Pursuit of the Paczki (attempts at baked doughnuts, part I)
Surely no one who knows me at all, Miss Obsessive Short Attention Span Theater that I am, really thought I was going to wait a year to try the recipe for baked paczki I found after being disappointed in the Fat Tuesday offerings we found? Or even that I would make it until the end of the Lenten fast?
(I’ve never been a “give up yummy things” person for Lent–to me that feels too much like it grows out of the old unhealthy food model, where “good” foods are a reward for being a good person, and where self-denial and going through life virtuously feeling deprived is a sign of moral rectitude…it may be a rationalization to justify my love for food, but eating good food well made just feels so human and real and connected to creation, and enjoying good food makes me feel joyful about creation, and I just can’t make sense of the denial part…) (Of course, I could certainly eat a little less good food well made, that’s something I have to deal with…) (Sorry, occasional soapboxing is a peril of blogging…)
Rather than “giving up” something for Lent, usually I try to make some significant change in my life that will permanently change it and me (and in many cases my family) for the better. Last Lent the commitment was, ironically, to give up processed foods, and to prepare good whole food for my family, real meals, food as close to where it grew as possible, and so forth. The irony there, of course, is that by this year’s Fat Tuesday my taste for the paczkis we’d eaten the previous year was completely destroyed, and they tasted all false and yucky this year. This year my commitment will be to try to wean our family off of paper towels–a sort of minimal and not very sexy undertaking, but it’ll be huge for us, and will be another significant step towards being conscious of the impact we have on the world and diminishing that impact. I did a post at the Green Phone Booth on that very topic yesterday.
So anyway–since I had a bunch of hours out of the office, I decided to take advantage of the “don’t have to be anywhere” time to try making baked doughnuts, specifically, a healthier and home-made version of the Polish paczki. I used the recipe I found here, substituted actual dairy for the dairy-free version here, and halved it so I wouldn’t waste too many ingredients if they turned out awful.
Verdict: They were not awful in the slightest; they were in fact quite delicious. Unfortunately, they didn’t taste even remotely like Paczki. More like a really nice sweet bread with fruit filling. (I used fillings that were already in the fridge–cherry butter, apple butter, blueberry preserves, and one with a spoonful of the “Death By Chocolate” sauce my mom gave my son last summer. ) And the best part was actually the little “doughnut holes” I made with the trimmings, rolling each in a little cinnamon-sugar before baking. Tasted like mini-cinnamon rolls, but not like doughnut holes.
So back to the drawing board. (Darn. 🙂 ) My mom suggested a recipe on the King Arthur Flour site for baked doughnuts, though those look more batter-like and as though they need a doughnut pan to make. (Like many things on the King Arthur site, they only tell you how to make it if they can talk you into spending money buying more equipment or mixes or specialty ingredients or whatever.) But I may give it a try anyway. Deep-frying just isn’t something I can get into, delicious as it is…
On the plus side: I’ve always had a terror of the whole “homemade bread” thing, and what scares me has always been the kneading and the mess factor (two facets of the same problem, actually.) I got into the whole quick artisan bread thing and found it appallingly easy, so maybe that’s what made the transition not so threatening, but making and kneading these pseudopaczkis was a breeze and much less messy than I’d expected it to be. Every time things start to stick, you just toss a little more flour on top and/or onto your hands, and just keep squishing it till it’s not sticky any more and is all nice and soft. Once it rises and you punch it down, it doesn’t stick at all. Very cool stuff, yeast dough. It’s a big time commitment because of all the rising and stuff, so it’s not something you can do and then forget about (I have made good friends with my cell phone alarm and oven timer), but nowhere near as threatening as I’d always thought it to be. So at the very least I learned something really useful!
But as far as the paczki thing goes–back to the drawing board.