12 Feb

So, let’s talk about my grandma. To borrow a phrase from the Queen Bee herself, she is just “the nuts.” An avid animal lover and gardener by day, she takes the Northeastern Pennsylvania pony races by storm at night.  She has, on occasion, been known to refer to something lovely, impressive, or silly as “tchotchy-la-la.” To this day, the Kef Family compliments one another as such (“Well, aren’t you just a tchotchy-la-la?”). No one said we were normal.

In addition to the unending affection of her grandchildren, daughers, and beloved Golden Doodle, she has captured the heart of one of the most amazing humans alive, BFKef.  These two love each other in a way that makes one thing abundantly clear: I’ve become superfluous.

A few Mardi Gras seasons ago, at the first meeting of this dangerous duo, GrandmaKef introduced BFKef and I to an amazing thing called the paczki (pronounced ponchki).  Apparently, these are a grand tradition for Mardi Gras among the Polish diaspora, so much so that Fat Tuesday is known as “Paczki Day” in large parts of the Midwest.  When GrandmaKef introduced BFKef to these donut-like delicacies, you can bet BFKef would have thrown his beads all over Northeastern Pennsylvania for another dozen… or two.

Every so often, I make something and think to myself, “Holy Moly, Chef Kef, I can’t believe you made this.” This is absolutely one of those times. Like most bread-based recipes, this one is time-intensive but absolutely not skill-intensive (As proof: I blew through Season 2 of Downton Abbey while I cooked these, which I will ABSOLUTELY be writing about at another time). Turns out fast food has been on to something this whole time and deep-frying is actually quite an easy process. I used a recipe from Serious Eats and followed it to a ‘T’ without problem.

My first thought when I saw the finished result? Tchotchy-la-la. 

Paczki Fit For a Polish Prince*


  • 2 c whole milk
  • 4 1/2 tsp instant yeast (2 Fleishmann’s envelopes)
  • 1/2 c PLUS 1 TBS sugar
  • 5 c all-purpose flour
  • 4 egg yolks PLUS one whole egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • A whole lot of canola oil, for frying (you will need at least enough to fill a wide, deep pot up to 2 inches)
  • 1 1/2 c berry jelly–try and find one that is smooth and without too many chunks to make filling easier
  • 1 c powdered sugar, for dusting

1. In a small saucepan heat milk to between 110 an 115°F. Pour warmed milk into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Dissolve yeast in milk. Add one Tablespoon sugar and two cups of flour. Mix until consistency of pancake batter then cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to allow yeast to activate. Let rest for 30 minutes or until starter is very bubbly. 

2. In a medium bowl combine egg and yolks. Whisk until light and frothy, about 4 minutes. Whisk in 1/2 cup sugar, salt and vanilla.

3. Slowly stir cooled melted butter into yeast starter until combined. Then slowly incorporate egg mixture until just combined. Fit mixer with dough hook. Stir in flour, working 1/2 a cup in at a time until a soft dough comes together. Note: this dough is very sticky.

4. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and transfer dough to bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until double in size. About an hour.

5. Turn out dough on a very generously floured surface. Dust surface of dough with flour then punch down dough to about half an inch high. Using anything hard and round (I used an empty tomato sauce jar, a wine glass would also work), cut out doughnuts. Carefully transfer doughnut rounds to parchment lined baking sheets. Cover sheets with a clean dish towel and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

6. Pour canola oil into a large dutch oven to a depth of 2 inches. Heat oil to 360°F. Once oil reaches the proper temperature use a heat resistant spatula or shallow strainer to carefully drop doughnuts in, one at a time, cooking a maximum of 3 at once. Cook doughnuts until a warm, deep brown on one side, then using heat resistance tongs turn the doughnut and cook the other side until it reaches the same degree of doneness. Remove from oil letting any excess oil drain off then transfer to a wire rack for cooling. Test your first doughnut to make sure that the insides are completely cooked, if not adjust your cooking time accordingly. Let doughnut cool.

7. Prepare a wide and shallow bowl with powdered sugar. Fill your pastry bag with your favorite preserves and fit the bag with a filling tip. Pipe filling into pączki then dip each side in powdered sugar until covered. (Chef Kefi, RN Editor’s Note: the filling was the messiest part for me–I ended up filling from the top to make this a big easier, but separate one or two paczkis for practice specimen!)

*A story for another time.

3 Responses to “Paczki-lala”


  1. Greek Easter 2014: Part II | Cooking Up Kefi - April 23, 2014

    […] case that testimonial isn’t good enough for you, my phenomenal Grandma Rita put it […]

  2. How to Have an Awesome Month in Ten Easy Steps | Cooking Up Kefi - January 5, 2015

    […] 6. Rally with some really righteous people, including this Grandma (who is only a shade less stylish than your own.) […]

  3. Homemade Donuts (or: Paczki–the Perfect Snow Day Project) | Cooking Up Kefi - February 17, 2015

    […] which means one thing to MrKef, GrandmaKef, and large swaths of the Midwest: PACZKIS! I made this recipe a few years ago and am still amazed at how easy and fun it was to make donuts–the perfect snow day […]

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