Dobra Bielinski, pastry chef and co-owner of Delightful Pastries, keeps her three Chicago bakeries stocked with paczki (traditional Polish doughnuts) all year long. On any given day, you can choose strawberry and whipped cream, raspberry jelly or custard topped with chocolate fudge paczki. Or, you can sample "drunken" paczki in scrumptious varieties like vodka and vanilla bean custard, Patron XO Cocoa with chocolate custard, and orange liqueur and passion fruit jelly. Lucky for us, with Paczki Day (also known as Fat Tuesday) coming up on Tuesday, February 12, you can start to find even more varieties of paczki at Delightful Pastries to indulge in for the holiday.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Dobra about what's on tap (or rather in the oven...) for Paczki Day at her bakeries this year - and boy does it all sound delectable.
Indulge in Paczki for Paczki Day
In Poland, the tradition of making paczki stems from the need for people to use up all of the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in their house before Lent. Paczki, made from these ingredients, are eaten at the traditional Polish Fat Thursday feast, which marks the end of Carnival, and enjoyed up until Ash Wednesday.
The number and variety of paczki available at each Delightful Pastries location will greatly increase starting on Fat Thursday when, as Dobra told me, "it's like insanity at the bakery." The insanity will manifest itself in the sheer number of people who line up to get their paczki - especially on Paczki Day.
Plan Ahead for Paczki Day
At Delightful Pastries, the lines will start to form on "Fat Thursday," when people will want to be sure to have ample amounts of paczki to serve at that evening's feast. The steady stream of customers will continue as people come into the bakeries to pick up paczki to bring to Mardi Gras parties over the weekend and to the office on Monday and Tuesday. And that's even before the real paczki frenzy hits on Paczki Day.
On Paczki day, the Delightful Pastries bakery in Jefferson Park (5927 W. Lawrence Avenue, Chicago), which houses the company's kitchens and prepares pastries for the other locations, will open at the 5 a.m. You can expect the Old Town bakery and cafe (1710 N. Wells Street, Chicago) to open at 6:30 a.m. and the bakery at the Chicago French Market (131 N. Clinton Avenue, Chicago) to open for business - and paczki - at 7 a.m.
Want to avoid the lines on Packzi Day? Then be sure to get your paczki orders into Delightful Pastries by Friday, February 8.
What's Your Favorite Kind of Paczki?
For Paczki Day, Dobra and her team at Delightful Pastries will offer more than 13 varieties of paczki. Traditional varieties enjoyed in Poland - and the large community of Polish people here in Chicago - include plum butter and rose petal jelly. Some of the most popular paczki varieties sold at Delightful Pastries are raspberry jelly, fresh strawberry and whipped cream, and custard paczki topped with chocolate fudge.
Gourmet flavors being offered at Delightful Pastries this year include raspberry chocolate jam and passion fruit jelly. Other scrumptious varieties include fresh strawberry, fresh strawberry and custard, and apricot jelly - and the "drunken" packzi as well.
My sons and I sampled the orange liqueur and passion fruit jelly, which was amazing to say the least. Not a crumb was left on any of our plates.
Try Your Hand at Making Your Own Paczki at Delightful Pastries
For anyone who prefers to make their own paczki (with some expert help), Dobra is offering a paczki class at the Delightful Pastries bakery in Jefferson Park on Sunday, February 10 at 2 p.m. During the class you'll be able to fry and glaze paczki, and make chocolate and raspberry jam fillings.
The cost for the class is $50 per student. There's room for a maximum of 12 people. So be sure to reserve your spot now. The paczki class is sure to a popular one, packed with people who want to treat their friends and families with "homemade" paczki created under Dobra's watchful eye.
You can find more information on the paczki class - and other classes offered at Delightful Pastries - here.
Delight in a Visit to Delightful Pastries
Delightful Pastries is owned and operated by Dobra and her mother. They opened their first location in Jefferson Park 15 years ago. Together, Dobra and her mother follow European baking traditions handed down from generation to generation to make their pastries, cakes and baked goods.
According to Dobra, the secret to their success is using only the finest local quality ingredients and taking the time to make it all by hand. I would have to add that it's also got to be the constant flow of new product ideas that seem to be swirling around Dobra's head. During our conversation, she rattled off no less than 10 baked goods and prepared items that she'd like to offer at her bakeries and cafe - and they all sound amazing.
Right now, I'm totally focused on Paczki Day, and have my calendar marked for when I need to get my paczki order into Delightful Pastries. But, then I'm on to a new mission - to sample more of the wonderful pastries at Delightful Pastries.
Do you plan to make or purchase paczki for Paczki Day? What are your favorite varieties? When does your family typically enjoy them? What other ways do you plan to celebrate Mardi Gras or Paczki Day? Please share your stories in the comments below.