Back when I lived in Old Irving Park I used to pick up orders at a small Polish bakery on my way to work. Delightful Pastries was in Jefferson Park so it was a straight shot for me on my way to Niles. Delightful Pastries makes some seriously good treats! It’s run by a mother daughter team but really the whole family seems to be involved. Dobra & Stasia focus on using local, natural ingredients in all of their baked goods and the quality of the finished product definitely reflects this.
I would come in to pick up orders and there was always donuts, croissants or danishes waiting for me with the order. Often times the sunflower rye bread would be just finished baking and need to cool before being sliced so they would sit me down with some milk and a pastry while I waited. I took that time to peruse all of their different offerings and people watch all of the ladies coming into the bakery to order their morning treats. They would speak Polish and it would remind me of my childhood as my best friend growing up was Polish. I was always fascinated when I would hear her mother speaking Polish to relatives over the phone. We never spoke different languages to any of our relatives (they’re Irish Catholics through and through) so I found the Polish language wonderfully exotic and romantic. I no longer pick up from Delightful Pastries. We get deliveries from Dobra’s father once a week now but I occasionally find myself missing this simple morning ritual.
It’s no surprise that when it comes to paczki I adamantly believe Delight Pastries has the best in Chicago, which is saying a lot as Chicago is believed to have the largest Polish population outside of Warsaw. Paczki are polish donuts typically filled with some sort of jam or jelly. Paczki day is celebrated on both Fat Thursday and Fat Tuesday but I typically celebrate it on Fat Tuesday which is just a few days away! I decided to make my own Paczki this year but I’m sure I’ll still swing by my favorite polish bakery to pick up a few for the warehouse on Tuesday.
Makes 16 to 18 paczki
3 tsp Active Dry Yeast
1 1/2 cups Milk
4 cups Bread Flour
3 Egg Yolks
3 TBS Granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Lemon Extract
1/2 tsp Orange Extract
1/2 stick Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled
Lard, peanut oil or canola oil for frying
Jams, Nutella or Custard for Fillings
Powdered Sugar, Granulated Sugar or Chocolate Glaze for Topping
Heat milk to 110 degrees in a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over top and mix well. Let sit for 10 minutes to fully dissolve.
Stir the flour into the milk until just combined and set aside. In a separate bowl beat the egg and yolks until light and frothy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, salt and extracts.
Add the flour mixture to the bowl of a stand up mixer along with the egg mixture. Mix on medium low with a dough hook until mostly combined, about 1 minute. Add in the melted butter and continue to mix on medium low until the dough comes together, 2 to 3 minutes more. The dough will look sticky and elastic.
Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place the dough in it. Roll the dough around in the bowl to coat it in the cooking spray. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place for one hour. The dough should double in size in this time.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently roll it out until it is 1/2 inch thick. Cut out 2 to 3 inch circles using a biscuit cutter or the top of a regular mouth ball jar (if like me you just can’t bring yourself to buy one more kitchen gadget). I used the ball jar and got 16 circles so with a 3 inch biscuit cutter you may get slightly less paczki. You don’t want to roll out the left over pieces of dough but you can take some of the leftover pieces and shape them into small balls about 2 inches across. These will be like large donut holes. I was able to get about 10 donut holes from the leftover scraps.
Transfer the dough rounds (and holes) to slightly floured, parchment lined baking sheets and cover with dish towels. Set aside to proof for about 30 minutes. When they spring back slowly after being poked they’re good to go!
While the donuts are proofing heat lard (or other oil) in a large pot about 2 to 3 inches deep. Use a candy thermometer to make sure the oil reach 360 degrees. Working in batches fry the donuts until golden brown (about 30 seconds to one minute) and then flip them over to cook another 30 seconds to one minute. When the donuts are done cooking place them on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Continue to cook the rest of the donuts and holes.
To fill the donuts use a knife to pierce the side of the donut and then stick your finger in to make some room for the filling. Use a pastry bag with a filling tip attached and pipe the filling into the paczki. I used raspberry jam, nutella and vanilla pudding as my three fillings. Then you can roll the paczki in granulated sugar, dust them with powdered sugar or dunk them in your favorite glaze!
Paczki are best eaten that day but I found that keeping them in a sealed container kept them nice and soft for another day.