2013 was definitely the year of the donut. In Chicago, we saw the continued popularity of gourmet doughnut shops like Glazed and Infused, Do-Rite Donuts, Firecakes and Doughnut Valut, offering the fried treats in a whole host of innovative, decadent flavors like Candied Maple Bacon, Butterscotch Praline, Red Velvet and Mocha Glazed with Nibs. And, of course, we can't forget the variations of the trademarked "Cronut" that local bakeries like La Boulangerie, West Town Bakery and Alliance Bakery offered as well. But, to me, the day that really puts the donut in the spotlight is Paczki Day.
This year, Paczki Day will be celebrated Thursday, February 27 (Fat Thursday) through Tuesday, March 4 (Fat Tuesday). For the holiday, you can stock up on the deep-fried, filled donuts at several bakeries located across Chicago. Just be sure to make your paczki-purchasing plans now since the donuts are very popular, with lines forming early on Paczki Day (Tuesday, March 4). In fact, some bakeries request that you place all orders in advance.
A little more about 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 that marks the end of Carnival, and enjoyed up until Ash Wednesday.
Given the large number of Polish people who live in Chicago, the city celebrates Paczki Day on Fat Tuesday and Fat Thursday.
Where to buy paczki in Chicago
Given the popularity of paczki in Chicago, it's always a good idea to order them ahead of time. Not sure how to pronounce "paczki?" I've always heard them pronounced as "punch-key." But, no matter how you say it, you're sure to be rewarded with a scrumptous, cream or jelly-filled treat.
Here are some of the top spots to buy paczki in the Chicago area:
1. Bennison's Bakery
1000 Davis St., Evanston (north suburbs)
Bennison's Bakery in north suburban Evanston will be ready to take your order for paczki starting Monday, February 24. The only hard thing will be deciding which flavors to buy. Their round, sugar-coated, filled pastries are available in flavors like prune, apricot, cheese, raspberry, custard and apple. You also can choose from decadent flavors like fresh strawberry with whipped cream, praline chocolate mousse, and fresh banana cream.
2. Delightful Pastries
1710 N. Wells St. (Old Town)
5927 W. Lawrence Ave. (Jefferson Park)
131 N. Clinton Ave. at Chicago French Market (West Loop)
Dobra Bielinski, pastry chef and co-owner of Delightful Pastries, keeps her three Chicago bakeries stocked with paczki all year long, and whips up even more varieties to offer for Paczki Day. This year, you can choose from paczki in a variety of flavors, including custard topped with chocolate fudge, fresh strawberry and whipped cream, apricot jelly, plum butter, raspberry jelly, rose petal jelly, cannoli and passion fruit jelly. Delightful Pastries also will sample its popular "drunken" paczki in flavors like vodka and vanilla bean custard, Jameson Whiskey with chocolate custard, and lemon curd with moonshine. Delightful Pastries asks that orders be placed by Sunday, March 2.
3. Oak Mill Bakery
2204 W. North Ave. (Wicker Park)
5753 W. Belmont Ave. (Belmont Central)
On any given day, you can head to any of Oak Mill Bakery's six Chicago-area locations to take your pick of a wide variety of paczki. You can choose from paczki filled with fruits like raspberry, strawberry and blueberry, or select ones filled with custard and lemon poppyseed, among other flavors.
4. Racine Bakery
6216 S. Archer Ave., Chicago (Garfield Ridge)
Starting Thursday, February 27, you can come into Racine Bakery to load up on paczki in a variety of flavors. On the menu this year are flavors like raspberry, blueberry, prune, custard, lemon, cheese, poppyseed, and strawberry and whipped cream.
5. Weber's Bakery
7055 W. Archer Ave. (Garfield Ridge)
For five days, you can get your fill of paczki from Weber's Bakery. The bakery will be offering 12 varieties of paczki Thursday, March 27 through Sunday March 2 and on Tuesday, March 4. The varieties include Custard with Chocolate Top, Custard with Powder Top, Chocolate Custard with Cocoa Top, Strawberry Rolled in Sugar, Apricot Rolled in Sugar, and Poppyseed with White Fondant Top. Word has it that the Cheese with White Fondant Top variety are usually the first ones to sell out! You can place your paczki order with Weber's Bakery now (minimum of 6 paczki per order).
Are you planning to purchase paczki for Fat Thursday and/or Fat Tuesday? Where do you plan to buy your paczki? What are your favorite flavors? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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