Who doesn’t like doughnuts? The problem with them, however, is that they are quite unhealthy, or heavy at least, as most deep-fried foods are. Parniki – the light-as-a-cloud steamed doughnuts that my Mum have been making since as long as I can remember – are my idea for dealing with doughnut craving.
The proper name for these, or the most commonly used in Poland is Pampuchy – the word said to be derived from the German Pfannkuchen, meaning ‘pancake’. But they exist under many aliases: parzoki, kluski na parze, parowańce, to name a few. In my family, however, they have always been referred to as parniki – and it’s a word that brings a smile on my face whenever I hear it.
What are they? Simply put: they are steamed yeast dumplings (kluski) or doughnuts, oval or round, light as a cloud and pretty bouncy. In my family home, they were always a sweet treat, filled with fruit butter, fruit jam or dark cocoa powder mixed with sugar (my absolute favourite!). Throughout Poland, however, they are served as both, sweet and savoury meal, with a variations of topping and fillings varying from region to region.
The recipe below is at least as old as me and comes from my Mum’s recipe notebook – a bible of family meals served over the years. They are not the easiest thing to make, but the satisfaction upon successful completion of parniki is immense. We are all staying at home now, and got some extra time on our hands – why not try? Baking together is fun!
Steamed Yeast Doughnuts with Cocoa Filling (Parniki)
30g fresh yeast
3 cups flour
1 cup milk
3tbsp melted butter
for the fillings
dark cocoa powder mixed with sugar
jam or fruit butter
HOW TO MAKE?
1. Add crumbled fresh yeast, sugar and 2-3tbsp of slightly warm milk and mix until the yeast dissolves. Set aside and let rise until doubled.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, eggs and risen yeast mixture. Mix with your hand (it will be very sticky at first) until all incorporated. Add cooled melted butter and continue mixing until the dough is sooth and elastic. This will take up to 15 minutes of hard labour!
3. Once the dough is done, form a ball out of it, cover a bowl with a damp cloth and set aside to double in size. It should take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour.
4. Once doubled, turn it our onto a floured pastry board, and give it a quick knead, adding a bit more flour if the dough is too sticky. Roll it out to a thickness of about 3cm and cut out circles using a floured glass. Gather the scraps, knead quickly and repeat the process.
5. Take each of circles and place about a teaspoon of filling in the middle. Gather the edges together and stick tightly. Form into a ball and set aside on a floured surface. Repeat with all the circles. When done, cover with a cloth and let them rise a bit once again.
6. Fill a large pot with 3/4 of water. Using a twine, tie a cloth over the top of the pot and bring water to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down a little, and place dumpling on top of the cloth. Do not overcrowd, as they will get bigger while steaming. Place the lid (or overturn bowl) on top and steam for about 13-15minutes. Don’t lift the lid while steaming, as it will most probably ruin the dumplings (they are likely to collapse).
7. Transfer the dumplings to a wire rack to cool. They taste best freshly steamed, while still pretty hot. Alternatively, you can fry them in a very hot pan with some butter – they will brown and crisp nicely, good idea if you have any parniki left the next day. You can also freeze them in a zip-lock bag, for later enjoyment.