This is my quick translation of the traditional Polish pączki recipe from Kuchnia Poska just in time for Fat Tuesday. I advise you to read the whole recipe before you begin and to think over it carefully. This is an old style of recipe which elides a great deal and assumes you know what you are doing. You can see it by the way the quantities are given.
10 dekagrams* baker’s yeast
1 kilogram wheat flour
1/2 liter milk
6 egg yolks
10-15 dekagrams sugar
vanilla to taste
juice of one lemon
zest of one lemon
salt to taste
1 shot of clear spirits (eg vodka, Everclear)
5-6 tablespoons oil or 10 dekagrams butter
40 dekagrams marmalade for filling
1 kilogram oil or lard for frying*
10 dekagrams powdered sugar with vanilla*
Make a solution of crushed baker’s yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar, 20 dekagrams flour, and milk. Let stand in a warm place to rise.
Beat the yolks, egg, and sugar, then sift in the remaining flour. Add the risen solution, vanilla, lemon juice, zest, milk, pinch of salt, and spirits.
Knead the dough until it is smooth, lustrous, doesn’t stick to your hands, and small bubbles form on its surface. Add the oil or soft butter bit by bit and knead the dough for a short while more. The dough should not be too dense. Scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl, smooth out the dough, and leave it in a warm place to rise for 10 to 15 minutes. When the dough rises, begin frying it immediately.
Method I. Using a tablespoon scoop small portions of the dough from the mixing bowl (ideally weighing 4 dekagrams each). With fingers moistened with melted fat shape in your palm small rounds, and place in the center 1/2 a teaspoon marmalade or filling of your choice. Seal them carefully, forming a sphere. Place them sealed side down on a flour dusted board and cover them with a cloth.
Heat the cooking oil. Check that the oil is hot enough. Clean the flour off of the fully risen pączki using a brush. Place them into the hot oil with their top side down. Cover with a lid and fry. Pączki should freely float. When they turn golden on the bottom, turn them over with a fork, and finish frying uncovered. Place fried pączki onto paper and to drain the fat. While they are hot place the pączki on a platter side by side and sprinkle them with powdered sugar. Once they are completely cooled, pączki can be stacked.
Method II. After kneading the dough, cover, and leave in a warm place to rise. When the volume of the dough doubles, place sections onto a board covered in flour, and gently roll out into a thickness of 1.5 to 2 cm. Divide the rolled out dough into 2 sections. Into one section trace circles using a form with a 4cm diameter. In the centers of the circles put a bit of marmalade or other filling. Cut the other section into circles using the same form, and put them on top of the circles with marmalade. Pinch carefully around the edges to seal, then use the form to cut out the circles. Place the pączki on a floured board to rise. Once they have risen, fry them as in Method I.
My notes: One dekagram, sometimes spelled decagram, is 10 grams. If you don’t have baker’s yeast, active dry yeast should work fine as long as you calculate the proportions accurately.
You don’t necessarily need this much cooking fat, as you can fry them in smaller batches. They also don’t need to be entirely covered in fat. It works just fine as long as half each pączek is submerged in hot oil.
I’m not sure why the cookbook insists on vanilla powdered sugar. My family always used plain powdered sugar.
There is a third and considerably easier method for filling that bakeries use. Fry the pączki without any filling. Then, using a pastry bag and a sharp tip, squeeze the filling into each pączek.