Somewhere in my travels, I recently read that donuts were the new cupcake. Need I go on? While I love a good cupcake, they've always seemed a little precious - so much ado about a little cake that generally has way too much sweet and fussy frosting for my liking. But oh, the simple donut; where to begin? Just thinking about donuts conjures up memories of Mike's Donuts -- a real-deal, old-school coffee shop located on Mission Hill in Boston, where my husband's family has lived for decades, and where our sweet children were born. Family owned and operated, Mike's is a meeting place for neighborhood folks and passers by on their way to work or school. Steaming hot coffee and racks of sugared, filled, plain, frosted or glazed donuts fill the shop with the heavenly scent that only a coffee-donut-sugar combo can create. Close your eyes for a minute and let your olfactory memory take you there - got it?
So while searching for a recipe to represent Poland, I came across numerous recipes for Pączki - Polish donuts, many with rose jam filling. To make the rose jam, I clipped a variety of roses I have in my back yard. A little water, a little lemon juice, lots of sugar, some pectin and presto: sticky, sweetly scented and pink rose jam. I used all the pectin recommended in the recipe, but the next time I make it, I'll use a little less so it's not quite so thick. Any roses will do, but be sure to use roses that haven't been sprayed with chemicals. As for the donuts, it was very hot and humid today, so the dough did not rise as much as it would have on a cooler, dryer day. No matter, although they're not especially healthy, they were beautiful, delicious and, let's face it, sometimes you just have to summon a heaping dose of denial and let yourself indulge in a good donut.
Culinary traditions in Poland have evolved over the years to due to many changing circumstances. However, food in this country generally shares similarities with other central and eastern European countries. Much Polish food takes time to prepare and involves numerous steps. Beef, chicken, pork and some fish are primary sources of protein, while a variety of winter and root vegetables are used in soups, stews, and fillings for dumplings. Cream and eggs are used in abundance, as are a wide range of sweets and cakes, some topped with lovely poppy seeds. Pączki - polish donuts with or without filling, are traditional eaten on Fat, or Shrove Thursday, the last Thursday before Lent begins which welcomes the winding down of Carnival season (as Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras).
Rose Jam (Adapted from cooks.com)
1 cup rose petals (free of any chemicals or pesticides)
3/4 cup water
Juice of 1 lemon
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 pkg. powdered pectin and 3/4 cup water
Pick clean, chemical-free roses.The color roses you chose will determine the color of the jam.
Pull the petals from the roses and clip off the white ends.
Pack a one cup measuring cup with rose petals.
Put petals in a blender, add water and lemon juice.
Blend until smooth, then gradually add sugar. Run blender until sugar is disolved.
In a pan stir pectin into water. Bring to a boil and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Pour into rose mixture, 1/8 cup at a time with the blender running on low, until you achieve the desired consistency.
Pour into clean glass jars, cover and refrigerate. Will keep for one month.
Pączki - Polish Donuts (adapted from a recipe on about.com)
1 1/2 cups warm milk (no warmer than 110 degrees)
2 packages active dry yeast (remember to proof yeast before you begin)
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick, sweet unsalted butter at room temperature
1 egg, at room temperature
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
4 1/2 - 5 cups all purpose flour
1 gallon oil for deep frying
Granulated sugar for sprinkling, optional
Confectioner's sugar for dusting, optional
Fruit jam for filling, optional
1. Add yeast to warm milk, stir to dissolve and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment cream together sugar and butter and beat until fluffy. Beat in eggs, vanilla and salt until well incorporated.
2. Still using the paddle attachment, add 4-1/2 cups flour, alternating with yeast-milk mixture and beat for 5 or more minutes until smooth. If the dough will be slack and have a sheen to it, but if it looks too sticky, add the remaining 1/2 cup flour, but no more.
3. Place dough in a greased blow, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk (1 to 2-1/2 hours). Punch down and let rise again.
4. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Pat or roll to 1/2-inch thickness. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut as many rounds as you can, gathering scraps and re-rolling to cut and use all the dough.
5. Heat oil to 350 degrees in an electric or heavy skillet. Place donuts top-side down in the oil a few at a time and fry 2-3 minutes and fry until golden brown. Flip them over and fry another 1-2 minutes until golden brown. Be careful not to let the oil get too hot as it will burn the outside of the donut before the center is fully cooked.
6. Drain on paper towels and roll in granulated sugar will still warm.
7. To fill donuts, poke a hole in the side of the donut (I used a chopstick), fit a pastry back with a medium sized tip, and pipe filling into the center of the donut.
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