Mardi Gras Jam Buns: the un-pazcki.

Repeat after me: these are NOT pazcki (say “POONCH-key”).

They have no paczki aspirations whatsoever. They’re nothing like what your babka or your busia made.

Sure, they started out to be pazcki, those fat, soft, luscious jelly doughnuts served on Mardi Gras throughout the Midwest, and in Polish-American households everywhere.

But truth to tell, this Irish-Norwegian-New England baker couldn’t pull them off.

A paczki pro I’m not.

I tried, I really did. Searched all over the Web for everyone’s favorite family recipe. Found the common points, pulled ’em together into a single recipe, and started down the paczki path.

I kneaded and patiently waited, rolled and cut, heated my quart of oil and deep fried – and ended up with leaden, grease-soaked lumps of half-cooked dough.

Hmmm… I must have done something wrong. I tweaked the recipe; more yeast, less sugar. Sure enough, the rise was a bit better. Not much, but heck, maybe they’ll come to life in the deep fat.

Nothing doing, sister.

As I dispiritedly poured the dregs of the hot fat into the dog’s bowl, I admitted defeat. When it comes to anything labor-intensive and involving deep-fat frying, it’s two strikes and I’m out.

But somewhere along the way, I’d seen a recipe for baked pazcki. I still had dough left over from the second batch, having deep-fried just a couple of sample paczkis before conceding defeat. How about if I just threw them on a baking sheet and into the oven?

Worth a try; raw dough’s probably not good for the dog anyway, right?

So that’s exactly what I did. Baked those uncooperative little rounds for about 15 minutes, and lo and behold, they actually rose in the oven.

They didn’t brown much; and they were still heavy. But when I apprehensively slit one open, its texture was… nice.

Not quite a biscuit, kind of a cookie, fine-grained (though not a cake), it was a serendipitous combination of all three.

Well, in for a penny, in for a pound; might as well finish them up.

One by one I slit them open, filled the slit with jam from my handy squeeze bottle of Smuckers, and drenched them in a simple confectioners’ sugar glaze, one designed to dry almost clear.

After letting them set for an hour or so, I picked one up and gingerly took a bite.

And then another.

And a third nibble, just to make sure.

Not fried pazcki. Not baked pazcki. Not paczki at all.

But still, the flavor of butter and eggs with a touch of rum and vanilla; the jam in the center; the sugary crust, all spoke of the pazcki’s flavor, if not its texture.

As with so many baking adventures, we start out on a path, get lost in the forest, and end up somewhere we didn’t expect at all.

And sometimes, that’s exactly where we’re meant to be all along.

If you’re willing to put your preconceptions aside and think of these paczki pretenders as simply Mardi Gras Jam Buns, come on along with me; let’s follow this new path.

Did you know that by clicking anywhere on this block of pictures, you can enlarge them to full size? Go ahead, give it a try; it’ll work for any of our gridded photos.

Place the following in a bowl:

4 cups (17 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, melted
2/3 cup lukewarm milk
1 large egg
3 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon rum or brandy, optional*
1/2 teaspoon Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor or Fiori di Sicilia, optional; or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

*If you don’t use rum or brandy in the dough, substitute apple juice or water.

Mix and knead everything together to make a smooth dough; it’ll feel silky, but will be a bit stiff (though not gnarly).

When I first started kneading this dough, it was getting “gnarly” on me – see how, instead of forming a smooth ball, it was getting lumpy (middle row, left)? I added a couple of tablespoons of water, and switched back to the beater to mix it in (bottom row, left), then went back to the dough hook.

The end result? A fairly stiff but relatively smooth dough.

Overly stiff dough is the downfall of many a bread baker. As a general rule, the stiffer/drier the dough, the less well it’ll rise. Try to err on the side of slack (wet), rather than stiff (dry) – especially in winter, when flour is dry and you need to compensate by adding a bit more liquid to your yeast bread recipes.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or 8-cup measure; cover it, and let it rise for 1 hour. It’ll barely show any signs of life; that’s OK.

Gently deflate the dough, and let it rise again until it’s quite puffy, about 1 hour.

Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased or lightly floured work surface. Roll it into a 3/8″ to 1/2″-thick circle.

Cut the circle into 2 1/2″ rounds; each will weigh about 1 1/4 ounces.

Place the rounds on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper or parchment, and let them rest, covered, for about 2 hours.

Again, they won’t seem to rise much (bottom, left); that’s OK.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Brush the buns with the melted butter.

Bake them for 13 to 15 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown.

Remove the buns from the oven, and cool on a rack.

Cut a slit in the side of each bun, and spoon or pipe in jam or jelly. A squeezable container of jam makes this task easier.

Make the glaze by combining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons cold water, and a pinch of salt.

It’ll be very thin; that’s OK.

When the buns are completely cool, place them on a rack, and brush them all over with the glaze.

If you don’t mind getting your fingers sticky, it’s much easier to put the glaze in a small, deep bowl, and dip the buns, one at a time, letting any excess icing drain off before placing them on a rack to set.

Allow the glaze to dry completely before transferring the buns to a serving plate and covering them loosely. These are best enjoyed within a day or so.

As I mentioned earlier, the dough is rich, but not sweet; the combination of jam and glaze makes these buns just sweet enough.

And even though they’re not fried, there’s just SOMETHING about the flavor that says “jelly doughnut…”

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Mardi Gras Jam Buns.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. AngelNewsi

    Is it possible to make this dough in my Zo? I’m completely intimidated by kneading by hand!


    Give the Dough cycle on your Zo a try. This is going to be a “firm but smooth” dough. Frank @ KAF.

  2. nelll

    Well, if they are ‘poonch-key’ and not something more like ‘pah-oo-ncz-key’, and if they are served on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, then they aren’t Polish anyway, since paczki are served on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday (yes, almost a week ahead) in Poland. So right off the bat, Polish-Americans are not traditional and have no right to knock your knock-off.

    As usual in Europe, people don’t bake breads at home when they have excellent breads from bakeries. So you’re not in competition with many grandmothers. Maybe in the east or out in the Polish countryside, someone’s babcia fries them up at home, but in the cities, people buy them by the tens from bakeries and take them to their offices and schools and just everywhere people gather. They are inescapable on ‘donut day’ as they usually call it for the sake of English-speakers. I have to plead diabetes to avoid having them pressed upon me all day long.

    In the end, your Mardi Gras Jam Buns are just like any American version of an ‘old country’ recipe, including, probably, babcia’s best baked in Chicago: tweaked and changed and revised and updated and adapted to local ingredients and possibly even better than the original that inspired them (which itself might be a regional or family recipe). They’ve certainly got one whole heck of a lot more jam to them than you’ll see in bakeries here in Poland (where you get a spoon-sized dab in the middle).

    I’m no connoisseur of paczki (two bites and the combination of sugar and carbs knocks me out), and I’d probably be deported for admitting it, but frankly, I don’t see a huge difference between paczki and ordinary American jelly donuts.

    There, I said it. And let your babcia and the paczki police come and get me.

    PHEW! I guess I’m off the hook. I was reading about Polish vs. American pazcki, and did see in America they’re served on Shrove Tuesday, Poland the Thursday before; and the American version has (of course) a lot more jelly. It can be tricky business, though, venturing into cultural territories with which you’re not overly familiar; thanks for the encouragement! PJH

  3. vanwert

    I grew up in Bay City, Michigan – and I am as pure Polish as can be. This is a staple here. especially for Easter breakfast! I can remember as a little girl going with my mother to the “south end” – where in the city the Polish lived – to pick up my mother’s order. In the basement of the house where our order was, every, and I mean every, surface was covered with Pazki – and not a one had jelly in it; either raisins or a prune. Never glazed, but once home we would put powdered sugar on before we ate.
    My mother, who was a professional, not a homemaker, never really knew the secrets, but my grandma (busia) and Aunt Theo were experts. Pazki or coffee cake, none better!
    A true pazki is more of a cake/bread, not sweet like a jelly donut – which it has morfed into.
    I think I’m going to call Aunt Theo and get the recipe! If it works, I’ll post to here for the ‘true’ Polish version.
    Thanks so much for sharing those memories with us. We’d love to get a peek at Aunt Theo’s recipe, too. 😉 ~ MaryJane

  4. Irene in T.O.

    Regardless of what the instant-yeast package says, this kind of yeast dough WILL work if you use 1 tablespoon of Active Dry Yeast. Make a sponge with the yeast, milk at 90F, and 1/2 cup flour. Let rise 1 hour. Add other wet ingredients, and ONLY enough flour to make a SOFT dough. Knead by hand until silky (use the last tablespoon of butter to knead with instead of flour). Let rise until fully double.

    Your recipe has about 25% more flour than I would add.

    Your recipe also has at least 3X as much salt as I would add. Sorry but with this much butter, the salt just kills the yeast. I add 1 teaspoon salt per QUART of milk for sweet yeast dough.

    Then you can bake or fry as you wish, with full success.

    Thanks Irene, as always, for your good advice. PJH

  5. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez - Petrópolis, R.J. - BRAZIL

    Delicious new recipe. Similar to one I bake here in my artisan bakery in Brazil, using that Naan KAF’s soft dough. I bake Naans here, with that anise seeds on top, cut them on rounds with cut ring , slice breads in middle, add some cinnamon sugar inside the bread, add sliced bananas and a tablespoon of light cream cheese. Then, I put the breads inside the oven to reheat and they become absolutely amazing, crispy and with sweet smell, intense and delightful. We serve them with ice cream !!!!
    I’ll give a try on these amazing jelly soft buns!!
    Bread recipes back again!!

  6. bakergirlmd

    My very Polish grandmother from Pennsylvania (off the boat with the first wave of immigrants at Ellis Island–thank you, Bachi!), made Punchkis when I was a little girl. We had prunes in them mostly, maybe dusted with a little powdered sugar. They made these by the basketful full around Easter. The smell of dough frying in oil, and eating these warm, wonderful treats made Easter all worthwhile! My aunts and cousins continued to make these long after Bachi was gone. While this recipe is nowhere similar to what she made, it is a nice memory, nonetheless. I will have to dig up the recipe from one of my cousins to compare! Thanks for making this venture into Eastern European delights!
    We’re so glad that the blog brought back such good memories. Your description is so good I can almost smell them now! ~ MaryJane

  7. nelll

    Today, Wednesday, the signs were up in Polish bakeries reminding people that they could get orders in for massive deliveries of paczki in time for ‘Fat Thursday’ tomorrow. I can hear the fat bubbling in the bakery round the corner already…

    Vanwert, do you ever see Advocat filling in paczki in the US? It was the flavor advertised in the bakery I was in today. Standard issue, though, is a dab of jam that looks and tastes like the jam you get in those little tubs on airplanes and breakfast buffets in second-class hotels. You know – reddish and kind of rubbery and the closest it comes to having identifiable fruit is the picture on the foil on top.

    I’m going to have to find out if the paczki in Poland have actual fruit in them. I’ve never seen such, but then I avoid paczki. Vanwert, did you mean a whole prune or visible raisins?

    I asked a Polish priest why Fat Thursday instead of Fat Tuesday, a mystery that’s bugged me for twenty years. He said he’s eaten paczki for 50 years on Fat Thursday and the question never troubled him. (Some answer.) I’ve got the same answer from everyone: no idea. Apparently it’s also Thursday in other eastern countries he’s been in, like Ukraine and Russia. He did tell me, though, that to a connoisseur (like him, of course 🙂 the real proof of good paczki is the fat that they use to fry them. If the fat’s not fresh and pure, the paczki are inedible, no matter the quality of the ingredients or the recipe.

    Now, Vanwert, if you can answer why Fat Thursday instead of Fat Tuesday, I might just take back that ‘same as American jelly donuts’ remark. 🙂

  8. Mamakau

    I’ve never heard of pazcki, but it looks a lot like something we eat a lot of here in Hawai’i, it’s called a malasada. It’s a Portuguese doughnut, that sometimes even comes with fillings like chocolate cream and coconut cream.

    This recipe looks delicious, can’t wait to try it! Thank you!

    Mamakau, these are much more sturdy than malasada – they’re kind of biscuit/cookie like rather than soft. You’re right, though, the idea is very similar… wish I were there to sample one right now! 🙂 PJH

    Oh my god, a coconut cream filled soft doughnut? I have GOT to get one of those. PJ, don’t you think we need a research trip to Hawaii soon? ~ MaryJane

  9. Irene in T.O.

    Eastern Christian churches start Lent on Monday. So you have to get rid of all forbidden-in-Lent foods before then. And Sunday is NOT party day in their calendar: hence Thursday was Feast Day before Lent.

    Roman Catholic Lent starts on Wednesday (Ash Wednesday) so Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) was the last day to clean out (by eating) all those forbidden foods.

    Real Paczki are soft EXACTLY like malasada, or really good fresh jelly doughnuts. I have had all these kinds of fried dough in their most perfect traditional forms. The recipe here gives the traditional flavouring for people who don’t have their baba to ask. It’s the consistency of the dough that isn’t right.

  10. demoffit

    This recipe was labor intensive for the result…awful. I threw them away. I followed the directions and make yeast breads all the time and expected a King Arthur recipe to be at least edible. I will be skeptical in the future when I think a King Arthur recipe is full-proof.
    Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry to hear this. PJ tested the recipe many times and I don’t remember her having any issues. Please don’t hesitate to give the hotline a call and we’ll be happy to talk it over. ~ MaryJane

    I think perhaps we didn’t manage your expectations well enough. You’ll notice I said they’re part biscuit, part cake, part cookie… not at all “yeasty.” If you were expecting a soft yeast bun – a paczki or jelly doughnut – I apologize; that’s not what these are… I hope this one unfortunate experience doesn’t sour you on KA recipes permanently – PJH

  11. fizkowie1

    My mother always made paczki on Shrove Tuesday but she was already a 3rd generation of Pole. My husband, on the other hand, fresh off the boat, is used to having them on the Thursday of the week before. We compromise and I make them during the weekend when I have more time. I still have the wooden paddle and large pot that my Mama used for making paczki (and Polish babka at the Holidays). She made about 20 doz or so- never filled, but rolled in white sugar, similar to most in SW PA Polish communities. Now, the paczki that my husband are used to always have jam (curiously enough the most popular is Rose Hip jam -something I’d never heard of or tasted) and have a light glaze. I’m guessing that one of the things that may have given you difficulty is that paczki aren’t “kneaded” in the sense that we knead other yeast doughs. It starts it’s first raise very wet after having been “beaten” with a paddle. Usually my father had to hold the pot (holding some 10 lbs of flour, more than 2 lbs of sugar, milk measured in quarts, etc. and always fresh yeast) My Mama would then beat the dough and my Dad would rotate the pot. It, like babka (actually extremely similar recipe) was very wet and the pot was wrapped in a pierzyna (feather comforter) and put in bed – better if a warm child was still in the bed too! I’ve had to scale down my recipe to 2 doz (just 3 of us) but make them every year. Try again next year and if you want, I can come and show you how, I’ll even bring my paddle 🙂

  12. Christina Gutt

    It’s not POONCH-key, PAHNCH-kee or pah-oo-ncz-ki. The closest would be punch-key or, better still, the a (which in Polish has a cedilla) is pronounced as “on” is in French.
    In any case, they’re delicious! Can’t wait to try your version since I don’t deep fry.


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