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Frying Novice

I've never fried stuff before. Well, maybe one batch of an attempt at French Fries a dozen years ago.

But I am really enjoying exploring the world of Fried Dough and for a BBQ I'm having on Monday, we are going to try and make a batch of Polish pączki (a great dough based on egg, butter, and rum or brandy).

But what best to fry in? Corn oil? Vegetable oil? Lard? Rice oil?

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  1. Here are some quick tips to get you started.

    1. Find an oil with a high smoke point -- e.g. peanut oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil are some good choices.

    2. Get a thermometer and aim to heat your oil -- and maintain it -- at 350 to 375 degrees F. If you don't have a thermometer, the oil is ready when you stick the end of a wooden spoon into the oil and it bubbles.

    3. Don't overcrowd your pan, as this will quickly decrease your oil temp.

    1. NOT lard. We don't do that to Polish donuts. It would make the taste in this case kind of disgusting.

      You want an neutral oil. Probably not something you are going to get, but Crisco works best.

      Take a look at my mother's recipe for cruskiki that I linked to in one of your fried dough links. There's reallly good advice there on how to tell when the oil is ready to fry.

      4 Replies
      1. re: rworange

        Cool - thanks, Kris. Yep, I will probably go for Crisco. It is what my Georgia-based father used for frying hush puppies. I'll report back!!!

        1. re: rworange

          "NOT lard. We don't do that to Polish donuts." Ummm... and exactly what did the Poles use back when these were invented? Kriszko? Don't think so... I'm trying to think what might have been available that WASN'T lard, and I'm coming up short (so to speak).

          1. re: Will Owen

            I'm old, but not old enough to be around when the pączki was invented. All I can say is that my mother died in 2002 at the age of 84. When she was a child her mother used Crisco. No one in any of the Polish communities I knew in Connecticut ever used lard.

            I'm also wondering if the reason I am unhappy with so many Polish donuts on the West Coast is not only are they usually not fresh, but perhaps they are cooked in lard which would go rancid sooner than vegetable oil.

            1. re: rworange

              No one in the Polish communities used lard probably because they were in America, not Poland, where lard was THE fat. When I was a child growing up in Poland, I still remember having a treat of fresh bread, spread with homemade lard, sprinkled with sugar. I haven't had that in decades!

        2. good luck on monday and just remember that like any other ability, you'll get better at frying the more often you do it - just make sure to drain well all the stuff you fry.

          how about rapeseed (canola) or sunflower oil? isn't crisco just another word for tasteless hydrogenated, vile, murderous, artery clogging trans fat. that stuff is more dangerous than land mines.

          1 Reply
          1. re: epabella

            Crisco is not as hydrogenated as it used to be, and is a perfectly neutral frying fat. A significant number of people find canola to be fishy-tasting, especially for high heat uses, due its composition.

          2. I'm Polish and my family and I have made pączki many times, always frying in lard. We once tried using Crisco, but they just didn't come out as tasty as when we used lard. So, we switched back and they always come out delicious. In my opinion, I'd rather use lard which is much more natural than Crisco, full of trans fats. It's a treat, not like you are eating them everyday.

            15 Replies
            1. re: earthygoat

              I'm not claming it is any health product ... anymore than lard ... but Crisco has been reformulated to have zero trans fats.

              In my little neck of the American Polish woods, even as a kid years ago no one used lard. However, who knows. Looking on the web it seems they were a way to use up lard before Lent. Still sounds kind of unappetizing to me., but lard could be the way to go.

              1. re: rworange

                i'm still in dread of hydrogenated anything (sounds like thermonuclear devices) and the lazy option (wikipedia) provides:

                "As of 2010 Crisco consists of a blend of soybean oil, fully hydrogenated cottonseed oil, and partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils. According to the product information label, one 12 g serving of Crisco contains 3 g of saturated fat, 0g of trans fat, 6 g of polyunsaturated fat, and 2.5 g of monounsaturated fat."

                rendered animal products seem less menacing and would be the preferred cooking fat of the great ivan putsky - that's how he got to be so powerful and tossed so many wrestlers out of the ring. kidding aside, would any reputable chef in krakow or warsaw use crisco? maybe lard is an acquired taste and i've acquired mine since conception but lard simply tastes GOOD.

                1. re: epabella

                  But the lard needs to be rendered the old fashioned way (I render my own), not the hydrogenated white bricks on US supermarket shelves.

                  1. re: Karl S

                    we don't have hydrogenated lard here in the third world, that's only for rich nations ;-) i always render my own lard.

                    1. re: epabella

                      Yes, but the OP is in San Francisco.

                      1. re: epabella

                        In Canada, the Tenderflake brand is non-hydrogenated. But, home rendered lard is best!

                    2. re: epabella

                      Crisco ... the HFCS of its day.

                      Hmmm ... I'm going to have to check out the grocery in my little third world country to see if they have lard bricks.

                      1. re: rworange

                        but sir/madame, you don't live in the third world - you live in the country that has it all and in the city of cable cars, gay parades and detective harry callahan - not to mention being able to eat elizabeth faulkner pastries anytime. trust me, we don't have hydrogenated lard or predator drones in the philippines but some of us know how to go to isohunt or eztv to get the latest foodshows and cookery books. bye to the hot tamale and go jonathan "obi-wan" waxman!

                        1. re: epabella

                          I am living for the next year in Guatemala ... in the sticks ... I can walk out the door, wrangle a pig and render my own lard ... if that huge hog doesn't eat me first. If earthquakes are bad in SF, in the last three days we had those, the volcano near me erupted and the first hurricane of the season hit. I'll match my third world to yours anyday.

                          So far I haven't looked at cooking oils in the local markets. They use Mazola in our house and not lard.

                  2. re: earthygoat

                    Agreed. Polish all the way back on both sides, and lard is the way it's always been done.
                    You nailed it, though, rw -- the origin of paczki on Fat Tuesday was to use up all that lard.

                    My Babcia doesn't render her own -- she's pushing 90 -- but she still uses the box kind (Tenderflake here.) It's not porky at all and makes for a much tastier product than shortening.

                    1. re: Whats_For_Dinner

                      Wow - wished I had read all this before I went out and bought six pounds of Crisco. I supposed I could return it, but that would mean I'm trying to source pounds of lard on a Sunday night.

                      Oh well, I'll stick to the Crisco for tomorrow' frying...

                      1. re: CarrieWas218

                        Don't worry too much about it -- Crisco will do the trick, and your paczki will still be awesome -- just marginally less authentic than if you'd used lard. I've had paczki from bakeries that I know weren't done in lard, and they were fine, so fry away and enjoy!

                        Let us know how they come out.

                        1. re: CarrieWas218

                          Las Palma on 24th has great lard. In refrig unit on left past the cash register. If I dont want to smell up the place by doing my own I buy there. If your not goiing to use all it freezes and refreezes well.

                          1. re: CarrieWas218

                            Well, despite my leading you down the wrong path to Crisco ... how did they turn out?

                            1. re: rworange

                              They were truly amazing. I was going to write up the whole thing sooner, but was working on the history of the National Doughnut Day (posted today) instead.

                              I'll probably get the whole thing, with recipe, written up over the weekend. But suffice to say that having them warm and fresh out of the fryer was a revelation.

                      2. I've always preferred corn oil for frying most things and peanut oil for oriental foods. It seems these have gone out of favor recently as few cooking sources recommend them. Can anyone explain why? Did I miss something?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: happens

                          I used to use corn oil myself until after looking into foods and where they come from and it seems that most of the corn for corn oil is GMO. So I switched to light olive oil.

                          1. re: happens

                            Canola has a superb marketing campaign, heavily influencing those who compose recipes.

                            1. re: happens

                              rapeseed grows easier and sturdier than corn, thus requires little genetic manipulation, chemicals or government subsidy to grow as a crop.fine rapeseed oil requires no marketing campaign and is good enough as a substitute for olive oil in a few recipes. ofcourse it won't be as cheap as the regular canola oil in the grocery.

                              i've haven't tried it yet but another fancy new oil is hempseed - extracted from marijuana's low-THC brother. my top culinary idol hfw uses it alot:

                              1. re: epabella

                                Actually, those articles are like a UK echo of the marketing campaign Canadian producers started in the 90s in North America....

                            2. Okay, I’m not Polish. I grew up in Alabama over 60 years ago. Everything was fried in lard or bacon grease. Then, it was Crisco and corn oil. Now, I am enlightened. The best oil for everything you use an oil for is premium extra virgin olive oil. It is composed primarily of monounsaturated fats(the good fats). It has a smoke point well above the proper temperature for frying (356 0 F.) and sauteing and higher than most of the other available oils. And it taste so good. Not that stuff on the grocery store shelf that might have been extra virgin 3, 4 or more years ago. The best olive oil only lasts for 24 months after harvest. Moreover, that stuff probably isn’t even pure olive oil or even olive oil. It may be more expensive, but look for real, premium extra virgin olive oil that has been certified extra virgin olive oil by a reputable organization and list the harvest date (The California Olive Oil Council is one.). If you are using extra virgin olive oil for deep frying, remember you can use it 3 or 4 times.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: altacresta

                                Olive oil is not a neutral oil taste-wise. It would depend on the item wether or not to use olive oil.

                                My family never used lard that I can recall. Bacon fat ... that's another story ... but it was for savory dishes like potatoes.

                              2. Here's the full write-up (pics on the blog)
                                As part of the planned events surrounding the Birthday of The Ho was my abject desire to fry my own dough for the first time. At first, I thought of just trying some basic recipe just for experimentation purposes. Then I stumbled upon a Polish festival and learned about a glorious fried dough known as Pączki. I learned that the incredibly rich, egg-based, alcohol-laden pastries are rarely seen these days, even in "the old country." The Poles I spoke with told me that because of the need for mass-production, very few pastry shops even bother with the authentic recipe and I knew that I had to. I hunted around and found what seemed a fairly decent recipe...

                                12 egg yolks (or six whole eggs)
                                1 teaspoon salt
                                2 (1/4 ounce) packages active dry yeast
                                1/4 cup warm water
                                1/3 cup room temperature butter
                                1/2 cup fine granulated sugar
                                4 1/2 cups all purpose flower
                                1/3 cup rum or brandy
                                1 cup scalded whipping cream
                                1 1/2 cups preserves or cooked prunes, cooked apples, or poppy seed filling

                                oil for deep frying

                                1. Whisk egg yolks with salt with electric mixture on high until it lightens, approximately 7 to 10 minutes.

                                2. Please yeast in warm water to soften.

                                3. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until sugar completely dissolves and mixture is light and fluffy.

                                4. Slowly add in the softened yeast.

                                5. Stir in one cup of flour with the rum/brandy and half the cream. Continue stirring until smooth.

                                6. Add another cup of flour and the remaining cream, beat until smooth.

                                7. Add another cup of flour with the egg mixture and beat until well-blended, at least two minutes.

                                8. Continually add in the remaining one-and-one-half cup of flour while blending until the dough begins to blister.

                                9. Cover and set in a warm place to rise, until dough has doubled in bulk.

                                10. Punch down and let rise again, until doubled in bulk.

                                11. Roll the dough out to 3/4 of an inch thick and cut into 3" rounds.

                                12. Place a tablespoon of filling the center of one circle and top with a second circle. Seal with a bit of water.

                                13. Place on a lightly floured surface, cover, and let rise another 20 or 30 minutes.

                                14. Heat oil to 350º and fry the paczki until they are golden brown on both sides.

                                15. Drain and sprinkle with powdered sugar or drizzle with honey.


                                [The finished product]

                                A few words about the recipe... It is ascribed to a woman named Vina who claimed to get it from her grandmother. From all accounts of my research, it seems a very authentic recipe although there is some dialogue about replacing the 12 egg yolks with 6 whole eggs. It seems some have claimed it was too eggy with the latter. I made it with the full 12 egg yolks and did not find it nearly as eggy as some recent beignets I have had.

                                It is said that there is a 30-minute prep time with a total of an hour-and-a-half. I'm not exactly sure what type of computation that is; including rising time? Yes, once I had my ingredients ready, it took about 30 minutes to compile the dough. I used brandy as I wanted a richer, less sweet taste to the dough. My first rise took four hours. The second rise took another four hours. But I live in chilly San Francisco and I was still putting the container on an oven that beans inside, slow-baking.

                                It is said that the dough should make about 18 doughnuts. I used a little smaller than 3" [lekvar_1094_general] cutter as I knew I had 20-some people at the party and I think we got more than 20 doughnuts. I like them smaller. Also, I used a canned prune/plum filling that had been given to me some time ago; Lekvar. It is a classic Slovakian/Hungarian danish filling which worked beautifully. I also had the distinction of being able to acquire true Polish butter.

                                There was also much debate about what kind of oil to fry them in. Yes, traditionally it would have probably been lard. And I seriously thought about frying in lard, but opted for Crisco instead. Surprisingly, there was NO hint of greasiness to the finished product. They were rich and tender and far from cloying. Some at the party initially dismissed even tasting one as they were not doughnut fans.

                                These were far from your classic doughnut; the richness of the egg was toned down with the elegance of the alcohol. I would definitely make the dough again and fry in even smaller portion sizes for individual treats.