Traditional Polish Paczki

Hello Friends, 

Today I share the traditional Polish Paczki. Pronounced "Poonch - kee", these delights are often made on Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras which is the day before Ash Wednesday that marks the beginning of the Lenten fast.

Soapsmith's Traditional Polish Doughnut Paczki

1 1/2 cups warm milk - 110 degrees is ideal for the yeast to bloom
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup of room-temperature butter
6 egg yolks room temperature
2 tablespoons brandy
1 tablespoon lemon or orange rind
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour

Vegetable oil for deep frying.

Powder or granulated sugar for dusting

Optional fillings - vanilla custard, lemon curd, stewed and sweetened fruits or jellies.

Dissolve yeast in warm milk, stir and set aside to proof - the yeast mixture should become foamy. I use my kitchen aid mixer with paddle attachment, cream together sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, brandy, lemon rind and salt until well-incorporated.

Add 4 1/2 cups flour alternately with the milk-yeast mixture and beat well until smooth. You can also do this by hand with a wooden spoon if you prefer. Dough will be quite soft. You can add a little more flour if needed up to 1/2 cup.

Place dough in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise until filled with air bubbles and doubled in bulk, depending on the warmth of your kitchen this will take up to two hours. Once doubled and airy, punch down and let rise again.

Work on a lightly floured surface. Roll out to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut rounds with glass or biscuit cutter. Cover and let rise until doubled in size - about 30 minutes. I use my Mom's antique rolling pin - it was gifted to her from an elderly Jewish lady who carried it from the old country in the 1900's. My Mom cleaned her house and Mrs. Rifkin no longer cooked. She loved my Mom's cooking so when my Mom used the rolling pin and liked it she gave it to her in exchange for some cherry pies made from the cherry tree in her yard  We have had it since the early 1960's.  Five generations of goodies have come off of this pin.  Countless pierogi, cookies, pie crusts and more have worn away at this simple, rustic tool worked with love -I cherish it.

Fry the paczki in vegetable oil until nicely browned.  Try to maintain a temp of about 350 to 375 degrees.  If too hot they will not cook through properly.

Drain Paczki on paper towels and sprinkle with powder or granulated sugar while warm. Cool and fill with your choice of creams, custards, lemon curd, fruits or jellies.  

   You can leave some without sugar or glaze them with powder sugar thinned with a little milk and vanilla.

They can be served as is or filled with a variety of fillings with a pastry bag, Here is a nice custard cream filling, you can use fruits and jellies or purchased fruit paste. Prune is traditional but you can use raspberry, lemon curd, strawberry, apricot, cherry, pineapple, poppy seed etc.

Custard Filling for Paczki or Cream Puffs

2 T butter
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups milk
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt butter. Blend in corn starch, sugar and salt. Gradually add milk. Heat to boiling over direct heat. Stir into slightly beaten egg yolks. Return to heat and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add vanilla. Cool thoroughly. Makes 2 cups. If you want to fill all of the Paczki, you will need to double the cream filling recipe.


Thanks for visiting,


Homemade Gourmet Sea Salts and Herbal Blends

Hello friends,

My herb garden again provided an abundant harvest bountiful enough to share with family and friends. Homemade infused sea salts and herb spice mixes makes marvelous holiday gifts that are always appreciated.

I dry my herb harvest through out the growing season. My final picking this year was in November while a light snow was falling. If you don't grow your own herbs, you can certainly utilize purchased herbs, just be sure you use the finest ingredients. Your final product is only as good as the individual components. I also make fresh herb salts.

Fresh herbs: basil, sage, chives, rosemary, oregano, thyme, lavender and mints.  Just chop the fresh herbs of your choice and blend with sea salts.  Dry in the oven on parchment paper lined tray at 200 degrees for about 30 minutes until it feels dry to the touch.  Cool and jar.

Fresh Herb Salts - Basil Salt and Rosemary, Sage, Thyme & Oregano

Fresh garden basil, kosher, sea and pink Himalayan salts - process by hand with mortar and pestle or use a food processor.  Just crush until evenly grainy mix - you don't want a paste.

I made herbal bread dipping mixes to use with olive oil, herbs de Provence, pink Himalayan sea salt infused with raspberry Merlot, French gray sea salt with micro brewery beer, flake salt with rosemary, and citrus dead sea salt with lemon and lime and hickory smoked sea salt and lemon pepper.

I used my garden culinary herbs: Basil, Oregano, Marjoram, Thyme, Lavender, Sage and Mints.

Here are the flavorful sea salts that I chose: Pink Himalayan, French Grey, Black Hawaiian, Flake Salt and Dead Sea Salts - both coarse and fine grinds.

The infusion process is simple. For herbs, simply combine a handful of your fresh or newly dried herbs with the salt of your choice. You can process the herbs in a mortar and pestle, spice grinder or food processor. If you are using dried herbs, be sure you use plant material that is freshly dried with high aromatic oil content. Allow the salts to infuse over a few weeks for optimum flavor.

Here is my rosemary flake salt, I include a spring of the herb in each jar.

I also infuse salts with liquid flavorings. I made an artisan beer - Amber Oak Stout, a raspberry Merlot and Citrus Lemon Lime salt.

You need to reduce any liquid to a thick syrup before adding the salt. I boil down the beer, wine and juices. Keep a close eye, once the fluid is thick enough to cover a spoon it is ready to go but be careful, it can easily burn once you get to the syrup stage. A full bottle of wine is reduced to a couple of tablespoons. Once reduced and cooled, add enough salt to absorb the liquid, spread the salt on a parchment covered cookie sheet and place in a low oven, 170 degrees for 1 to 2 hours, until well dried.

The lemon lime citrus fusion sea salt was made with reduced juices and the zest of the fruit. The same process was used, the zest is added after the salt is combined with the reduced syrup before drying in the oven.

The herb mixes utilize flavorful properly dried herbs. I did bread dipping mixes that can be combined with quality olive oil and grated cheeses for a classic appetizer. These versatile blends can also be used to enhance roasting vegetables, meats and seafood, yogurt or sour cream dips as well.

My garden provided the sun dried heirloom tomatoes and herbs for these mixes.

Herb Citrus Blend contains 3 parts sweet basil, one part Italian parsley, one part thyme, lemon and lime zest, crushed red pepper and sea salt to taste.

My Sun Dried Heirloom Tuscan Herb blend has my garden herbs: 2 parts basil, one part oregano, one part parsley combined with granulated garlic and minced sun dried tomatoes from my garden.

Lemon Pepper is a simple mix of lemon rind, freshly ground tri color peppercorns and sea salt. I used equal amounts of each. You can customize the blend with dehydrated garlic, onion powder or whatever spices appeal to your tastes.

Package up your creations in jars, tins, glassine or cellophane bags. You can choose rustic style, something whimsical or modern. Embellish the jars with beads, charms, hemp cord or fabric dust covers.

Make some nice tags, include instructions and ingredients on the back of the tags. Assemble gift sets or baskets.

You can do tins, bags or baskets. Economical options can be found around the house or at dollar stores, even a brown kraft shopping bag decorated with a sprig of pine is charming. If you need a more upscale gift, choose a container that can be reused - a lovely tray, wire organizer, fine crafted basket, a vintage blue enamel basin, add a dipping bowl, organic virgin olive oil, crusty artisan bread etc.

Invest a little time and gift your loved ones with delicious gourmet herbs, salts and spices. You will be giving a one of a kind present that is sure to fill your friends with wonder and good taste that lasts for months.

Thanks for visiting,


Reader's Comments

By luvncrafts on 11/14/2014 @ 11:42amThey look great! Nice blog

By JimJuris on 11/13/2014 @ 05:46pmFantastic blog post filled with lots of helpful advice and great photographs.

By desicrafts on 11/13/2014 @ 01:35pmHey Bonnie, I read all of the Recipes in this post and I am delighted. It reminded me of the salt recipes that my grand mother used to tell us. One of the most common was making a paste of green chillies and coriander leaves and mixing it with regular salt. After keeping it under the sun for drying, it would become dry and ready to use, through out the year. That green salt tasted really tasty back then :) Thank you for reminding me of beautiful old days spent with my grand mother.

How to Dry Herbs from the Garden

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Hello friends,

My herb garden yields an abundant harvest of a wonderful variety of culinary and fragrant herbs. There are many ways to preserve these wonders of nature - preserving in jellies and pesto, oil infusions, vinegars, freezing and the simplicity of air drying.

My harvest of native mullein.

My herb harvest hanging from the rafters of the barn at the White Bridge Farm - the perfect environment of good air circulation out of direct sunlight.

Here are some guidelines to help you achieve success with air drying. Following proper procedures will lessen the chances of your cherished garden harvest turning into a gathering of dried brown failures.

It is of vital importance to harvest the herbs at the peak of flavor. Older herbs become woody and have spent their energy on producing seeds losing their aroma and flavors. The best time to pick your herbs is before they flower, just beginning to form buds is optimum. Exceptions are herbs similar to lavenders and everlasting flowers that you want to dry for floral display and things like chamomile when the flowers are used for herbal teas. These should be harvested when the blossoms begin to open.

Chose a dry early morning just after the dew has dried. I harvest with sharp garden knife or kitchen shears placing handfuls of good quality plant materials into my harvest basket. Do not choose herbs that are damaged or beyond their peak as it is a waste of time and energy to preserve something inferior. You can trim them back and wait for a second flush of foliage to harvest at a later time. Move quickly to a shaded spot or garden shed to preserve the freshness of the herbs.

Gather each individual herb into small groups, too many stems will lessen probability for the even drying that is desired. Secure with a rubber band which will contract as the herbs dry. If you desire, you can use raffia or rustic garden twine as it is more aesthetically pleasing but it will have to be adjusted as the herbs lose their volume during the drying process. Hang from a rack, rafters or line in a place with good air circulation out of direct sunlight. Do not overcrowd them.

Monitor for obvious problems such as insect infestation, too much moisture, or mold. It will take about a week depending on the size of the bouquets, humidity in the air and other factors such as the moisture content of each individual herb bundle. The herbs are ready when the leaves are crispy dry and the stems are brittle. You want them to retain their color and beneficial oils so do not allow them to over dry.

Once dry you can prepare them for storage. If you are using them for pure decorative purposes, you can allow them to hang as is or simply display them in a basket. If you want to use them for culinary or herbal preparations you should protect them from gathering dust and humidity.

You can store properly dried bunches protected with a paper bag over the leafy part of the herb. Leaves are easily stripped off by hand on to parchment paper then the paper is lifted to fill the storage containers. I prefer to keep mine in large whole leaves but you can crush them with a mortar and pestle if you desire. Place them into labeled glass jars or tins. Always label carefully because it can be difficult to identify once the dried material is removed from the stems. They can be stored in a dark dry cupboard and will retain their desired properties and essential oils for up to one year.

If you are harvesting roots for herbal preparations, you should dig up the mature root and carefully clean it with plenty of fresh running water removing any foreign materials and soil. The cleaned root can be dried on a screen or parchment paper. I recommend turning them every couple of days to assure even drying. Roots typically take a longer dry time. It can be helpful to slice or chop the root into even pieces before drying to insure a properly cured item. Be certain they are dried throughout the thickest part before storing.

Wild harvest yarrow

Many herbs dry well in bunches: bay, rosemary, calendula, dill, thyme, summer savory, sage, lavender, florals, mints, yarrow, echinacea, lemon balm and everlasting flowers like straw flowers, gypsophilia, cockscomb, pepperberries, wheat grasses etc.

If you are just using the roots, blossoms, pods and petals for teas, potpourri and sachets you can dry snippets on wood trays, screens or parchment paper. Herbs like basil have a higher water content so they do not dry well in bunches. Dry them as individual leaves in a single layer with plenty of space. These herbs do well with screen drying:

Basil, catnip, chives, feverfew, hops, lady’s mantle, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram, mints oregano, rosemary, rose hips, sage, savory, yarrow.

I will use these herbs in my products, herbal infusions for soaps, balms, butters and creams as well as culinary pursuits and fragrant d├ęcor of wreaths, swags and sachets.

I hope you will give this age old tradition of preserving your herbal treasures a try. It has been perfected through the ages and has stood the test of time with ease and simplicity.

Thanks for visiting,


Elderberries for syrup.

Reader's Comments

By Guest on 07/29/2012 @ 03:23pmYour photography turns your posts into works of art. Now I'm hankering to go harvest some herbs. I love the farm photos on your other posts as well - what a gorgeous place.

By Guest on 07/17/2012 @ 09:18pmAnother great blog post, Soapsmith. Your herb gardens are great, I'm jealous!

By AmbientLights on 07/17/2012 @ 05:48pmGreat info, thanks for the post! I'll be growing some herbs next season and will refer back to this come harvest time.

By Covergirlbeads on 07/17/2012 @ 01:24pmWonderful blog and love the pictures too. Very informative!

By Guest on 07/17/2012 @ 12:36pmLove that barn and your herbs are beautiful, thanks for sharing.

By luvncrafts on 07/17/2012 @ 12:08pmGreat info! Thank you. Very timely too, as I was just given some herbs from my SIL's garden and wanted to dry them. Beautiful pictures too! luvncrafts

By kgkrafts on 07/17/2012 @ 02:01amwonderful blog post! can't wait to start harvesting more herbs. thanks Bonnie!