Paczki is a Polish donut that was invented as a way to use up lard and sugar before Lent. Traditionally enjoyed only on Fat Tuesday, this sugar-covered donut can be filled with a variety of delicious fillings. It is an indulgent sweet treat! While it may seem a little intimidating to make, we walk you through step-by-step how to make the best paczki donut recipe!
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What Goes Into Paczki
Aside from the filling, paczki (pronounced POHNCH-kee) is made of staple ingredients. I love that because it means you can make them without too much pre-planning!
Rather than using whole eggs, paczki calls for mostly egg yolks. This makes the dough extra rich, which is what makes a paczki a paczki.
Note: I used quick-rise yeast when I took this photo, but the recipe calls for active dry yeast. If you use quick-rise then check on your dough 15-20 minutes earlier than instructed.
How to Proof Yeast
Proofing the yeast is an important step for any recipe that uses yeast. It is the step that verifies your yeast is good, and lets you know that your dough will rise well.
Proofing is a simple process of mixing the yeast with a warm liquid. In this recipe, we proof the yeast with milk. The milk should be between 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit. This is warm enough to activate the yeast, but not so hot that it kills it. Use a thermometer to check the temperature.
Set the yeast and milk mixture aside for about 10 minutes, while you continue with the recipe. It should begin bubbling like the photo below.
Beat your 3 egg yolks and 1 egg until they are light and fluffy. Then add in the sugar, melted butter, brandy, and salt. Mix those together well.
Secrets for Great Dough
Add the flour and milk a little at a time, alternating between the flour and the milk mixture.
This is done for two reasons: First, it helps the butter to absorb the liquid. Adding milk all at once could cause the batter to separate and your paczkis would be heavy.
The second reason is that adding the flour all at once could result in a lumpy batter, with big chunks of flour. Instead, start with the flour, and alternate back and forth with the milk, mixing in between each addition and ending with flour.
How Long Should I Knead the Dough?
If you are using a stand mixer, remove the beater and replace it with a dough hook. At low speed, knead the dough until it has completely pulled away from the sides and is soft.
If it is still sticky after 3 minutes, add a little more flour.
The First Rise
Put some oil in a large bowl, then place the dough in the bowl. Turn the dough around to coat all sides of the dough with oil. Cover with a towel and place the dough in a warm spot that is free of drafts.
I love to heat my oven to 175°F and then turn it off and place the bowl inside the oven. Just make sure the oven remains off the entire time the bowl of dough is inside, otherwise you may end up cooking the dough.
Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and turn it out onto a floured countertop. Roll it out until it is ¼-inches thick.
Cut the dough out into 3-inch circles. You can use a biscuit cutter, a cookie-cutter, or even a glass that is 3 inches in diameter.
The Second Rise
Place the dough circles on parchment paper and let them rise an additional 30 minutes. You want them to double in size.
How to Fry the Dough
Following I mention some specific products that I recommend for frying and I have linked them to the Amazon listing for each product. These are products that I actually use and love. These also affiliate links. That means that at no cost to you I may make a small commission when you click through and make a purchase.
Working in batches of 3-4 pieces at a time, fry the dough for 2-3 minutes on one side, then turn the dough over and continue frying for an additional 1-2 minutes.
Using a wire slotted scoop, remove the donuts to a paper-towel-lined tray.
I recommend that you test the oil with one circle of dough before frying your first batch. Once fried, remove the donut and let it cool enough for you to handle it. Slice it open and see if it is cooked through. It took me 4 rounds before I understood how dark to cook the dough for it to be fully cooked. Use the photo below as a reference point for that optimal color. Note: If it IS cooked through, toss it in some sugar and give it a taste! You deserve it!
Roll in Sugar
- In some recipes, the donuts are rolled in granulated sugar, where other recipes instruct to roll the donuts in powdered sugar. I prefer granulated sugar. There is just something delightful about the texture of granulated sugar contrasted with the soft dough.
- Pour some sugar into a bowl. Once the donuts are cool enough to handle, drop them one at a time into the bowl and press them against the sugar. Turn the donut over and roll it around, covering with sugar on all sides.
- Set the donuts aside to cool completely.
Fill the Donuts
These donuts are ready to fill! There are many different ways that you can fill the donuts. The easiest is to use store-bought jam. Here are a few other recipes you may enjoy:
- Dulce de Leche
- Lemon Curd
- Rose Hip Jam
- Prune Butter
- My personal favorite filling for these donuts is the custard recipe that I use in my Boston Cream Pie.
To fill, place a large open tip onto a pastry bag. Fill the bag with your desired filling. Stick the tip right in the middle of the side of the donut. Squeeze the pastry bag and fill the donut.
Tips and FAQs
While paczki and donuts are very similar, there are a few distinct differences. The first is the shape. Paczki are always round with no holes in the center, where donuts most often have a hole. Paczki dough is also a little bit different. It is richer and more dense than a donut.
This recipe can absolutely be halved. When making a half recipe, use 1 egg and an additional 1 egg yolk. All of the other steps are the same.
If your yeast has not bubbled after 10 minutes then you need to start over with fresh yeast and milk. Check the expiration date on the yeast to make sure it is within date. And use a thermometer to make sure that your milk is not too hot.
Related Recipes and Links
This paczki donut recipe is a part of our Exploring the States series, where we create the most iconic food from across the states. Paczki represents the state of Michigan. Check out the history of paczki and other Michigan recipes.
Another delicious fried recipe is beignets! Like paczki, beignets are great for breakfast or as a dessert!
If you tried this recipe, please rate and review it so others can see what you thought! The review option is after the recipe card. Tag me in your photos on Instagram @stateofdinner. I would love to see your dish!
Paczki Donut Recipe
- 2 cups warm milk (110-110 degrees F, 38-43 C)
- 2 packages dry active yeast
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup butter, melted and cooled
- 1 large egg
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon brandy or rum Can substitute with 1 tsp. vanilla extract, if desired
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 7-7 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 gallon oil (peanut, canola, or other high-temperature oil)
- Sugar to coat donuts
- Filling (jam, custard, etc.)
- Add yeast to warm milk. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Using an electric mixer, beat egg and egg yolks until they are light and fluffy. Add sugar, butter, brandy, and salt and beat well.
- Add a third of the flour to the sugar mixture, and mix until the flour is almost mixed in, but some flour is still visible.Add half of the milk-yeast mixture. Once the milk is mostly mixed in, add half of the remaining flour mixture, and mix until the flour is almost mixed in.Add remaining milk-yeast mixture and stir.Add remaining flour mixture. Replace the beater with a dough hook, and knead on low for 2=3 minutes, scraping sides a couple of times. The dough should be soft and swishy, but not very sticky. If it does not pull away from the sides, or it seems too sticky, add an additional half cup of flour.If you do not have a stand mixer, turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is soft and no longer sticky.
- Place dough in an oiled bowl and turn the dough to coat with oil.Cover and let rise in a warm location for 1-2 hours, until it has doubled in size.
- Punch dough and turn onto a floured surface.Roll the dough into a ¼-inch rectangle. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut the dough into circles and place on a sheet of parchment paper.Gather dough scraps and knead together into a ball. Roll out the remaining dough into a ¼-inch rectangle and continue to cut circles. Repeat until all dough is used.Let rise for 30 minutes, until double in size.
- Heat oil 350 degrees in deep fryer or a large, high-sided pan. Use a thermometer to monitor temperature, and adjust stove setting to maintain the temperature.
- Working with 3-4 circles of dough at a time, drop dough into the oil and fry for 2-3 minutes, until browned on one side. Flip the dough over and fry an additional 1-2 minutes, until both sides are nicely browned.Immediately roll in sugar, then set aside to cool.Repeat steps with remaining dough circles.
- Once all of the donuts are cooked, coated in sugar, and cooled, put filling in a piping bag with a large open tip. Stick tip into the side of the paczki donut and squeeze filling into the center.