In the USA, it is called Paczki Day or Greasy (or Fat) Thursday. As Poles have immigrated to the USA, they began to celebrate it more on Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras to keep their pre-Lent celebrations more with other USA residents. Or at least, that is the explanation I have heard from people about why the day difference.
Regardless, I celebrate on Shrove Thursday. So, I had the idea to make Paczki yesterday. Except that I didn't realize I had a playgroup today and it was my table's turn to bring the food for about 90 women. So, I ended up spending a couple of hours late last night making Nalesniki. I made the "Ser" filling for on the side along with a couple of other jams. Of course, they were a hit today. And the ladies recognized the amount of work that went in to making them.
But because I went to the playgroup, I didn't have the 3+ hours to make Paczki at home. I had the option of driving a couple of hours to the locations that Polish American Association was selling their fundraiser Paczki at but it was too far and not enough time to get back to pick up the older daughter from school. Perhaps it is an option for you and your family, though.
Or you could go to your local Polish church. Many PNCC (Polish National Catholic Churches) and Roman Catholic Churches in Polish communities sell them as a fundraiser event.
I went to my local Polish store for our Paczki. We bought 4 of each, 7 different types all together. I can't remember all the fillings. I know that we have Malinowe (raspberry), Rosowe (rosehip jelly, yummy), Moreli (apricot), Sliwkowe (plum butter filled), Truskawkowe (strawberry), a Chocolate topped variety which is reminiscent of a Boston Cream Doughnut. So far, I have eaten 2 and each child has worked their way through one each.
For those brave enough to devote all day to trying their hand at this traditional dish, here is a handwritten recipe I found in one of my mother's old Polish cookbooks, which I translated.
4 cups Flour
8 dag fresh Yeast (8 1/2 Tablespoons)
1/2 cup Sugar
pinch of Salt
1 Tablespoon of Spirit (Rum, Brandy, Vodka, etc.)
10-15 dag Butter (7-10 Tablespoons)
grated Lemon or Orange peel
Oil for Frying (traditionally, Smalec, which is what I remember being used but you can use Peanut, Sunflower, etc.)
Dissolve Yeast with 1 Tablespoon of Sugar and a little bit of warm Milk (110 degrees).
Add sifted Flour.
Add Egg Yolks.
Beat Eggs with 1/2 cup Sugar. Combine in dough.
Add the Spirit, Salt, and a little milk.
Knead the dough with a wooden spoon until smooth and has a sheen.
Add Butter (I assume melted) and knead until the dough blisters and pulls away from hands and bowl.
Cover with a clean handkerchief (or dishtowel) and allow to rise in a warm place, such as a warmed oven or near the stove while cooking other dishes.
When the dough has doubled in size, dust a pastry board (or your counter) with Flour lightly. Roll dough to thickness of a finger.
Cut with a glass circles.
Place a teaspoon of Jam in the center of a round and cover with another. Pinch shut and recut to make a round shape.
Cover with a dishtowel, set aside and allow to rise in a warm place again.
In a large pan, heat about 1/2 gallon of Oil until a small piece of dough dropped in immediately rises to top.
Fry a couple at a time so that they don't touch each other. When the bottom is golden colored, flip over with wooden skewers (or chopsticks).
Cool on paper towels. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or vanilla sugar, if you like.
You don't have to stuff them with jelly. I have eaten some Paczki which were not filled but covered in powdered sugar mixed with orange zest which were amazing.
If you make any, I would love to see a picture posted on the Facebook Fan Page to share with others.