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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, December 2

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Random Sun Feb 25 2007

If you didn’t know what a paczki was but ate one last Tuesday...

In celebration of Fat Tuesday, (otherwise known as Mardi Gras — the literal French translation) people all over Chicago were consuming paczki — pronounced poooonch-key. What is a paczki you ask? Oh come on... really? They were the inhabitants of the unmarked white pastry boxes people carried on the train Tuesday. Those Polish "donuts" were also the reason for the smiles and enthusiasm surrounding the staff break room. There is just something about these little nuggets of sweet sweetness that is completely devoid from your common crueler.

Paczki are baseball sized fried pieces of heaven filled with various decadent flavors like custard, raspberry, apricot, prune or even rose water. The tasty innards of the paczki are accompanied with a topping that not only compliments the flavors but also serves as an identifier for those working in the pastry shop. Now, I know you're thinking "donut" but trust me; it's so much more, and in more ways than just taste. Paczki are proudly the highest calorie fried piece of dough you can buy in a bakery.

According to Baking and Patisserie Chef John Montanile from the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, the higher calories are from additional butter, sugar and eggs that are added to paczki batter, you know — before it's fried. However this higher calorie and fat content serves a purpose as traditionally the reason for paczki was to use up all of the lard, sugar and fruit before Lent. A typical paczki packs around 400-500 calories and 25-30 grams of fat, but this may vary and it could be more! Since 3,500 calories equals a pound, I don't think anyone could gain weight from eating one but stuff a dozen down your gullet and that's a different story. For those of us concerned, it is possible to request half sized paczki to celebrate in moderation.

Although I do not have Polish roots I grew up eating these every year in Southeast Michigan. In fact, Hamtramck, a neighborhood in Detroit holds the nation's only Paczki Day Parade. Anyhow, I say forget about the calories for one day and enjoy. Everything works in moderation and once yearly, I would say, translates into "moderate." Just don't make a habit out of it or you might turn into something that resembles a paczki.

Remember to put your order in early next year and pick up a box.

Paczki in Chicago:
Oak Mill Bakery: I had these last week (yes plural) and they are really good.
Alliance Bakery and Café in Wicker Park.
Dinkels Bakery in Lakeview. These guys have an excellent king cake as well.

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Matt / February 25, 2007 9:38 PM

mmm... paczkis

Mary / February 26, 2007 4:18 PM

By the way, paczki is the plural form of the word. Singular is paczek (pronounced pohn-chek or poon-chek).

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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