Monday, February 27, 2012

Fat Tuesday: Paczki for Poland

"Fat Tuesday" is a day that emphasizes one of my sins: gluttony. I mean, I get to partake in eating everything and anything I can before I give something up for Lent. This year, though, I learned of a Polish tradition that I clung to in all of it's sugary, flaky, gluttonous deliciousness. The Paczki. (Pronounced: Poonch-key)

Paczki Day is usually a "Fat Thursday" type of thing in Poland, but has transferred through immigration and love of food to being incorporated into our "Fat Tuesday." This is almost a quite literal thing. In the 1600s in Poland the paczkis were made out of extra lards and meats that were going to be given up for Lent, the Chicago Tribune reported. Now, though, they're much more Americanized, sweetened and not just for the polish.

I'm grateful that I read the entirety of the Chicago Tribune article after I had eaten my paczkis. The explained how the batter is made out of three kinds of fat: butter, margarine and lard. It's a yeast-based dough that is deep fried in vegetable oil until golden brown.

But... it was totally worth it.

I made a trip in my hour between classes to one of my favorite Chicago Bakeries, Dinkel's, to stand in line and get four paczkis to share with my brother later Fat Tuesday Night. It was worth each minute, running to the "L" train only to miss it and walking into my writing course with baked goods.

The doughnut-like pastry is soft, light and has a beautiful sugary texture. It's this softness that makes you feel less guilty while devouring the entirety of a paczki. I mean, I couldn't help myself and ate a whole one with custard filling and chocolate frosting. The custard was smooth, creamy and added a density to the light pastry that holds it. The chocolate was a great touch of flavor and sweetness without overpowering the textures that make up the paczki. This was the same experience in the double chocolate, which has chocolate filling and chocolate frosting. It had a great combination of sweet and the soft pastry to not overwhelm your sweet tooth, but leave you craving more.

I also got a strawberry and a cinnamon-apple that were absolutely delicious. The strawberry had a typical kind of strawberry compote/filling that gooed out with that first bite. It had sugar sprinkled on top to go along with the natural sweetness and bring out the flavors. I gladly had sticky hands after picking at this one. The cinnamon-apple was impressive as well. The filling was almost like an apple pie filling, with a great mix of spices and that syrupy mix along with the actual apple chunks. The light sugar coating on the pastry also made you remember that it was a dessert and perfect for Fat Tuesday.

Dinkel's was one of the easiest places to go, for me, to get the paczkis, but I really want to try some at a real polish bakery. Next year. Or after Easter? Who knows. But Dinkel's did have a great selection of flavors in addition to the four I got. Some of them included: pineapple, cherry, raspberry, lemon, plum, apricot and custard.

If you're looking for paczkis I found the chicagoist's article helpful - my ex-boss sent it to me when she found out about my hunt. And even if you have to wait a whole year to try them, give them a shot. They are worth the calories, sugar intake and possible gluttony.

- Mollie

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