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Paczki with a Sweet Sourdough Starter

Paczki (poonch-key)! Paczki were created as a way to use up all the available sugar, eggs, butter, lard, and other goodness before Lent, during which Catholic folks give up an indulgence for 40 days. In Poland, the pre-Lenten celebration goes down on Fat Thursday. In Polish-heavy Midwestern cities like Detroit, Cleveland, Green Bay, and Chicago!, Fat Tuesday is known as Paczki Day. During the holiday, local bakeries sell tens of thousands of fresh pastries in the morning, with people lining up around the block to get them. It’s like a Polish Mardi Gras! Please DO NOT call these jelly donuts – they are much better and weigh about twice as much.

Since I’ve been exploring the world of sourdough I wanted to try and use Mabel (my starter’s name) to make these delicious treats for the first time ever. I grew up loving Strawberry or Raspberry Powdered Sugar Paczki eating my way through various local bakeries. I knew I could count on Mabel to help me in my first Paczki endeavor.

I started by making a sweet starter from my active sourdough starter. It was hard to believe that this little firm, sweet starter would eventually help me make almost 2 dozen paczki.

After several hours of resting covered and doubling in size it was time to add the other ingredients to make a sweet, heavy dough.

Not only did it look smooth and silky it smelled amazing!

After getting a good rest overnight, it was time to get some little rounds cut out! I started with deflating and stretching the dough by hand before rolling it. Using a 3-inch cutter I was able to get about 22 circles. I arranged them on a sheet pan with parchment paper to let them proof some more.

After an hour my little Mabel babies were ready to fry. The oil temperature is important because if it’s not hot enough the dough will just absorb all kinds of oil and if it’s too hot then the outside will cook too quickly but the inside will be raw. So test your temperature!

My donuts only took about 90 seconds per side to fry! They puffed up quickly and once I could see the browning coming up the side they got a flip. I transferred them to another sheet pan lined with paper towels to drain and cool. Make sure to only do 4-6 at a time. If your oil drops below 365, heat it back up before adding more paczki.

Now onto the filling! After realizing the strawberry jam I bought would never make it through my piping tip I had to push it through a strainer to get all the berry bits out of it. It caused a bit of a mess and I had to work quickly to get the filling in because it just oozed out of the tip.

After I did a little troubleshooting I realized I could take a butter knife to essentially “pre-drill” my hole and not rely on the tip while it was leaking jam. LOL The cheesecake filling was the opposite of leaky! It too thick for my piping tip so I switched it to a basic circle piping tip and used the butter knife method to pre-drill my filling space.

I also experimented with rolling in powdered sugar v. sprinkling. Sprinkling won out. đŸ˜‰ Overall, I had a great time making these sweet little Fat Tuesday beauties. Especially being able to share a few with my parents, brother’s family, and my Sourdough Slayer neighbor friends. I look forward to trying a new filling each year and maybe doubling up the recipe to do more sharing. Happy Paczki Day!

Packzi with a Sweet Sourdough Starter

Have a sourdough starter? You can make Polish Paczki from it! Packzi is a brioche-type donut made with butter, milk, and eggs.
Servings 1.5 dozen

Ingredients
  

  • 25 grams active sourdough starter
  • 12 grams brown sugar
  • 20 grams warm water
  • 50 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup scalded milk, cooled
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Vegetable Oil for frying
  • Favorite Jam
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Powdered Sugar

Instructions
 

Sourdough Starter Dough

  • Mix active sourdough starter, brown sugar, water, and flour in a small bowl. Knead into a bowl and let sit for several hours, until doubled in size.
  • Once starter dough has doubled in size, add to a stand mixer with paddle attachment. Add cooled, scalded milk, egg yolks, softened butter, sugar, and vanilla. Mix until just combined.
  • Once combined, switch to a dough hook. Add one cup of flour at a time and only right after the cup before is just combined. With the last cup of flour, add 1/2 tsp salt. Mix 4-5 minutes until dough is smooth.
  • Your dough will be soft and pliable but not sticky. Add to another bowl, cover, and let rest 8-12 hours (preferably overnight), until dough is doubled in size once again.

Rolling and Cutting Paczki

  • Lightly flour your work surface. Gently deflate and pull the dough out with your hands.
  • Lightly flour the top before rolling out to a 1/2 inch thickness.
  • Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut into rounds and organize onto a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  • Gently reroll your scraps until you have used all your dough.
  • Cover loosely and let rise about 60 minutes, until puffy.

Frying Dough

  • Heat vegetable oil in deep Dutch Oven to 365-380 degrees.
  • Once oil has reached temperature, fry 4-6 packzi 1-2 minutes per side until golden brown, and then transfer to rack. Continue with remaining paczki. Make sure your oil stays in the frying range. If it drops below 365, heat it back up before adding more paczki.
  • Let packzi cool completely before filling.

Paczki Filling (Jam and Cheesecake)

  • For a jam filling, decide if you want it chunky with fruit or if you want it smooth. If you want it smooth then push jam through a fine mesh strainer to leave out chunks.
  • For cheesecake filling: Cream cream cheese, sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla together until smooth.
  • Once paczki are cooled, use a butter knife to run through center of paczki without going all the way through. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a long tip. Plunge tip into pre-cut paczki and fill gently as you pull out. Stand paczki upright so filling has time to set and does not leak out side.
  • Sprinkle liberally with powdered sugar.

Notes

Scalded milk is milk heated to 180 degrees. It helps improve the texture of baked goods, infuse flavors, melt butter and sugar, and reduce the cooking time of sauces.
You can also coat your paczki in cinnamon sugar. Do this right after you remove from frying oil.

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