Friday, February 17, 2012

Punchka Time

I did it! I made punchka's!

I made them the way my mom used to make them where they turn out like a round ball. I rolled them in granulated sugar. The filling? Cooked prunes! Yum! They are always the best the first day! I did give some away. You can microwave them to soften and warm them the day after. I did use lard to fry them in.

This is a tradition that dates way back. Polish Catholic housewives needed to use up their stores of fat before Lent (the 40 day period before Easter Sunday that begins with Ash Wednesday).
Lent starts Ash Wednesday...Feb 22nd this year (2012).

Now, they have been selling punchka's in Missouri and Wisconsin at the bakeries and at local churches (made and sold by enthusiastic home cooks) for the past 2-3 weeks...I know because I have talked to my people in those states. Here in my neck of the woods in Southern California,  such items are rarely if ever available commercially or sought after or consumed.

So, feeling nostalgic for the old days, and wondering why I never really carried on this tradition when we had kids at home (I think I was too busy or tired to make them), I got my mom's recipe (she mailed me a freshly written recipe) and got busy.

I recall when we were school kids, we'd come home from school on one of the days before Ash Wednesday and there would be big round fresh punchka's in a large ceramic bowl on the kitchen counter, covered with a white dish towel.

This is the best after school snack ever! Maybe they tasted so good because we only had them once a year.

Evelyn's Punchka Recipe ( from her mother-in-law)

P U N C H K A ' S ~ makes 24

2 cups scalded milk ( Joan used soy milk)
When lukewarm, put in big bowl, not plastic.
Add 1 cake fresh yeast and 2 cups of sifted flour
(Joan used 1 Tablespoon dry yeast)
Mix well and let stand 1/2 hour.
Add 1 egg and 4 yolks (Joan used 3 yolks and 1 egg)
Beat well then add 1/2 cup sugar (Joan used 1/4 cup sugar)
1 tsp salt
1 cup melted butter (Joan used 1/2 cup)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix in enough flour to make a soft dough. Mix By Hand, Evelyn wrote. I stirred mine with a wooden spoon and then kneaded it for a few minutes on the counter, making sure to keep the dough soft. Then I put it back in the bow (which I washed out and oiled)
Let rise, covered, until double in bulk.
Put dough on floured board and pat (with hands) until dough
is 1/2 inch think.
Cut with plain round cookie cutter.
or can or use a glass.

Put filling of one or 2 cooked prunes or a date filling or jelly in center
of round and gather dough around. Squeeze ends closed good so don't leak.

Let, rise covered with clean cloth, about 1 hour.

Put in hot grease until one side gets brown.
Turn over. 2-3 minutes. For cooking grease use pure lard or Crisco.
(Joan found on Internet to heat fat to 350 degrees).
Remove finished punchkas with slotted spoon and place in big bowl with paper towel to absorb grease. When cooled, roll in sugar.


Fox and Amy said...

Yummy! Do you think they would be just as good fried in oil? I made beignets for Mardi Gras last year, and they were super yummy. I really believe that the body needs the fat of fried foods occasionally!

Dave said...

These look good. Why did people try to get rid of all their lard before Lent? Because they had to give something up, such as fried foods?

Anna Lois said...

It is very important to use lard. Crisco brand is a (not quite as good) substitute, but not oil. My mother-in-law owned a restaurant and warned me that oil cannot be raised and kept at a high enough temperature. Because of this, oil is absorbed into the fried foods and they will be greasy, heavy, and those who eat the food will get more calories from fat than they want. She complained that when the government would not let restaurants use lard, the quality of fried food dropped.