar hits February, my inner clock says "Sara, it's almost Paczki Day!" I normally only indulge in 1 paczki a year. I have the same thing too. My elementary school (St. Mary Magdalen) growing up would let you put an order in for 1 Paczki and 1 drink every year-before Lent, obviously. We were good Catholic school children. I would order 1 custard cream Paczki and 1 small chocolate milk. Yes, that is still my order several decades later. BUT NOT THIS YEAR!!!!! The little Polish lady inside of me is going to experiment with making my own.
First step in my experimenting on a recipe involves reading. LOTS of reading. I goggle, pinterest, smittenkitchen (my favorite food blog) my way to find a recipe I like. Then I read some more. I read almost every single comment that is left. If you are one of those commenters, thank you! I keep in mind every single thing they say-from it's too sweet or needs more moisture. I normally make the recipe as listed then taste/smell and modify. Batter tasting is an important step in my process so if I ever die of food poisoning, it was in the name of a perfect outcome. It's also probably a fitting way for me to go. Then I carry my giant kitchenaid mixer up from my basement pantry and we go to work!
I am using a recipe I found from Brown Eyed Baker for the Paczki dough. This one just sang to me..."Make me and EAT ME!"
So I decided to make 3 different flavors because I love to make life harder on myself. The other thing that calls to my soul in February? Girl Scout Cookies. It's my favorite season of the year. I will not tell you how many boxes I eat. Yes, boxes and not cookies. I was a girl scout so I just pretend I'm supporting them and not just hoarding calories. Let's just go with that.
The Paczki Fillings and Toppings!!! Vanilla-Fluffy Vanilla Pastry Cream and rolled in powdered sugar Samoa-Caramel Cream with Toasted Coconut dipped in caramel, topped with toasted coconut and brown sugar and a chocolate drizzle Tagalong-Peanut Butter Cream with a Chocolate Dipped Top.
First step: I'm going to prepare a basic pastry cream from allrecipes.com and then modify it to create my unique flavors. This is a very basic recipe I've used with great success. I doubled the recipe and then divided it into 3rds for the different flavors.
I followed the directions exactly! Then modified per flavor- Fluffy Vanilla was made using the base then adding in 1/2 cup whipped heavy cream with 3 Tablespoons confectioners sugar.
For the Caramel pastry cream-I used the base then added 6 oz Torani Caramel sauce and 1/3 cup whipped heavy cream. To make it 'Samoa' style, I added 1/2 cup toasted shredded coconut.
For the Peanut Butter pastry cream-I used the base then added 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter.
Now For the Paczki Dough: I used the recipe from Brown Eyed Baker. Click the link embedded in the word Paczki!
I followed the recipe provided pretty religiously. It took basically all afternoon to make since there is a lot of time spent proofing the dough. Aka time to hang out with my small children!!! Once it was prepped, it will look like this:
Eventually, it was ready to be rolled out and cut into dough circles. The recipe calls for a biscuit cutter. I bake A LOT and I never have owned one. Why? Because you can use any drinking glass in your kitchen, which is exactly what I did to form my circles! Just dip the rim in flour before you use it and wham!
I found this dough extremely easy to roll out and put the scraps together to make more circles. That is not often the case so I appreciate that. The next step, after MORE PROOFING, is to FRY!!! Whoot!!! I use a dutch-oven because I love the high sides in case of splatter. I used about 5-6 giant spoonfuls of Crisco and melted it. The recipe calls for the oil to be at 350'. I know most of you do not have a candy thermometer to use for that but it's pretty easy to tell when your oil is ready. If you drop in a piece of dough, you should see bubbles coming out. If you don't, that means the oil is too cool for frying and the grease will just soak into the dough and it will be gross. Just be patient! Once you drop the dough (I did 3-4 at a time), let the bottom brown. This only took about 1-2 minutes and then flip. Once both sides are brown, take it out and let the Paczki rest on some paper towel to get the excess grease off.
Once they all come out of their oil bath and are golden brown, you can fill and top however you choose. To fill, I used a pastry bag and piped in the cream to each one. Here are my results:
My review: This dough is great. It's not too sweet and it stands up to the filling very well. The pastry cream is light and fluffy and when you add the toppings and flavors, you will be hooked. Good thing I only have 1 a year-well this year I will have to suck it up and have 1 of each flavor. My boys and hubby all appreciated this adventure in baking!!!
Tip: Several times in this dough recipe and lots of other dough recipes, it calls for you to rest your dough in a warm place. Now I am in Michigan, in February so room temperature is hot right now. A great alternative is to make a warm place. I do this by running the hot water in my stainless steel sink then using the hose, I get hot water all over the sides of the sink. Once it drains, put your bowl-o-dough in there. The metal insulates the bowl, keeping the dough in a warm place. You can check back and repeat the hot water process as much as you need to to maintain a warm space for your dough to rest and rise!
I've decided to share some of these heavenly creations with my hubby's new co-workers. He just transferred to a new job with General Motors and left his work husband, Brian, after many years. Hopefully these will lead to him making some new work friends :) When asked how they felt about the treat, apparently too many people were OOHHHing and AHHHing to comment.
Next Day Note: The cream has absorbed into the Paczki dough a bit, if you want lots of cream inside, I would suggest keeping a piping bag filled and fill to eat :)