Throughout history, the Pols have been incredible innovators when it comes to everything including cuisine, the sciences and even hair styles! But this time of year, especially in the Midwest, folks begin clamoring for one of Poland’s all-time mega hits, the Paczki. Pronounced "Pounch key” (or like me, do you say Pack ski?) these wonderful little jelly-filled gems pack the bakery store shelves as well as the shelves of the any self-respecting grocery store right around the time of Lent. They can be topped with powdered sugar, glaze or both. But no matter the style they have a rich, sweet history both here and abroad.
For accuracy reasons, it should be noted about here that the word “paczki” is technically a plural form of “paczek”. But since this little Polish wonder has become so famous in its plural form of paczki, we’re going with that although we understand it to technically be the incorrect term…. Try to find any bakery box or store advertisement this time of year with the word “paczek”.
The tradition of the Paczki began with roots in Catholicism. For centuries, practicing Catholics all across the globe have adhered to the rules of Lenten fasting which include 40 consecutive when they give up luxuries representative of Christ’s 40 day journey in the desert and ensuing sacrifices. In Poland, they were invented as a way to use up whatever leftover sugar, lard, butter and eggs were around before Lent. Far from those days when the Paczki was filled with pork fat and fried in lard, the current day Paczki dough is very rich containing eggs, fats, sugar yeast and at times, milk and a small bit of grain alcohol to prevent the oil from penetrating too far into the dough. These days, the Paczki’s are deep-fried pieces of dough, filled with some type of sweet filling. Many times, Paczki’s are mistaken for a Bismarck, jelly donut or even the German Berliner.
So, is the Paczki a breakfast food or a dessert? Like so many foods here in the United States, its evolved into being whatever you want it to be whenever you want it. One thing it can’t be confused with though is a health food. Depending on the filling, these hockey puck sized indulgences pack somewhere between 300-500 calories, 15 grams of fat, 50 grams of carbs, 16 grams of sugar and void of vitamins A and C.
And just how long would it take the average person to burn-off one of these tasty treats? Here are some general times: