Paczki: if you know, you know (if you don’t, it’s pronounced POONCH-ki)! The spherical, glossy, fried pastry with a butt where the filling goes in (too much?), how beloved it is. We decided to launch Mitten Kitchen Witches for Paczki Day 2021 because what better way to kick off a celebration of seasonally-driven Michigan cuisine than the lardy fat bomb that the Polish people blessed our state with?
Other places have their own Fat Tuesday / Mardi Gras traditions, but in Michigan it’s almost impossible to get away from this tubby donut once February rolls around. Traditionally, Polish kitchen witches made these delicacies to use up their butter, lard, sugar, and eggs in anticipation of the austere Lenten season (one wonders what they ate afterwards).
Michiganders go nuts for the thing, often forming 4am lines in the Polish stronghold of Hamtramck. Every year when I was a kid, my dad would stop by Kroger’s (yes, with an “s”) on his way home from work with a dozen paczki (no “s”). To be honest, growing up I didn’t really understand the hype because:
- I’m not Polish, and;
- I wasn’t into the gloopy, sickly sweet pie fillings and custards that made up the insides (also, I’ll take a bagel over a donut 9.5/10 times – RIP, Detroit Institute of Bagels).
Also, it was a while before I came to appreciate how paczki are part of a tradition that makes our region special, as well as how to consistently spell the word correctly.
Paczki Come In All Flavors
In more recent years (on February 17, 2015 to be exact – see image below), I’ve discovered that there are several filling options that I can get behind.
Talk about a revelation! It seems that lately EVERYONE has gotten on board the paczki train – it’s become a cross-cultural marvel. And if you know me, you know I *love* a riff on tradition. I’ve discovered that cannoli paczki exist at Cantoro Italian Market, there are peanut butter and jelly versions at New Palace Bakery, cappuccino cream at Tringali’s Italian Bakery, and – stick with me – American Coney Island has Coney dog paczki. There are also vegan and gluten-free versions for all to enjoy!
I’ll let you in on a little secret. These sweet treats don’t disappear the minute Ash Wednesday rolls around, and neither do the bakeries that fry them up. When travel opens up again, visitors to Metro Detroit can check out locally-owned Polish bakeries and snag their own, even if they are “out-of-season.”
Try Our Paczki Sour Cocktail
My co-witch Christi is one of those people who set a 9am alarm to grab the paczki-flavored vodka from Detroit City Distillery. This was for good reason – it sold out in 22 minutes! For your imbibing pleasure, she’s worked up a cocktail recipe for you to enjoy paczki flavors from the comfort of your home.
So, what’s your favorite flavor? Let us know in the comments below, and Happy Paczki Day 2021! Who knows, maybe I’ll actually try the prune version this year.
(This goober is the author at the finish line of the 2020 Paczki Run right before the world turned upside-down.)