By Kathryn Rosypal, Editor, PMA Newsletter
Carnival comes from the Latin words carne vale, meaning „farewell to the flesh.” Like many Catholic customs, it has its roots in pre-Christian traditions based on the seasons. As early as 150 A.D., the Romans observed a fast of 40 days, which was preceded by a brief season of feasting, dressing in costumes and merrymaking.
Most European and Latin American countries – including Poland – have celebrated a Carnival season for centuries. The Carnival season starts on Feast of the Epiphany, – January 6th – the 12th day after Christmas – also known as Twelfth Night or the Feast of the Three Kings. It is a time for visiting friends, dressing up, having parties, playing music, dancing and, of course, eating anything you like.
People ate well during the Carnival season because it was followed by the 40-day Lenten Season, which precedes Easter. Catholic church customs called upon the faithful to refrain from eating not only sweets during Lent, but to also refrain from eating dairy products, eggs, sugar, meat and animal fat. Lent truly was 40 days of sacrifice and a time of repentance. This is also why these particular foods are always included in the food basket that Polish families took to church on Holy Saturday to be blessed, before serving them on Easter Sunday.
Mardi Gras literally means „Fat Tuesday” in French. The name comes from the tradition of slaughtering and feasting upon a fattened calf on the last day of Carnival season. The day is also known as Shrove Tuesday (from „to shrive,” or hear confessions), Pancake Tuesday in England, fetter Dienstag in Germany and Paczki (Doughnut) Day in Poland. The custom of making doughnuts or pancakes on this day comes from the need to use up fat, eggs and dairy products before the fasting and abstinence of Lent begins and the desire to have one final „sweet treat” before Lent.
Paczki Day is celebrated in Poland on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, and in Polish American communities it is celebrated on „Fat Tuesday” – the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Polish paczki (filled doughnuts or Bismarks) were traditionally eaten on this day in Poland, as well as chrustiki or faworki (angel wings or bowties). When Poles immigrated to America, the custom continued, but there were so many other European ethnic groups who celebrate „Doughnut Day” on Tuesday, instead of Thursday, that the day changed over time. Enjoy your doughnuts!
[Courtesy of The Polish Museum of America,
984 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL}
Filled doughnuts (paczki)
4 c. flour
2 oz. yeast
1 c. milk
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c butter
6 egg yolks
a pinch of salt
1 jar plum jam
1 t. rum
2 t. finely chopped candied orange peel
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 3/4 lb lard
Mix the yeast with 1 T. sugar and a few T. lukewarm milk. Cover with a towel and leave in a warm place. Sift the flour, add a pinch of salt. Mix egg yolks with sugar until almost white, add to flour and yeast, pour in the rest of the milk and the rum, and mix using a mixer until all ingredients are well combined and the dough is smooth. When almost ready, slowly add melted butter or cooking oil and candied orange peel. When the dough has absorbed all the butter or margarine and comes off of the sides of the mixer, cover with a towel and leave in a warm place to rise for about an hour. When the dough has doubled in volume, roll it out into a 1/ 2-inch sheet of dough and cut out circles using a glass. Place a little jam on each circle, cover with another circle, pinch the edges together well and arrange the doughnuts evenly on a floured breadboard.
When they rise a little they may be turned over. Melt the lard in a low wide pot and check if ready, dropping in a piece of dough. If it rises immediately to the surface and is nicely browned, you can drop in the doughnuts, a few at a time so they do not stick together, bottom side up, and slowly fry covered on a medium flame. Turn over browned doughnuts and fry uncovered a little while. Take out ready doughnuts with a sharp stick or a slotted spoon and place on a few paper towels to get rid of excess grease, then cover with lemon glaze. Glaze: Add 1/2 c. water to sugar and simmer until threads can be drawn from the spoon. Take off the flame, let cool and mix with a wooden spoon until the mixture is white, then add lemon juice, and some warm water if needed, to obtain the consistency of thick sour cream. Doughnuts may be sprinkled with powdered sugar instead of glaze.
3 packages active dry yeast
1.5 ounces rum
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1 cup melted butter
6 cups flour
prune filling or cherry jam
(jams w/o added sugar)
1 cup milk, scalded & cooled
oil for deep frying
2 teaspoons salt
powdered sugar for sprinkling
20 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk for 5 minutes. Sift the flour into the scalded milk gradually. Add the yeast mixture, stirring until smooth. Let rise for 1/2 hour. Beat the salt into the egg yolks; add to flour mixture, mix well. Add the sugar and rum. Mix well. Knead until the dough no longer sticks to the sides. Gradually knead in the butter.
Place in a greased bowl, turn to coat and let rise until doubled. Punch down and let rise again. Cut the dough in half, set one half aside and roll out the second half about 1/4 inch thick. Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter cut as many rounds as possible. Place a dab of jam or filling on one round, cover jam with another round and seal edges. Place the filled paczki on greased sheets, allowing room between each for rising. Repeat the process until all the dough is used. Let the paczki rise for about 1 hour or until doubled. Pour the oil into deep fryer or deep pan (about 5 inches). Heat the oil until it is about 360 to 370 degrees. Deep fry the paczki in oil for about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown on both sides. Dust with powdered sugar.