Traditional Pre-Lenten Pączki (Pounchki, punchki)
by Lorraine Grochowska-Kiefer
Donuts are a traditional food the week before Lent or the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. For many Polish families pączki are a treat for Sundays, holidays and other special occasions.
They have long been a favorite at our house, but none have ever come up to the hundreds made by my grandmother Stella Grochowska during my childhood and early years of marriage. I remember helping her break the many dozens of eggs she used. I wanted to "get into the dough," but she never allowed me to try my hand at the kneading.
It wasn't until many years later, when she was a frail little lady that she would accept help with the donuts. Her puffy, tasty donuts were packed up in brown paper bags by my aunts and then given to friends, neighbors, and family all over our little town. Marrying one of Stella's children or even grandchildren meant you were on the babka and pączki list! I don't make them anywhere near as often or in the huge quantity that she did, but when I do the aroma of the yeast dough brings back many memories of her kitchen ... in fact I all but hear her voice telling me just how to "make them right."
The pounchki photograph below is from Hanka Sawka cookbook
The following pączki recipe is one that I have come up with by trying different ones in Polish cookbooks, until I had ones like mom-mom Grochowski. If you try them, just remember to mix in enough "extra" flour at the end to make the dough comfortable to handle. This is the hard part of writing down a yeast recipe. I watched her so much that I knew what that dough should be like. If you have never made yeast dough before, just knead and add flour until the dough becomes easy to handle, but not tough.
A plate of donuts with steaming coffee, tea, or chocolate will delight everyone. Anytime from now until hot weather is good paczki weather, so try them now.
Good luck, Happy Springtime, and Wesolego Alleluja!
Check all the articles about Polish Easter traditions in the Polish Culture website, including articles devoted to painted eggs, among them Easter Eggs - dyed, scratched & blown - Kraszanki, Skrobanki & Wydmuszki and Pisanki, An Ancient Art of Hope and Life
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