Mardi Gras is also Pączki Day, but these Polish doughnut-esque delicacies (say: poinch-kee) deserve more than 24 hours in their honor. Around the world, various cultures celebrate the last days before Lent with various dishes or parties designed to use up all the soon-to-be-forbidden ingredients. Traditionally the Eastern European holiday for fried dough was Fat Thursday, or the final Thursday before Ash Wednesday, but over time in the U.S. it merged with all the other pre-Lent celebrations like Pancake Day and Mardi Gras, and now everyone can eat sweets together and/or twice.
Pączki, like the other foods for Fat Tuesday, uses copious quantities of milk, butter, eggs, and, of course, oil in which it's fried. It resembles other stuffed, yeasted doughnuts—bomboloni, sufganiyot, and Berliners—but goes heavy on the richness: our recipe uses four egg yolks, for example. They tend to use a little less sugar in the dough than most doughnuts, instead using the filling as the sweetness – usually a fruit or jam piped into the center, like this easy-to-make prune butter.
Pączki also have one extra ingredient that makes them unique among their fried-and-stuffed dough peers: a hit of spirytus. The super-strong Polish liquor is 96% alcohol by volume – leading [people to use it as hand-sanitizer early in the pandemic](https://thehustle.co/04242020-liquor-spirytus-rektyfikowany/—is said to help keep the dough from soaking up too much fat in the frying process. Any strong, neutral grain alcohol works well, or you can use rum and add a little boost to the flavor. Rich, boozed, and sweet, paczki have achieved all of my life goals. So sure, there’s already the traditional and the American Pączki Day, but there’s no reason not to add more days in honor of these tasty treats.
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