Tomorrow is Paczki Day!
At least it is if you’re reading this on Monday, February 20th, 2023.
If you’re confused, paczki are a variety of pastries or doughnuts that have origins in Poland, possibly as early as the Middle Ages. Paczki or paczek—as they are called when you just have one—are a jam, fruit, cream, or custard stuffed doughnut made from an enriched dough containing egg, milk, butter, and alcohol. These dough-based pastries are fried in oil and then packed with sweet fillings.
The plural word paczki is pronounced: pohnch-kee
The singular word is paczek and it’s pronounced: pohnch-eck
In America, the Tuesday prior to Lent is known as Fat Tuesday and in some parts of the country, where a lot of Polish immigrants have settled, it is also Paczki Day. Fat Tuesday is traditionally the day when practicing Catholic Christians attempt to use up fat, sugar, and eggs in the house prior to beginning the season of Lent.
The pastries known as paczki happen to contain all those very tasty things and throughout a lot of recent history, they have been an excuse for Polish Catholics to indulge for a final time before the Lenten season. Chicago is one of those locales where a lot of Polish immigrants settled and because of this, paczki is BIG NEWS in offices, restaurants, and homes here for about four or five days every year. If it’s the Monday before Fat Tuesday and you forgot to place your paczki order at your local bakery, you’re gówno out of luck (thank google translate for that one).
My paczki recipe
In case you’re a DIY type of person, here’s my paczki recipe that I typically make a couple of times a year for the past few years. If you are reading this on Monday, you still have plenty of time to make this recipe, stick the dough in the fridge for an overnight rise and still fry them before work (or after) on Tuesday. You can avoid the line!
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
But this is a sandwich blog and we’re making sandwiches. But first, let us reminisce about our good friend, Polish Luther.
Polish Luther recap
A year ago, I shared the invention of a friend, Jenny Pfäfflin. JP has long been credited with inventing The Polish Luther back in 2014; I wrote about her sandwiching genius last year and made a few examples of Polish Luthers for this blog.
If you’ve been living under a rock, a Polish Luther is a cheeseburger inside of a filled and sliced paczki.
This year I decided to steer the concept on an alternate tack and fry buttermilk fried chicken thighs for 2023’s paczki sandwich. I mean if we’ve got hot oil set up from frying paczki, why not fry some chicken as well? Cheeseburgers are totally 2022!
Let us do what we always do every week and apply our focus to sandwiching!
Fried chicken thighs
For the last year or so, my recipe for buttermilk fried chicken thighs has been the most searched-for recipe on this site according to my Google analytics. I’m not exactly sure what has driven these searches, but I figured since that was the case I should remake it, make sure all the ingredients and techniques still stand up and record the process for posterity while I was at it.
So, I did it.
Turns out, that recipe is still good. I figured it would be since I’ve made it three or four times over the past year, but when you become a sandwich scientist like me, you have to keep experimenting.
Once I had some fried, crispy buttermilk chicken thighs I simply used sandwich magic and turned them into yeast doughnut sandwiches with the greatest of ease.
Yeast doughnuts aren’t exactly the same as paczki but they’re really close. They are both leavened with yeast, use an enriched dough with egg, milk, and butter, and are fried instead of baked.
As a person who grew up in North Carolina, I’ve always been a big fan of Krispy Kreme and recently rewatched this video of Claire Saffitz attempting to copy their yeast doughnuts. It reminded me how similar yeast doughnuts and paczki are. So, I made a few batches of each.
If you want to dig even deeper, you can see Claire make jelly doughnuts on her own YouTube channel, and those she claims are made with her brioche dough, which is another very heavily enriched dough. Claire is a very entertaining baking personality, and these two videos are well worth a watch if you plan to make your own doughnuts. I learned a few things from her video, and I’ll share them now in case you didn’t watch (I’m pretty sure you didn’t watch).
Keys we should remember from Claire’s shared knowledge:
- An enriched dough needs more time in the mixer/kneading process to form gluten—fifteen minutes of kneading is the minimum amount of time needed.
- Place dough in the fridge overnight—this makes the dough SO MUCH easier to handle and cut out when shaping the doughnuts.
- Try to use as small an amount of flour for dusting and shaping as possible—the smaller the amount of flour used will keep the finished doughnuts lighter.
- Plan out your doughnut cutting pattern before starting to cut so you can be as efficient as possible—rerolling the dough to make more doughnuts is definitely possible but they get less and less attractive the more you roll the dough.
- Make small pieces of lightly oiled/greased parchment for each doughnut to rise on and for ease of moving to the hot oil—this one is self-explanatory but very helpful to the process.
Note: your doughnuts right after cutting will likely be UGLY and you may be somewhat dejected—look at the photos below. At least this is how I typically feel at this point. But the frying process will cause the dough to expand which will push out and expand some of the weaker points of your doughnuts. Everything is going to be alright. You can do it.
Light and airy yeast doughnuts
Want to experience the "hot and fresh" neon sign light and airy doughnuts in your own kitchen? These yeast risen and fried doughnuts will rise to meet those expectations.Get Recipe
Fried chicken and doughnut sandwich
I’m not the first person to pair fried chicken with doughnuts to create a sandwich. KFC did some tests with a fried chicken and doughnut sandwich back in 2019 and then went national with the sandwich right before the start of the pandemic in 2020.
Does this mean KFC’s doughnut and fried chicken sandwich caused a global pandemic? Probably not, but I won’t rule it out.
I wouldn’t call my doughnut recipe a copycat of Krispy Kreme, but it might be as close as I can come without doughnut scientists and a factory at my disposal. The whole point is to make light, airy, and sweet doughnuts and my recipe accomplishes that. Here’s the whole process I used to make doughnuts and buttermilk fried chicken to sandwich between them.
Here’s my recipe for making and frying doughnuts and chicken thighs for a sandwich if you’re not a stick-in-the-mud and you’re ready for an exciting sandwich experience. Good luck!
Fried chicken and doughnut sandwich
There's no time like the present to be making a crispy fried chicken and light and airy doughnut sandwich from scratch.Get Recipe
Fried chicken and doughnut sandwich strategies and tactics
Here are a couple of tips that I learned this week that possibly won’t be helpful to anyone else, but I encourage you to read them to justify the time spent writing this. 😎
Flip the doughnut inside out
This tip is mainly for making the eating process less messy. You can slice a doughnut and then use the inside as the outside of your bread. The messiness will also decrease if you toast the inside of the doughnut as well. This is typically extra helpful if the doughnut has been glazed with a layer of sticky sugar glaze.
First, you slice the doughnut. If it’s soft, this might be a challenge all on its own, but you need a flat surface to work with here. Then add some butter to a warm skillet and sear the cut side of your doughnut in it. The goal here is to get a nice toast inside the doughnut if possible.
Next, you dip each non-cut side of the doughnut in your glaze and use the two doughnut halves as the bread for your sandwich, the glazed side facing in and the toasted side facing out.
It’s not easy to slice a doughnut when it is fresh. You must be very careful and slice on the horizontal plane while the doughnut is laying down, but with a little patience, it’s possible. I know you can do it.
When to powder or glaze?
Traditionally a Krispy Kreme-style yeast doughnut will be glazed with sugar. Most paczki that I’ve had will have some sort of icing on top or they will be dusted with powdered sugar.
After making a lot of batches of doughnuts, I have found that it’s much better if you top your doughnuts with powdered sugar right as you’re about to eat them. Powdered sugar will only last a few hours before it dissolves into the doughnut and becomes all but invisible, so it’s pointless to add that if you’re not right about to eat.
Secondary tip: don’t ever never ever inhale when you’re eating a powdered doughnut. Trust me.
Glazing a doughnut is applying a thin layer of sugar and liquid that solidifies on the doughnut. I think it’s ok to glaze doughnuts a day or so before consuming them, but for me, it’s also easy to simply keep the glaze in a bowl in the refrigerator and glaze them as you’re about to eat them. The glaze will last a few days and all it takes is a good stir to bring cold, refrigerated glaze into a state where it can be used to apply to a room-temperature doughnut.
So, my takeaway from a week of making doughnut sandwiches is that it’s best to glaze and or powder with sugar each doughnut at the point of consumption if you are able.
Buttermilk fried chicken thigh paczki sandwich
Here’s where the paczki fried chicken sandwich process starts. First, we need some paczki.
I added a short video of making my paczki recipe on Instagram.
One cool side effect of frying doughnuts prior to also frying chicken pieces is that the doughnuts produce almost no detritus in the oil so you can easily reuse the same oil for frying the chicken. The same can’t be said in reverse. When you fry chicken, any loose flour drops to the bottom of the frying pan which gets the oil pretty dirty.
So, there’s literally no reason why you shouldn’t be frying doughnuts and then frying chicken. No reason at all.
Buttermilk fried chicken and paczki sandwich
How can you celebrate entering the Lenten season any better than a fried chicken and paczki sandwich?
Ingredients:Paczki dough and frying
- 360 grams all-purpose flour (3 cups)
- 50 grams granulated sugar (1/4 cup)
- 4 grams salt (1/2 teaspoon)
- 9 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)
- 1 to 2 quarts peanut or vegetable oil for frying (up to 1.5 inches deep in your pot/pan)
- jam or custard (for filling)
- confectioners' sugar (for topping, optional)
- 1.5 cups buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon paprika
- 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breast meat cut into sandwich size pieces)
- 2 to 4 tablespoons hot sauce (optional for extra spice)
- 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon paprika
- peanut or vegetable oil for frying (from above)
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 to 15 minutes on medium speed using the dough hook.
Move the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and leave 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.
Buttermilk marinade: add salt, pepper cayenne pepper, and paprika to buttermilk (add hot sauce if you want extra spice). and whisk to combine. Put chicken in a zip-top bag or bowl with a lid. Pour buttermilk marinade over the chicken and store in the fridge overnight or at least 2 hours while the paczki dough rests.
After the dough has risen, gently deflate it and move 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 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 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.
Using a piping bag or zip-top bag that has one corner cut off, insert and fill paczki with jam or custard. If you do not have a piping bag, you can simply slice each paczek and spread your filling of choice prior to eating. When you are piping filling, I find it easier to poke a hole initially with a knife and use that knife to slash back and forth to make a big hole inside your paczek.
Seasoned flour and frying: make seasoned flour by combining flour with all of the spices, salt, and pepper in a bowl or pan that is large enough for a piece of chicken to lay flat in the flour.
Remove one piece of chicken at a time from the marinade and dredge in the seasoned flour mixture until thoroughly coated on all sides. Place the fully coated chicken onto a piece of parchment or a sheet pan rack to rest.
Heat 2 inches of peanut oil in a skillet to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Fry each piece of chicken for 6 to 7 minutes or until it reaches 165 degrees internal temperature. You'll probably want to fry for 3 minutes on the first side and then flip it to make sure you're getting the level of browning that you want. Continue cooking on the other side.
After frying, place the finished chicken on a cooling rack over paper towels to drain some of the oil away.
Slice a paczek carefully and add one fried chicken thigh between the slices. It's easier if you slice below or above the level of the hole where the filling was piped in. If you already sliced your paczek just open it and add the chicken. Serve and enjoy.
If you are not serving immediately, I suggest that you do not coat all of your paczek with powdered sugar because it will eventually dissolve into the top of the doughnuts. You can add powdered sugar later by simply adding a drop or two of oil to the top of a doughnut and spreading the oil around with a brush or even your clean finger. Then the confectioner's sugar will have something to stick to. You can do this just prior to serving for a prettier paczek.
If you do not want to fry all of your paczek at one time, you can freeze them just prior to the frying step. Add them to a sheet pan and freeze for one hour until they are firm and then you can remove them from the sheet pan and freeze for up to three months in a freezer ready zip-top bag. Then when you want to fry them, you need to leave them on the counter for 1 hour prior to frying to thaw. After that one hour you can follow the rest of the frying instructions.
Check back next week for a healthier sandwich?
No promises though. Probably not. But maybe.