Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Pączki Tuesday – an exciting alternative to Shrovetide pancakes

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Since I went to see the highly energetic 'percussive dance' troupe Stomp the other evening, I have been making quite a racket. I have broken one wooden spoon (a tap-a-tap, a tappity tap) and the yard brush has seen better days. I don’t think it was ever constructed to be a percussion instrument (swish, swish, bang, swish). When I found myself eyeing the dustbin with new interest - such potential for noise ‘percussive dance’! - it was time to call a halt.
It's Stomp's fault...
I am left with a craving for doughnuts - also the fault of Stomp. They do this comical routine using the inner tubes of tractor tyres as outsized tutus. Think ‘streetwise doughnuts’ meet bizarre ‘corps de ballet’.
Looking for an excuse to satisfy my doughnut craving, I discovered that Pączki [POHNCH-kee] are traditionally served in the lead up to Lent, on Fat Thursday and more recently, on Shrove Tuesday. These Polish jam doughnuts make an exciting alternative to Shrovetide pancakes, and if I happen to stamp out the doughnut shapes in a Stomp-like fashion, I’m sure it will only make them taste even better.
For 2 dozen doughnuts you will need...
250mls fresh milk
1 packet dried yeast

4 eggs
75g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
700g strong white flour
100g butter, softened

Cooking oil for deep frying – I use sunflower oil

6 tablespoons damson (or your own favourite) jam for filling, sieved
Caster sugar or icing sugar for coating

As this is quite a sticky dough, it is best to use an electric mixer.
1          Warm the milk to between 27°C - 35°C (this is when a finger dipped in the milk will feel neither hot nor cold – but best to use a thermometer) and add the yeast.  Leave in a warm place for about 10 minutes or until the surface of the milk is slightly foamy.
2          Meanwhile, place the eggs, caster sugar, vanilla essence, salt and lemon zest in a large bowl and whisk until pale yellow and slightly thickened. Swap the whisk for a dough hook before adding the flour to the egg mixture, a little at a time, mixing well between additions.
3          Add the yeast mixture now, mixing until combined. Finally, add the softened butter in walnut–sized lumps, ensuring each addition is combined before adding the next. Continue kneading with the dough hook for a further 5 minutes. Cover with a lightly oiled sheet of cling film and leave in a warm, draught-free place to rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size. (You could make the dough in advance and leave it in the fridge to rise overnight, before continuing with the recipe).
Somewhat deflated...
4          Punch the risen dough to knock it back. It will deflate alarmingly. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured or lightly oiled work surface and knead lightly until you have a smooth ball of dough. Roll out to a thickness of about 1.5cm and stamp out rounds using a 6cm round scone cutter. Cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm, draught-free spot for a further 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Hubble, bubble, (no) toil and (no) trouble...

5          Heat the cooking oil to 180˚C (360˚F). Lower the doughnuts into the hot oil, a few at a time, without overcrowding. Fry for approximately 1 minute then turn over to continue frying on the other side for a further minute. When evenly golden brown, remove and drain on a thick wad of kitchen paper.

Inject jam with a Bismarck nozzle

6          Fill with jam while still warm: with the tip of a knife, make a small hole in the waist of each doughnut and using a piping bag fitted with a Bismarck nozzle, inject jam into the centre of each doughnut. Roll in caster sugar or dredge with icing sugar. Apply to face. Grin happily.

Apply to face... grin happily...
Note: If it occurs to you to cut the fat content by baking these instead of deep frying, please don’t! There is no comparison. My advice is: go the whole hog, but not too often!
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