If you’ve never lived in a city with a large Polish community (like Chicago), you may be looking at the word “paczki” with a blank stare. But you’ll be happy to learn the delicious truth: paczki are Polish filled doughnuts dusted with powdered sugar. Fillings range from the old-school traditional (jelly, prune, apricot) to the more modern and fancy (tiramisu, strawberry cheesecake, chocolate ganache). Locals pronounce it as poonch-key, an approximation of the original Polish word.
Paczki are eaten on and leading up to Fat Tuesday (Feb. 21, 2023), the celebration before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday—a time of fasting, repentance and renewal in the Christian church. Historically, families would try to use up all their indulgent ingredients like sugar and butter before Lent, and the paczki was born. The same tradition is celebrated in other parts of the world with different sweets—king cake for Mardi Gras, or Pancake Tuesday in the UK, for example.
Here are five places to get pazcki close to Concordia-Chicago’s campus. Check them out soon, as some require pre-ordering!
- Kolatek’s Bakery is also a European deli and grocery store, but the bakery is their true passion. 2445 N. Harlem Ave., Chicago, IL
- Reuter’s Bakery has been around since 1927, serving cakes, pastries, breads and other delectable baked goods. 7177 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL
- Firecakes Donuts creates artisan doughnuts with a menu that changes with the seasons—and that includes paczki season. 104 N. Maple Ave., Oak Park, IL
- Oak Park Bakery can customize a cake for any special occasion, but most importantly, is offering 14 pazcki flavors this year. 904 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, IL
- Forest Park Bakery offers an array of sweet treats that may tempt you to leave with armfuls of baked goods. 7332 Madison St., Forest Park, IL
There are many more if you want to keep exploring—a quick web search will lead you to the closest paczki bakery to your home. The day after you have your fill of paczki, Ash Wednesday services will be held on Feb. 22 in the Chapel at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., open to all denominations.