Updated February 2022
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 pronounce like Poonch-Key, they are spongy, round-filled donuts, richer than regular jelly donuts.
The Lenten season begins this year with Fat Tuesday on March 1st followed by Ash Wednesday the next day.
What Is A 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 difference 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 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. And our very favorite apricot jelly – with Dobra’s hand-created delicious filling.
This family-owned Chicago bakery has been creating tasty treats for more than 20 years. They use only the finest local ingredients they can find and you immediately taste the difference – no skrimping here.
We think Delightful Pastries makes the best paczki in Chicago. Dobra and her staff have been making over 50,000 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.
More Paczki in Chicago
Another Chicagoland favorite is Reuters Bakery. For over 85 years they have been making bread, cakes, and more on the far west side of 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.
The Rolling Pin, Madison, Wisconsin
In Madison, if you’re looking for paczki your selection may not be as plentiful but you can find some tasty paczki. Try one of our local favorites The Rolling Pin. It’s a European bakery that’s actually in Fitchburg (a small suburb just south of Madison). If you’re a Good Trouble fan you will recognize Fitchburg as the hometown of one of the characters. They have some pretty authentic tasting paczki and in quite a few varieties too.
We also like the paczki from Grebe’s Bakery in Milwaukee. We haven’t had the good fortune to get to the bakery in MKE but our local grocer Metcalfe’s saves us the trip and brings lots of Grebe bakery goods in their stores – especially around the holidays and Paczki Day is no exception. You have to get there early before they’re all gone.
Where ever you pick you a plumb delicious paczki enjoy it. You’ll discover why so many people indulge in these sweet treats every year on Fat Tuesday or Fat Thursday.
This year we’ll be scouring the streets of Cascais, Estoril, and Lisbon looking for our Fat Tuesday menu treats. Stay tuned for what we discover here in Portugal.
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.
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Updated February 2021