Beef, wet, hot & sweet, powdered

This ^^ is the proper way to order an Italian beef paczki.

Read Time: 6 minutes

Welcome to the Third Annual Bounded by Buns Paczki Day Eve sandwich presentation. This year we’re making an Italian beef-focused sandwich on a paczki (or paczek). Read on to learn more about it.

What is Paczki Day?

If you’re reading this on the day I posted it (February 12th, 2024), tomorrow is Paczki Day. If you do not live in a community where a large number of Polish immigrants have settled, you might be more familiar with Fat Tuesday than Paczki Day, but they always occur on the same day. Fat Tuesday and Paczki Day both celebrate the day before the season of Lent.

In the past, practicing Catholics were expected to give up a lot more for the Lenten season than they do today. There were religious rules that forbid things like butter, cream, eggs, milk, and cheese during the 40 days of Lent. These rules are now lightened, but when they were stricter it forced Catholic folks to try to use up any ingredients that were in their pantry.

Pastries such as paczki are associated with Lent as a method to use up some of the fat and dairy ingredients in their kitchens and enjoy a little gluttony. Those strict rules of Catholicism around Lent led to the food-focused celebrations of Fat Tuesday and Paczki Day.

Here are my paczki day sandwiches from the last two years:

What is this sandwich?

This sandwich is an Italian beef and jus filled paczki with a giardiniera custard.

Like most of my sandwiches this one drew inspiration from different places. One of those sources of inspiration was in the giardiniera custard. I did create my own giardiniera custard recipe but I know for a fact that at least one local bakery was making paczki with giardinera custard last year.

J.P. Graziano Grocery Company partnered with a local bakery named Giardino Bakery last year to create a giardiniera custard-filled doughnut and they are selling them again tomorrow. Check out J.P. Graziano’s social media accounts for more information.

What is paczki?

If you haven’t read my other blog posts about paczki and paczek, they are traditional doughnuts or pastries of Polish origin. These days they are typically filled or stuffed with jam, fruit, or custard filling. Occasionally, at least here in Chicago, you’ll find sometimes sliced paczki that has fresh fruit inside—any fillings that can’t be piped into the inside. The paczki or doughnut itself is made from an enriched dough with egg, milk, butter, and typically some sort of alcohol, and then the dough is cut into circles and fried in oil.

The plural word paczki is pronounced: pohnch-kee

The singular word is paczek and it’s pronounced: pohnch-eck

What is an Italian beef?

I have also written about and shared my Italian beef recipe which is a sandwich native to Chicago that contains slow-roasted beef, flavorful au jus with a garnish of sweet and/or spicy peppers in a semi-crusty long roll. If you’re interested, I also shared a recipe for an Italian beef toaster pastry that packs a punch of beefy flavor that you can stick in your pocket.

Time to make the paczki

Paczki dough is a very rich dough. It’s closer to a very sticky brioche dough because it has eggs, milk, and butter to enrich the flour. Since you want these doughnuts to be very light, it’s good that the dough is sticky. The stickiness means that there’s a higher percentage of liquid or fat to flour and while this does make the dough a bit harder to work with, the extra liquid will ensure that the final dough is very light, lending to a fluffy doughnut.

Since we know that this dough will be sticky and possibly difficult to work with, we can make the dough a day in advance and refrigerate it after it has had time for an initial rise. Colder dough is much easier to work with, which means as long as we do all of our shaping and cutting of the dough circles while the dough is still chilled it will be a lot easier to handle.

Use a 3.5-inch or smaller round biscuit cutter to cut the dough into circles.
Working with cold dough makes it much easier to cut out almost perfect circles.
Shoot for around 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick. Any thicker than that and they might not cook all the way through.
Place each dough circle on parchment to make it easier to move into the hot frying oil.

Once all the dough has been shaped into appropriate circles, it needs to rest and rise a final time. The frying process will make the doughnuts rise and puff up quite a bit, but we can give it a bit more time to come to room temperature and rise a little for about half an hour or 45 minutes.

You don’t need a deep pan to fry doughnuts, but it needs to be deep enough so that the paczek do not touch the bottom.
Fry for 1 to 2 minutes per side in 350 F (175 C) oil. If your paczki are exceptionally thick you might want to go the full 2 minutes.
Remove when both sides are golden, and the internal temperature of the middle is 190 F or above (88 C).
The lighter-colored band in the middle of a paczki is indicative of how the doughnuts float in the frying oil.
Without a filling or sugar/glaze topping a paczek is just a slightly sweet doughnut with a hint of brandy aroma and flavor.
The crumb shot of a sliced and un-powdered paczek.
2 hours and 30 minutes
Paczki (Polish doughnuts)

Paczki are yeast-risen fried pastries from an enriched dough that are traditionally filled with fruit preserves or a cream filling. This recipe will set you on the right path to Fat Tuesday happiness!

Get Recipe

Italian beef process

Roast beef is easy to make, and if you add extra broth or water to the pot with the beef you are also left with a lot of beef juice or au jus that can be used for moistening the meat after slicing or even just spooning on the bread to make a more interesting sandwich.

The spice blend for my Italian beef recipe.

My Italian beef recipe requires seven spices plus salt, pepper, and garlic.

You don’t need your own meat slicer, just a sharp knife and some patience to slice as thin as you can.
When it’s time for sandwiching it’s easy to heat up some au jus and beef for each sandwich.

Slow braising the beef results in a cooked hunk of meat and a lot of very flavorful beef broth. In a typical Italian beef sandwich, the au jus is used to moisten the meat and the bread when building the sandwich. A packzi/doughnut will not stand up to a good dunk in beef jus but a bit of roast beef dripping with au jus works just fine. If you simply must have a messy beef experience, I found that a quick dip in au jus right before biting is way easier to handle than dunking the whole sandwich in the way that traditional Italian beef is dunked.

14 hours and 45 minutes
Italian beef sandwich

This is the most Chicago of all sandwiches. You want an Italian beef and you can't get to Illinois? This is the beef recipe for you.

Get Recipe

Giardiniera custard

The next sandwich component is custard and pickled vegetables. Yeah, I said custard and pickled vegetables. You can read it again; it’s not going to change anything. I made custard and put spicy giardiniera into it and it was pretty interesting.

This custard process starts with pickled veggies. Chop them up into small pieces.
Strain off some of the oil, but you can save that oil for salad dressings or for drizzling on the bread of your next sandwich.
Create a simple custard and pour the chopped veggies in at the last minute or so of cooking.
Stir everything together and you have giardiniera custard, ready for your next paczki day party.

Custard is super easy to make. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes and just a tiny bit of elbow grease whisking until the custard becomes thick. Adding giardiniera to a basic vanilla custard softens the heat and pickle-ness of the pickled vegetables but it does balance the custard flavor with the giardiniera flavors.

Beef and giardiniera custard paczki sandwich recipe

My paczki recipe makes a bunch of doughnuts and well, I guess I ended up making a bunch of versions of this sandwich. You can tell if you scroll through the photos below and check out the recipe.

Combining sweet and savory things makes for a more interesting sandwich.
A sweet and tangy giardiniera glaze for the top of the paczki would also have been a really good idea.
I added extra pickled veggies, but since there are already some in the custard the extra addition is optional.
This was one of my first attempts before I tried to make giardiniera custard. It was a good sandwich, but I think it’s more fun with custard.
Serve your beef paczki with au jus if you like them extra wet.
If you’re a fan of sweet and savory, this sandwich is a fun ride.
Italian beef paczki view printable page for this recipe

A savory beef sandwich stuffed inside a sweet, soft doughnut? This is my Third Annual Paczki Day sandwich that combines Chicago's favorite sandwich with the Polish paczki.


Paczki doughnuts
  • 360 grams all-purpose flour (3 cups)
  • 50 grams granulated sugar (1/4 cup)
  • 4 grams salt (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 8 grams instant or active dry yeast (2 teaspoons)
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 15 grams brandy or rum (1 tablespoon)
  • 227 grams milk (1 cup) - you can use milk alternatives like almond milk
  • 28 grams melted butter (2 tablespoons)
  • 3 grams vanilla extract (1/2 teaspoon)
  • peanut or vegetable oil for frying (up to 1.5 inches deep in your pot/pan)
  • confectioner's sugar (for topping/optional)
Beef and au jus
  • 2 to 3 pounds eye of round (or top round/bottom round)
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon beef base
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 to 8 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
Giardiniera custard
  • 12 cup giardiniera
  • 2 eggs
  • 14 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 12 teaspoon butter


Paczki: in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, weigh out and add all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, yeast, egg yolks, brandy (or rum), milk, melted butter, and vanilla extract.

If you are kneading by hand, stir the mixture with a spoon until it all comes together, and then knead for 15 minutes until you have a smooth dough. If you are using a stand mixer, knead for 8 minutes on medium speed using the dough hook.

Move the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and leave it in a warm spot in your kitchen for 1.5 to 2 hours to rise. After this initial rise, I like to put the dough in the fridge overnight. This isn't required, but it helps with the shaping process. 

After the dough has risen, gently deflate it and move it to a lightly greased or floured surface. Using a rolling pin or your hands, form the dough into a rough rectangle and roll out or flatten it to about 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch in height. 

Using a round cookie or biscuit cutter (or even a sharp-edged glass or cup) cut out 2.5-to-3-inch circles. Place each circle onto a sheet pan lined with parchment and cover with plastic wrap or a second inverted sheet pan and allow the dough to rise again for 30 minutes. Do not discard any extra dough after cutting it into circles. Push leftover dough together and re-roll and re-cut until you have used all the dough. 1/4 inch thick seems thin, but these puff up big in the frying process. 

In a wide pan or dutch oven, bring 1.5 to 2 inches of peanut or vegetable oil up to 350 degrees F (175 C). 

Fry 2 or 3 paczek at a time, for about a minute per side until golden brown. Flip and fry on the second side for another minute. 

Remove each paczek to a cooling rack set inside a sheet pan to cool. If you want the top covered in powdered sugar, you should sprinkle that on when the paczek is hot. 

Italian beef and au jus: season your beef liberally with salt and pepper. 

In a large Dutch oven or oven-safe pot, brown all sides of the beef over medium-high heat. Once the meat is browned, move to a to plate to rest while you get everything else ready. Do not clean out the pan. 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (162 C). 

Add beef base and 4 cups of beef broth together in the pot that you used to brown the beef. Add all the spices and herbs. 

Add beef back to the Dutch oven. Make sure the liquid is at least half of the way up the side of the beef. If it is not, add up to one cup of water. 

Roast beef for 2 to 2.5 hours adding more broth or water as needed to keep the liquid at least halfway up the beef. Add more stock or water if needed. 

Remove the pot from the oven and allow the beef to cool off on a cutting board for at least half an hour. Once the meat is cooled a little, wrap it up or add it to a large container and place it in the refrigerator to cool fully. Cool beef for at least 4 hours or overnight. 

Strain the broth into a container and store it in the refrigerator as well. 

When the beef has fully cooled in the refrigerator, remove it and place it on a cutting board. Using a very sharp serrated knife, slice the beef as thinly as possible. Be very careful and patient and shave the meat as thin as you can. 

Giardiniera custard: chop 1/2 cup of giardiniera until it's in pieces smaller than 1/4-inch square. Place the chopped giardiniera in a bowl for later.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, and cornstarch until the sugar is fully dissolved. 

Place a pot over medium heat add milk, vanilla extract, and butter, and cook until the liquid just starts to simmer. Do not allow it to start boiling. Once the milk is simmering, reduce the heat to low and slowly add the egg mixture, whisking the pot constantly.

Once both the milk and the egg mixtures are combined, cook, while still whisking for 5 to 10 minutes until the custard starts to thicken. After it has thickened, add the chopped giardiniera and whisk until the vegetables are fully combined into the custard. Move the custard to a sealed container and place in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 

Sandwich assembly: In a small pot, bring 1/4 to 1/2 cup of au jus up to a simmer. 

Add a big handful of sliced beef to the au jus/gravy in the pot. Warm beef in the pot for 3 to 5 minutes until everything is warm. 

Slice a paczki in half and spread some giardiniera custard on the bottom half. Top the custard with some warmed beef, straight from the pot. Add extra giardiniera to the top of the beef if desired. Place the top of the paczki on top of the sandwich and dust the top with powdered sugar (if desired).

Serve the sandwich with a little hot au jus for dipping. 

Without the addition of custard, the sandwich was much more savory.
Italian beef sandwiches are born to be messy. This Italian beef paczki is no exception.

Check back next week

Next week I might be making another popular Lent sandwich. Or it might be something else. Stick around to find out.

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