Wikipedia entry on the pączki, including Chicago-specific information.
I am somewhat confused at when Pączki Day fell. Traditionally in Poland it is Fat Thursday, but since Americans have a lot of Fat Tuesday celebrations, in some cities here that becomes Pączki Day. It still seems like Chicago celebrated it yesterday, but Wikipedia does say that "Chicago celebrates both Fat Thursday and Fat Tuesday, due to its sizable Polish population." It made me laugh too. If you had pączki too often, sizable would definitely be the word.
Yesterday morning I set off for my culinary adventure by getting directions from Google Maps, because they have a walking and public transit version. As a result I walked 12 blocks including over the river in 18 degree weather instead of just getting on the train and transferring which is what I did on the way back. Well, once I got unlost. I ended up going across the river to the west instead of the north, which probably only makes sense if you know Chicago and are as directionally challenged as me, but I found my way back to the conference (an hour later than I'd planned!).
There are many places in Chicago to have a pączki, but I wanted to go to the Polish neighborhood to get something authentic! I'd had a jelly doughnut grocery store version some years back in Indiana, and while that was good enough to make me crave them when I moved to the south, I wondered if I wasn't getting the full experience.
Inside the Pasieka Bakery, all the customers ahead of me spoke Polish. The women at the counter spoke Polish, and they asked me what I wanted in Polish. I think we can determine that is fairly authentic! They had a bunch of different kinds - rose, prune, blueberry, raspberry, custard, and apricot.
So what is the verdict? Are these "magical mystery doughnuts" worth a trek across town in the bleakest of winter? Of course for me, the adventure is sometimes the best part. But I would say they aren't just doughnuts. The bread is denser than usual doughnut fare, and the fillings are interesting. I was just happy to be back in the midwest when pączki were in season.
Categories: Bakery, Bread, Paczki