Chicago’s Polish-American community celebrates Paczki Day today. Paczki (pronunciation varies a bit, but my kin say poonch-key) are basically jelly donuts. Bakeries claim the dough is special for paczki, but I have been unable to detect a difference. The important thing is that Paczki Day gives you permission to come home with an entire box full of jelly donuts. Which is, of course, how you celebrate Paczki Day, by eating as many donuts as you can get your hands on.
In anticipation of this most sacred day, Bryan, my mom, and I went to “the old neighborhood” to pick up our paczki from Weber’s Bakery (you never make paczki at home). Weber’s has been serving Chicago for decades and is particularly popular with south-side Poles. My family has been shopping there since before I was born. The week leading up to fat Tuesday is always mayhem at Weber’s (both parking lots were full!), but that is part of the fun. I counted 17 sales women behind the counter!
Happy Paczki Day everyone! I hope you are celebrating, wherever you are.
March 8th, 2011 at 7:34 am
On my way to get mine – it’s one of my favorite days of the year!
My Kitchen in the Rockies says:
March 8th, 2011 at 8:05 am
Why is this bakery not in my neighborhood?
We Germans have a similar tradition. Look at my post:
March 8th, 2011 at 8:23 am
In Austria today is Faschings Dienstag (last day of carnival) and we eat something similar called krapfen, the poppyseed up there looks great, love that stuff.
March 8th, 2011 at 8:26 am
Yes, you do make them at home. Or at least my polish grandmother does, and those are the only ones worth eating in my book. Any store-bough Paczki is a terrible imitation because it *is* a jelly-donut. Real Paczki (or at least my family’s real Paczki) are denser, fried in lard (yes, lard) and thus have a different flavor and texture, and are traditionally filled with a prune. It is more appetizing than it sounds. Enjoy your paczki of whatever variety :)
March 8th, 2011 at 8:46 am
Those are some fine looking doughnuts. I’m curious about that poppyseed filling–I’ve never seen anything like it. What’s it like? And are these paczki available all year around? Weber’s neighbourhood is little out of my way, but I’d like to make the trek at some point.
March 8th, 2011 at 9:30 am
Maria- In Chicago the tradition is to buy them from your favorite bakery. I am sure your grandmother’s paczki are great and very authentic, the rest of us will have to settle on these terrible imitations. :)
Katie- The filling is a paste made out of poppyseeds. It is delicious and is pretty popular in Chicago bakeries, you’ll also find it in coffee cakes and sweet rolls. Solo brand still makes a canned version, I think. I am in the process of trying to figure out how to make it at home. Will keep you posted. Call Weber’s and ask about what they have year round. I think they keep the custard and the jelly in the case all year, but I’m not sure. If you make the trek down, you can go to Vito and Nicks for pizza!
March 8th, 2011 at 10:33 am
Fastnachts Day is very popular here in eastern Pennsylvania. Many churches still make them for today as a fundraiser, and they are usually plain with powdered sugar or made in the form of a stick and glazed. Poppyseed and nut strudels are very popular, especially around Christmas. I’ll be interested when you perfect your own poppyseed filling as I’ve only used either Solo or a homemade one that I can sometimes get at our farmers market.
March 8th, 2011 at 10:41 am
would love to get my hands on one with poppyseed filling! yum!!
March 8th, 2011 at 10:55 am
That is just too awesome!
March 8th, 2011 at 11:41 am
I agree it’s awesome, but it’s really not fair!! I’m supposed to be concentrating on other things – now have visions of these delights in my head (unobtainable in good quality here in San Diego) (at least to my knowledge)…..
March 8th, 2011 at 12:45 pm
Oh my god. These look awesome. I need to find someone with a car and force them to take me here! It’s actually not SOO far from Hyde Park! Maybe next time I go to Midway…Hmmm….
Also, I think it is so sweet and adorable that you and Bryan went with your mom! How adorable!
kari (tanglewood baked goods) says:
March 8th, 2011 at 12:57 pm
Sweet, I love reading about other families’ traditions around food (improvised, authentic, or otherwise). Thanks for sharing! That poppyseed paczki looks killer, and I’d love to get my hands on an apricot-filled one.
Dawn (KitchenTravels) says:
March 8th, 2011 at 1:42 pm
Seriously? I have never even heard of these. But now that I’ve seen them, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say I’d be willing to fly to Chicago TONIGHT for that poppyseed version. Of course, it would help if I actually had some money for a plane ticket. And maybe a few days off work. Other than that, I’m TOTALLY THERE!
March 8th, 2011 at 1:59 pm
It was really nice to read about “Paczki Day” this morning, it really made my day better. Actually, in Poland we celebrated it last Thursday (it is called Fat Thursday, quite easy to guess why). The idea is just the same – to eat as much paczki as you can. Some people make them at home, especially during the carnival, but rather only crazy food bloggers like me or those who have much to much time. If you know where to go, the bought ones are pretty good. The most traditional ones (at least in my region) are filled with rose-petal jam, but the most common with strawberry jam rather. As Maria wrote, the very traditional version was fried in lard, but I do not think many people do that now.
I know I wrote too much, but I coudn’y resist, when you wrote about something Polish! Happy Paczki Day then!
Lisa (dinner party) says:
March 8th, 2011 at 2:16 pm
Great photos, Tim.
March 8th, 2011 at 2:34 pm
That is great, Karolina! I am glad to hear about the celebration in Poland. I guess after coming to the states, we adopted the “Fat Tuesday” tradition. I bet your homemade paczki are great! We can sometimes find the rose petal jelly in bakeries here, but they are rare. Happy Paczki Day!
Dan & Craig(Paczki Pirates) says:
March 8th, 2011 at 3:00 pm
We picked up 13 dozen, and some King’s cake. Absolutely the best!!!! We distribute to our customers in the wetern suburbs of Chicago who love them. The line is long, but moves. I counted 20 girls behind the counter. We’ve been doing this run for a number of years and well worth the effort to get ther early .
March 8th, 2011 at 3:42 pm
That is amazing, your customers must love you!
March 8th, 2011 at 4:57 pm
I just moved back to the Chicago area last week, but (quite unfortunately) hadn’t heard of paczki growing up. I saw them at the Swedish Bakery in Andersonville this weekend, though, and my curiosity was piqued—so glad to see your post on the subject today! Enjoy this delicious holiday. :)
Dan (Paczki Pirate) says:
March 8th, 2011 at 5:48 pm
Next time your on Archer ave…try Obbie’s pizza right down the street. I would be interested in your comments vs Vitos & Nicks. I think its better…Also, try Joe and Franks for fresh polish and Italian sausage, on Archer and Harlem, right next door to Webers. Delicious and you think your in Warsaw at the counter! With Portillos right around the corner on Harlem, I think its the best local neighborhood street of fresh popular Chicago style food and eating in the city…Dan
March 8th, 2011 at 6:12 pm
i was discussing “poonch-key” with my friend who celebrates & she said that her family tradition is always to purchase …i would like to surprise her one day with a version of….do you have a great poppy seed recipe?
happy fat tuesday tim!
March 8th, 2011 at 6:49 pm
Found a recipe for poppyseed filling, but it sounds a little different from the picture.
This part sounds decadent to me:
“Some people prefer to omit the butter and to cook the ground poppy seeds with 2 cups milk and the honey until the mixture is thick. The other ingredients are then stirred in.”
March 8th, 2011 at 10:37 pm
Hi Linda! So, it looks like Alex shared a link for a poppyseed filling recipe. I have been researching this and am planning on coming up with my own poppyseed paste, but I can sometimes get lazy so you better turn to recipes like the one he shared for inspiration. (thanks, Alex!)
Dan, Thanks for the recommendations, I will definitely give Obbie’s and Joe& Franks. All sound great.
March 8th, 2011 at 11:09 pm
We celebrated paczki day here in Seattle too, my fave is the raspberry filling!!
March 9th, 2011 at 6:11 am
Oh, man, you guys are killing me! When I lived in St. Louis, I eagerly anticipated paczki every year. Had to switch over to king cake when we moved to the New Orleans area. Now we’re near Paris, and though I hate to whine about it, the fried dough things here aren’t doing it for me. Must track down a Polish bakery next year…
March 9th, 2011 at 8:32 pm
These WILL be mine next year! I live on the Northwest Side and have been searching for a good paczki for a looooooong time :)
March 17th, 2011 at 12:50 pm
Weber’s baked goods have been a tradition in my family for over 50 years. The rye bread and kolacky are fantastic, and are staples during the holidays. Love your post, and happy to find your blog :)
Trish Mikos says:
April 1st, 2011 at 1:11 pm
You went to the right place. Poppyseed and prune are true Polish paczki.
April 1st, 2011 at 1:45 pm
Very cool post! I’m a Polish Canadian living in Edmonton (second largest Polish population in Canada aside from Toronto). I love paczki!!!
Pam Gereau says:
October 30th, 2011 at 1:50 pm
I have tears in my eyes at the memory of this bakery. My grandparents lived a block away (on Nordica) and we would always walk there whenever we came from Michigan for a visit. The kolaches were always at the tip top of my list, apricot and prune being my favorites. Oh the flaky, buttery goodness!
My grandparents have been gone since the 1990’s and I rarely come to Chicago but oh the sweet memories! Thank you for bringing them back.