Pączki (pronounced PUUNCH-ki) are filled doughnuts that are typical for Polish cuisine. Paczki have been made in Poland since the Middle Ages. Germans call them Berliner. They are deep-fried dough balls that are filled with a filling and covered with powdered sugar. Traditional fillings include prune and poppyseed. Many bakeries also feature modern fillings such as chocolate mousse, marshmallow and (my favorite) custard. They are served on Fat Tuesday and most recently are now also served during the month leading up to Lent. Clevelanders hear a lot about paczki during this time, and most bakeries hold huge events on Fat Tuesday where you can pick up your paczki for the office, friends or just general consumption. I’m not a huge fan of crowds so I have avoided the hoopla surrounding Fat Tuesday paczki celebrations, but I might venture out to Rudy’s this year just to see what it’s like.
If you are lucky you can get your favorite flavors when you just stop in, but most bakeries prefer you order ahead of time for Fat Tuesday or just to ensure you get the flavors you want. Some flavors sell out quicker than others.
Debates rage about who has the best paczki. A couple years ago I decided to try a bunch and decide for myself who has the best. My heart lies with Michael Angelo’s Bakery on Broadview Road in Broadview Heights. I love the soft, yeasty dough of the paczki as well as their variety of flavors, and the dough is almost bursting with filling (as you can see on the right). I started getting my paczki fix from here last weekend. They announce when they start selling paczki on their social media pages and continue until Fat Tuesday. Flavors include their famous marshmallow, custard, raspberry, apple, apricot, Bavarian maple, lemon, chocolate mousse, strawberry mousse, peanut butter and prune. Flavors vary with availability. The are $1.95 each and $17 per dozen.
Colozza’s Bakery on Ridge Road in Parma wins the award for most unique flavors. The classic Italian bakery takes on a Polish accent in February. Colozza’s mixes in new and traditional flavors in their dozen annual paczki offerings, from lemon and apricot to peanut butter banana fudge, butterscotch, and cannoli. They discontinued prune and poppyseed, but might be able to make them if ordered. The minute I heard they had a butterscotch paczki I headed there. The paczki were good, but not as good as Michael Angelo’s. The dough was a little drier, and as you can see in the photo to the right it wasn’t as filled with filling. But hey, butterscotch…
Seven Roses Polish Deli on Fleet Avenue in Slavic Village serves paczki year-round. It is basically just a jelly doughnut, but a little rounder and denser. The bakery serves old world favorites such as prune, poppyseed and the classic rose jam paczki on the Monday and Tuesday before Lent (Rosenmontag and Fat Tuesday). Last year there was even a Paczki Parade, so check their Facebook page or keep your eyes out on Cleveland.com. All paczki orders must be placed ahead of time.
Rudy’s Strudel on Ridge Road in Parma is considered Paczki Central in Parma. They expect to sell more than 65,000 by the end of Fat Tuesday. Last year they paired up with Barabicu Smokehouse to feature their hand-smoked brisket in a savory paczki. This year they are pairing with Sweet Moses for a Hot Chocolate paczki. Call ahead to order this one. They had run out when I stopped in. This photo on the left shows the variety of flavors they offer – both sweet and savory. Rudy’s hosts their annual Paczki Day Party starting at 5 a.m. on Fat Tuesday with live accordion music, eating contests, babushkas and more. Flavors include savory and sweet treats, such as Murray Hill (Italian sausage and peppers), Parma (potato and cheese), and Polish Village (potato & cheese, kraut & kielbasa) or chocolate butter cream, pina colada, mocha, poppyseed, prune and rose petal jelly paczki (to name just a few).
Cleveland’s favorite donut shop, Jack Frost on Pearl Road in Cleveland, wouldn’t miss paczki day. For one day only, Jack Frost goes Polish with poppyseed, raspberry, apple, pineapple, lemon, cream cheese, Boston cream, cinnamon-caramel and a special chocolate and peanut butter Buckeye option. Orders taken during the month before Lent and can be picked up in a tent outside the shop beginning at 6 a.m. on Fat Tuesday. They’re pricey – $4.25 each and $28.95 a dozen, but as anyone who has had Jack Frost donuts knows, they are well worth it.
I plan to try Samosky’s and Buettner’s this year. If I am in the Northfield area I will also try Stan’s Northfield Bakery, because the idea of a grape paczki is tempting.
My friend Judi from The Charmed Kitchen used to make homemade paczki every year on Fat Tuesday. Click the link for her recipe for tiramisu paczki. She made the doughnuts and offered a bunch of different fillings, so you can fill your own with whatever you prefer and however much you prefer. You might consider making your own paczki and having a paczki party of your own. Cleveland is all about the paczki.
What’s your favorite place for paczki? You have a month to discover which one you prefer so you can get your order in for Fat Tuesday. Fat Tuesday this year is March 5.