Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Happy Paczki Day!

Around here, today is Pączki Day!

A pączki is a delicious fried 'Polish doughnut' filled with a wide variety of fruit or custard choices. Any other day they might be called a Bismarck.

But a true pączki-lover will tell you that a Bismarck could never be a pączki. Pączki are made with a much richer dough.

In Poland, pączki are eaten on Fat Thursday or Tłusty Czwartek. The last six days of carnival season from Tłusty Cwartek to Shrove Tuesday -- are known as zapusty.

Shrove Tuesday, which the French call Mardi Gras (meaning Fat Tuesday) is the last day to party hearty before Lent begins.

In the old days, meat and meat byproducts, like butter and eggs, couldn't be eaten during Lent. So ingenious cooks used up all their dairy and eggs during Fat Week, from Shrove Thursday to Shrove Tuesday, by making crepe-like pancakes, called nalysnyky in Ukraine, and doughnuts called spurgos in Lithuania, krofne in Serbia, and pączki (POHNCH-kee) in Poland.

Until the 16th century, pączki were made with bread dough, filled with pork fat and fried in lard. Later, they evolved into a sweet pastry. Self-respecting bakeries never make their pączki in advance, nor do they use preservatives. The dough is made in the wee hours of the morning and are sold hot from the frying grease as soon as the doors open. Some home bakers fill a few pączki with almond paste instead of marmalade and encountering this filling is said to bring good luck.

An old Polish proverb states, "If you don't eat at least one doughnut on Shrove Thursday, you will no longer be successful in life."

One fact that might deflate your pączki-eating experience: each one rings up at a hefty 500 calories.

You'll have to dance a few polkas to work these babies off, but why not cast caution to the wind and make them anyway.

Everybody's Polish on Pączki Day!

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