P is for Polish Paczki
This article was first published in 2014. We’ve done some more tasting and have added a few more bakeries and updated the paczki review. Enjoy!
It’s that time of year when many people start preparing for a season of spiritual rigor and renewal. That means parties and festivals and, of course, lots of amazing annual food treats like…paczki! Paczki (pronounced Poonch-Key) are spongy, round filled donuts, richer than regular jelly donuts.
What Is A Paczki?
Paczki originated in Poland during the Middle Ages. At the time of King Augustus III, when French cooks came to Poland, the dough was made lighter and spongier. According to Dobra Bielinski of Delightful Pastries in Chicago, the main differences between typical jelly-filled donuts and paczki are that the paczki dough will bounce right back when you take a bite. There is also less filling and more of that lovely dough. To the Polish people, the dough is the central delight while the filling is an accent.
There are many delicious paczki fillings, from traditional jams like plum and rose hips to fresh strawberries and whipped cream, and even “drunken” versions like those from Delightful Pastries, including Jameson Whiskey with Chocolate Custard, Vodka and Custard with Madagascar Vanilla and Lemon Curd with Moonshine. We think Delightful Pastries makes the best paczki in Chicago. Dobra and her staff have been making over 50,000 paczki each year for Fat Tuesday for Chicagoland fans. Get your order in early so you won’t be disappointed!
Want to learn more about how they’re made just watch this short video of paczki being made at Delightful Pastries below:
In Poland, Paczki Day is generally celebrated on Fat Thursday, the last Thursday before Lent. In the U.S. and other Polish communities, it is often celebrated on Fat Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday) the day before Ash Wednesday begins the Lenten season. The traditional reason for making these rich yeasty dough delights was to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in the household before the Lenten fast, when their consumption was forbidden.
Are You Full Yet?
Taking delight in the joys paczki, some bakeries have held annual paczki-eating contests.
Bennison’s Bakery in Evanston, Illinois has been hosting its Annual Paczki Eating Competition since 2010. Stop by the bakery on Saturday, February 25 at 2pm to watch teams of 2 compete for this years paczki eating prizes! While you’re there be sure to sample Bennison’s king cake, breads and cookies.
Another Chicagoland favorite is Reuters Bakery. For over 85 years they have been making breads, cakes and more on the far west side on Grand Avenue.
They have a full selection of the classic paczki but their strawberry and peach are split in half and stuffed with juicy fresh fruit. If you get there early you’ll see the ladies slicing the fresh strawberries by hand. These little pastries are a bit messy and not the traditional paczki but they sure are tasty.
Finally, for those who’d like to get their paczek (yes, that’s the singular of paczki) as a reward, along with a beer, you might want to enter the Tour de Troit Paczki Run this 5K run in Hamtramck, Michigan is for you! The event attracts thousands of attendees every year so you know you’ll be in good company.
THE QUICK BITE: Poland’s special filled donuts called paczki have made their way into the hearts and hands of pastry lovers around the world. They have become modern taste treats with delicious dough and memorable fillings – even some boozy ones.