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|Dough, grain alcohol, confiture or other sweet filling, powdered sugar, icing or bits of dried orange zest|
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A pączek is a deep-fried piece of dough shaped into a flattened sphere 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 berliners (German name), bismarcks (south-central Canada/north-central US name), and jelly doughnuts (generic name; sometimes "jam donut"), 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. Powidła (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.
In English, the common pronunciation // imitates the Polish pronunciation, but some speakers pronounce the word // or //. The Polish word "pączek" itself is a diminutive of pąk ("plant bud"). Pączki is the plural form of the Polish word pączek [ˈpɔnt͡ʂɛk], though many English speakers use paczki as singular and paczkis as plural.
In Poland, pączki are eaten especially on the first day of Ostatki, Tłusty Czwartek, also known as the Fat Thursday (the last Thursday before Ash Wednesday). 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 the large Polish community of Chicago, and in other large cities across the Midwest, Pączki Day is celebrated annually by immigrants and locals alike. In Buffalo, Toledo, Cleveland, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, South Bend, and Windsor, Pączki Day is more commonly celebrated on Fat Tuesday instead of Tłusty Czwartek. Chicago celebrates the festival on both Fat Thursday and Fat Tuesday, due to its sizable Polish population. Chicagoans also often eat pączki on Casimir Pulaski 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 Pączki Day. The Pączki Day celebrations in some areas are even larger than many celebrations for St. Patrick's 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.
Pączki in the United States
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 the Boston area, Detroit area, 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 (Russian: пончики, plural form of пончик, ponchik) or pyshki (Russian: пышки, especially in St. Petersburg). 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 (Ukrainian: 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 and Strybel, Maria. Polish Heritage Cookery, Hippocrene Books (2005). p. 270.
- Paczki? Hard to say, culinary Lenten treat made by nuns. Catholic News Service. Retrieved November 23, 2009.
- Pączki Day in Hamtramck
- pączki Dictionary.com. Retrieved November 23, 2009.
- "Fat Tuesday Can Be Paczki Pandemonium". CBS Detroit. CBS Detroit (WWJ). Retrieved 21 February 2012.
- Recipes for Russian and other ponchiki (Russian).
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