Paczki: What Are They And Why Is The Midwest Going Nuts Over Them?

Pączki are deep-fried pieces of dough shaped into flattened spheres and filled with confiture or other sweet filling. The Polish donuts are usually covered with powdered sugar, icing, or bits of dried orange zest. Paczki are Polish doughnuts that are wildly popular this time of year.

The Paczki Polish doughnuts are favorites in regions with large Polish and Polish-American populations, such as Detroit and Chicago. Many folks in those areas, of Polish descent or not, have been bracing themselves for Fat Tuesday, aka Paczki Day. The New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration of lively and delectable excess has spilled over into the Midwest in the form of the delicious fried treat. Traditionally, Polish populations enjoy the donuts in preparation for the onset of Lent.

paczki donuts

Paczki donuts are typically full of some type of sweet filling or jelly. The Polish doughnuts reportedly draw lines around the block this time in the days before Ash Wednesday. A small amount of grain alcohol, traditionally, Spiritus, added to the dough before cooking. The booze evaporates in the heat, preventing the absorption of oil deep into the dough. The Polish word pączki is the plural form of the Polish word pączek.

Polish donuts

The Polish donuts resemble the likes of German berliners dougnuts, North American Bismarcks, and standard jelly doughnuts. But Pączki doughnuts are made from especially rich dough which contains eggs, fats, sugar, yeast, and milk – depending upon the recipe. In addition to the variety of fruit and creme fillings used in the Polish doughnuts, the Paczki can also be glazed, or covered with granulated or powdered sugar. Powidl (stewed plum jam) and wild rose hip jam[are traditional fillings, but strawberry jelly, Bavarian cream, blueberry, custard, raspberry, and apple are used in the sweet treats as well.

ash wednesday

Pączki were made in Poland at least since the Middle Ages. During the reign of August III, French cooks enhanced the dough used in the Polish donuts – making them more resilient, more spongy, and lighter.

The Pączki Day celebrations in some cities are reportedlyeven larger than many celebrations for St. Patrick’s Day. In Hamtramck, Michigan, a Detroit suburb, there is an annual Pączki Day – Shrove Tuesday, parade. In some areas with a significant Polish population, Pączki Day is celebrated with pączki-eating contests. The contest in Evanston, Illinois started in 2010, and is one of the largest such Polish doughnut eating contests to date.

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[Images via: Wikipedia and Shutterstock.com]