|Place of origin||Poland|
|Main ingredient(s)||Dough, grain alcohol, confiture or other sweet filling, powdered sugar, icing or bits of dried orange zest|
Pączki are deep-fried pieces of dough shaped into flattened spheres and filled with confiture or other sweet filling. Pączki are usually covered with powdered sugar, icing or bits of dried orange zest. A small amount of grain alcohol (traditionally, Spiritus) is added to the dough before cooking; as it evaporates, it prevents the absorption of oil deep into the dough.
Although they look like German berliners, North American bismarcks or jelly doughnuts, pączki are made from especially rich dough containing eggs, fats, sugar, and sometimes milk. They feature a variety of fruit and creme fillings and can be glazed, or covered with granulated or powdered sugar. Powidl (stewed plum jam) and wild rose hip jam are traditional fillings, but many others are used as well, including strawberry, Bavarian cream, blueberry, custard, raspberry, and apple.
Pączki have been known in Poland at least since the Middle Ages. Jędrzej Kitowicz has described that during the reign of August III, under the influence of French cooks who came to Poland, pączki dough was improved, so that pączki became lighter, spongier, and more resilient.
Etymology and pronunciation
The Polish word pączki is the plural form of the Polish word pączek [ˈpɔnt͡ʂɛk]. Pączek itself is a diminutive of pąk (English: plant bud). In English, "paczki" serves as both the singular and plural term, though some speakers use "paczkis" for the plural.
Where the term has entered the English language, sometimes the original spelling with the diacritic ą is retained in English language publications, many sources simplify it as paczki, the common pronunciation // (PAWNCH-ki) imitates the Polish pronunciation, though some speakers pronounce the word // or // (PUUNCH-ki or PUNCH-ki).
In Poland, pączki are eaten especially on Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek), the last Thursday prior to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. The traditional reason for making pączki was to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in the house, because their consumption was forbidden by Catholic fasting practices during Lent.
In North America, particularly the large Polish community of Chicagoland, Detroit, and other large cities across the Midwest, Paczki Day is celebrated annually by immigrants and locals alike. The date of this observance merges with that of pre-Lenten traditions of other immigrants (e.g., Pancake Day, Mardi Gras) on Fat Tuesday. With its sizable Polish population, Chicagoans celebrate the festival on both Fat Thursday and Fat Tuesday, and also often eat pączki on Casimir Pulaski Day. In Buffalo, Toledo, Cleveland, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, South Bend, and Windsor, Pączki Day is celebrated on Fat Tuesday.
The Pączki Day celebrations in some areas are even larger than many celebrations for St. Patrick's Day. In Hamtramck, Michigan, an enclave of Detroit, there is an annual Pączki Day (Shrove Tuesday) Parade, which has gained a devoted following. In the Metro Detroit area, it is so widespread throughout the region that many bakeries have line-ups for pączki on Paczki Day.
In some areas, Pączki Day is celebrated with pączki-eating contests. The eating contest in Evanston, Illinois, started in 2010, and is held on the weekend before Fat Tuesday, while Hamtramck's contest is held on the holiday.
These pastries have become popular in the United States as a result of Polish immigrants and marketing by the bakery industry. They are particularly popular in areas where there is a large concentration of Polish immigrants. In Philadelphia, the Boston area, the Detroit area, Greater Cleveland, Chicago and Northern Illinois, Northwest Indiana and Southeastern Wisconsin, they can regularly be found in supermarkets.
In other Slavonic countries, a meal synonymous with pączki appears in the local cuisines whose name is derived from the same etymology as pączki:
- Russia: ponchiki (пончики), singular ponchik (пончик); or, especially in St. Petersburg, pyshki (пышки). Ponchiki are a very popular sweet doughnut, with many fast and simple recipes available in Russian cookbooks for making them at home as a breakfast or coffee pastry.
- Ukraine: pampushky (пампушки)
In other countries neighboring Poland similar deserts are called:
- Armenia: ponchik is also enjoyed, including the typical deep fried dough and custard filling
- Czech Republic: koblihy, the Czech word for doughnuts
- Lithuania: spurgos, the Lithuanian word for doughnuts
- Slovakia: šišky, the Slovak word for doughnuts
- Strybel, Robert & Strybel, Maria (2005). Polish Heritage Cookery. Hippocrene. p. 270.
- "Pączki? Hard to say, culinary Lenten treat made by nuns". Catholic News Service. Retrieved November 23, 2009.
- "Paczki Day in Hamtramck".
- Jewish Language Review. Association for the Study of Jewish Languages. 1987. p. 426.
- "paczki". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.). Houghton Mifflin. 2003. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
- "paczki". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
- Mary Ann Winkowski; David Christopher; David Powers (9 October 2013). Beyond Delicious: The Ghost Whisperer's Cookbook: More than 100 Recipes from the Dearly Departed. Clerisy Press. p. 291. ISBN 978-1-57860-499-9.
- Barbara Ogrodowska (1996). Święta polskie: tradycja i obyczaj (in Polish). Alfa. p. 124.
- "Fat Tuesday Can Be Paczki Pandemonium". Southfield, MI: WWJ-TV. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
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