Full Disclosure: I typically don’t cook like this…way too long…way too many calories…and way too much frying! For the heck of it, read the rest of the journey below.
I get back from vacation and am feeling guilty that I started this blog and haven’t posted much content yet. I realize that it is Fat Tuesday and I have a recipe and memory to share…
The problem is that I never made these before and didn’t realize that they would consume my whole day. Bear with me as I share this journey of a Polish delicacy that my Bushia (Polish for grandmother) would make for us. This morning nostalgia took over as I remembered the days when we would show up at her little house in the Polish neighborhood of Cleveland and would find rows of warm Punchki (also spelled as Paczki pronounced “poon ckee”) in rows on her kitchen table.
They were always warm tickled with powdered sugar and a dollop of jam that melted inside the warm dough ball.
I was on a mission. I am determined to recreate the Punchki of days gone by. These days I’m getting a bit nostalgic over the recipes of my family as I watch my Mom diminish into the hands of dementia. I walked into my Dad’s house to pick up my Mom for her weekly adult day care and announced that I am making Punchki today! He said, “Why don’t you just pick some up at the local grocery store?” My retort was “Oh no! I’m going to make them just like Bushia did…and I’m going to bring you some tonight when I bring Mom back!”
He smiled…and I left.
First, I needed a recipe since I didn’t have Bushia’s. I did find one online which seemed very similar to that of my Grandmother’s recipe. After perusing the recipe, it was quite evident that I needed the proper equipment and since I haven’t fried anything in this house in a long time.
Now I need a frying thermometer! (I’m sure Bushia never used a frying thermometer.)
After dropping Mom off at day care, I stopped at the local grocery store for a few ingredients and a frying thermometer which looking back was a key tool in this recipe.
It was instrumental in scalding the milk and cooling it to the correct temperature so as not to kill the yeast as well as in frying the little darlings. (more on that later)
Mom dropped off.
Ingredients and tools purchased.
Time to get down and dirty.
I’ve learned over the years that it is so important to pre-measure and get the ingredients in order for a complex recipe. That way you can concentrate on the process and the delicate balance of temperature and time.
Everything measured out, I began the process of combining the yeast was one of the basics of the recipe….scalding milk was the first step. I haven’t scalded milk in years!
I so do remember the smell of scalded milk and the importance of bringing it to a froth before the bottom burned. Talk about a childhood memory!
Next was cooling the milk down and gently adding the ingredients of the butter, vanilla and eggs…
along with the most important ingredient – yeast.
The next step was to combine all the ingredients with the flour to a ‘sticky’ dough. This threw me – how do you define a sticky dough? What’s sticky for you may not be sticky for me. I decided to trudge further and figure it out along the way as I added “more or less eight cups of flour” to the recipe.
Seriously…that’s what the recipe said…”more or less of eight cups of flour” until the “dough is sticky”…
Okay. I can do this.
The recipe said I would need eight cups of flour – more or less. Seriously? More or less?
I ended up using ‘less’ and then my Polish instincts kicked in and led me to when the dough was sticky.
Basically, ‘sticky’ is when the dough gets to the point where it’s difficult to take it out without it ‘sticking’ to your hands and everything else including the bowl but manageable with a little dose of flour.
Dough is finally made…now it’s time to rest…for an hour or so (with little peeking)…
Got some laundry done…Walked the dogs…
and peeked…and read the recipe over ONE more time…
Now the fun begins as I roll the dough out and felt the delicacy of its nature between my fingers. It was light and flexible and oh so yeasty!
I cut out my perfect little Punchkis and let them sit and rise again for another 30 minutes…
While I contemplated the next step of FRYING!
OMG! I don’t know how to do this…thankfully my frying thermometer came in handy as I set it up for the kill…
I gently coaxed my little beauties into the hot oil as they took on a new life of their own…
the transformation had begun…
It is important to keep the fat temperature at 350 degrees evenly so the Punchkis don’t burn which they can easily do.
I cut one open after frying and the inside was fully cooked…I took a preview bite dipped in powdered sugar.
Yum! This is going to be good!
Three hours into the process, I was finally able to fill it with raspberry jam. I decided to fill them just like Bushia did by slitting a hole with a paring knife and spooning the jam in.
It was time for the final step – there were many options like glazing but I went for the way Bushia did them…powdered sugar!
Done! I have a table full of beautiful little Punchkis but I also have a dilemma…what do I do with all of them?
They must have at least 500 calories each!
I took out one for me and one for Gary and started packing them up.
Four for Mom and Dad. What to do with the rest?
I wish you could have seen and heard the squeals of the residents as I walked in the nursing home with trays of warm Punchki.
Bushia would have been proud.