Monday, March 7, 2011

Fat Tuesday Fast Approaching

   I woke up this morning thinking of my Gram.  It happens often and usually she clears up a question I have been poindering or seems to calm the craziness around me. But, today I woke thinking  of Pączki Day. I had to smile, in her later years she did love her bakery. I think it is engrained in us. My biggest dream is to open a bakery, oh would those Grammas be proud of me then! My Great Grandmother was raised near Warsaw, Poland in what was then  Prussia, and came to this country in 1912. Her German family worked on a large farm and sent her and a brother Otto to America for safety. She was never to see any of them again. I think becasue of this she held old traditions and family very tightly and made us #1 always.  My Grandmother followed right behind.  We were her family treasure and what she left behind was in our hearts and memories, not the bank. . Of the many customs and traditions she brought with her was Paczki Day.  Now if my Gram was still here, I would need to stop at the bakery today to have some Paczki there for her morning coffee. That sounds wonderful, but no longer living in the Chicago area, we have no good bakery near us and I may just need to bake today so I can share this with my grandkids in the morning. Is it life changing if I don't? No, but these little things somehow, someday may bring a smile to their faces on a cold grey March day.
For those of you who could use some back ground on this festive day read on.....

In English, the common pronunciations /pɔ̃tʃki/ or /pɑntʃki/[1] imitate the Polish pronunciation, but some speakers pronounce the word /puntʃki/

Pączki Day In Poland, pączki are eaten especially on Fat Thursday (the last Thursday before Lent). Many Polish Americans celebrate Pączki Day on Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday). Traditionally, the reason for making pączki was to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in the house, because they were forbidden to be consumed due to Catholic fasting practices during Lent.

In the large Polish community of Chicago, and other large cities across the Midwest, Pączki Day is celebrated annually by immigrants and locals alike. In Buffalo, Toledo, Cleveland, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, South Bend, and Windsor, Pączki Day is more commonly celebrated on Fat Tuesday instead of Fat Thursday. Chicago celebrates the festival on both Fat Thursday and Fat Tuesday, due to its sizable Polish population.

In Hamtramck, Michigan, an enclave of Detroit, there is an annual Pączki Day (Shrove Tuesday) Parade which has gained a devoted following. In the Greater Cleveland area, it is wide spread through out the region, that many bakeries have people that will wait in lines for pączki on Pączki Day.[citation needed] The Pączki Day celebrations in some areas are even larger than many celebrations for St. Patrick's Day.[citation needed] In some areas Pączki Day is celebrated with pączki-eating contests. The eating contest in Evanston, Illinois, started in 2010. Hamtramck contest started in 2001. Both are held on weekends closest to Fat Tuesday.

DOUGH. Dissolve 2 cakes crushed yeast in 1 c. lukewarm milk, sift in 1 c. flour, add 1 T. sugar, mix, cover, and let stand in warm place to rise.

Beat 8 egg yolks with 2/3 c. powdered sugar and 2 T. vanilla sugar until fluffy. Sift 21/2 c. flour into bowl, add sponge, egg mixture, and 2 T. grain alcohol or 3 T. rum, and knead well until dough is smooth and glossy. Gradually add 1 stick melted lukewarm butter and continue kneading dough until it no longer clings to hands and bowl and air blisters appear.

Cover with cloth and let rise in warm place until doubled. Punch dough down and let it rise again. Transfer dough to floured board, sprinkle top with flour, and roll out about 1/2" inch thick. With glass or biscuit-cutter, cut into rounds. Arrange on floured board and proceed in either of the following ways:

SMALL PACZKI. Place a spoonful of fruit filling (rose-hip preserves, cherry preserves, or other thick jam) off center on each round. Raise edges of dough and pinch together over filling, then roll between palms snowball fashion to form balls. Let rise in warm place until doubled.

LARGE PACZKI. Place a spoonful of fruit filling as above on only 1/2 dough rounds, cover each with another round, pinch edges together, and roll between palms to form a ball. Let rise until doubled in warm, draft-free place. Heat 11/2-2 lbs. lard in deep pan so paczki can float freely during frying. It is hot enough when a small piece of dough dropped into hot fat immediately floats up.

Fry paczki under cover without crowding several minutes until nicely browned on bottom, then turn over and fry uncovered on other side another 3 minutes or so. Note: If using electric fryer, set temp. at 360-375 degrees. If frying in stove-top pan and fat begins to burn, add several slices of peeled raw potato which will both lower the temperature and absorb the burnt flavor. Paczki may also be fried in oil, but lard produces the tastiest results. If you are cutting down on animal fats, you can compromise by using a lard and oil combination.

Transfer fried paczki to absorbent paper and set aside to cool. When cool, dust generously with powdered sugar, glaze or icing.

EXQUISITE OLD WARSAW PACZKI. This is an old recipe modified for those who prefer granulated, active dry yeast to a the more traditional compressed fresh yeast.

Beat 12 egg yolks with 1. t. salt at high speed until thick and lemony. Dissolve 2 packets of dry yeast in 1/4 c. 110-degree water. Separately, cream 1/3 c. room-temp. butter with 1/2 c. granulated sugar until fluffy, and beat into yeast mixture. Scald 1 c. whipping cream and cool to lukewarm.

Gradually add 2 c. flour and the cream, plus 3 T. French brandy, beating constantly. Then add 2 more c. flour and finally the yolk mixture. Knead well until air blisters appear. Cover with cloth and let stand in warm place until doubled. Punch down and let rise again. Roll out on floured board, sprinkling top of dough with a little flour, about 3/4 inch thick.

Cut into 2 inch rounds and top half of them with spoonful fruit filling. Cover with remaining rounds, pinch edges together with seal. (Note: If dough is dry, moisten edges with water before pinching together.) Place paczki on floured board, cover with cloth, and let raise until doubled. Fry as above, drain on absorbent paper, and when cool, dust with vanilla sugar or cover with glaze, preferably containing some grated orange ring.

OLD POLISH UNFILLED PACZKI. Add a pinch of saffron to 2 T. 190-proof grain alcohol and let stand several hours. In bowl, sift 1 c. flour and scald it 1 c. boiling milk, mixing with wooden spoon until smooth and lump-free. Set aside to cook. Meanwhile, mix 1 stick room-temp. butter, 1/3 c. honey, and 1 cake yeast. Stir in 21/2 c. flour, add 1 pinch salt, knead until smooth, cover with cloth, and allow to rise in warm place. When it has doubled, work in 1 T. rum, the strained saffron-flavored alcohol, and 1 T. finely chopped candied orange rind. Knead again briefly and set aside to rise once more.

Tear off walnut-sized pieces of dough and roll between floured palms into balls. Arrange on floured board, cover with cloth, and allow to rise until doubled. Fry in hot fat, drain in absorbent paper, and, when cool, dust with powered sugar or glaze as above

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