Lent is quickly approaching. And that means a host of Milwaukee bakeries are battening down their hatches and baking up a storm in preparation for "Paczki Day," which takes place on Tuesday, Feb. 16 (Fat Tuesday).
The Polish holiday has long provided a mechanism for folks to clear out their larders before beginning the traditional 40-day Lenten fast (in fact, in the Middle Ages, precursors to the sweet treats were actually filled with pork and fried in lard). As a result, paczki are a particularly indulgent treat that's set aside for one special day each year.
It's important to note that paczki aren't your average jelly-filled doughnuts. In fact, what sets them apart is their dough, which is a richer, often sweeter yeast dough incorporating eggs, butter and often milk.
With that in mind, it’s never too early to start thinking about paczki. After all, if we were in Poland, where they celebrate Tlusty Czwartek (Fat Thursday), we’d be even closer to indulging in celebratory deep-fried deliciousness.
Before you say the word
Now that you know the difference between paczki and doughnuts, it's time to respect the word paczki and use it properly. So, before you venture out into the world and start throwing around the term paczki (or even worse, paczkis), here’s a quick lesson in how to really pronounce it.
Paczki is pronounced PAWNCH-key and is the plural form of the word (really the only one you need, since you can’t eat just one, right?). Paczek, on the other hand is pronounced PAWN-check and refers to just one lonely Polish-style confection.
If you’d prefer, here’s a video that illustrates the point quite well.
Where to get paczki
So yeah, you can just grab a few jelly doughnuts at the grocery store (because these days, almost every one will have them; and they'll call them paczki to boot). However, since you’ve got time to think about it, here are some spots you might want to check out for your paczki fix.
Keep in mind: there is a superstition that if you don't eat at least one paczki on Shrove Tuesday, bad luck will follow you for the rest of the year. So, we'd advise erring on the side of caution and eating at least one.
1. Aggie's Bakery
7328 W. Greenfield Ave., (414) 482-1288
Handmade paczki are a specialty at Aggie's Bakery, which offers flavors including apple with cinnamon sugar, blueberry with sugar, buttercream with powdered sugar, custard with white sugar glaze, lemon with powdered sugar, prune with sugar, raspberry with sugar and strawberry with glaze. Paczki are sold in six-packs for $7.95. Pre-order online at aggiesbakery.com for pick-up on Feb. 16
1100 E. Oklahoma Ave., (414) 486-7747
Seems everyone is a little bit Polish on Paczki Day. Even Canfora, one of Milwaukee's classic Italian bakeries, offers a nice selection of delicious paczki in flavors including raspberry, lemon, apple, prune, custard and raisin for $1.25 each or $15 per dozen. Place pre-orders by phone for pick-up on Fat Tuesday.
1978 N Farwell Ave., (414) 231-3030
Celesta will be offering vegan paczki filled with raspberry jam, custard or lemon curd. Pricing is $22 per dozen or a half-dozen for $14. Pre-orders can be made by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for pick-up on Feb. 16 between 11:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Email should include your name, phone number, how many paczki you'd like and what time you will pick them up.
6901 W. North Ave., (414) 258-5282
The folks at Cranky's aren't really cranky, although they will get cranky if you mistake a regular old bismarck (jelly doughnut) for a paczek. This year, they'll have raspberry, prune, Bavarian cream, lemon and Southern peach (a collaboration with Elsie Mae's Canning & Pies in Kenosha). Paczki are $2.25 each or $22 per assorted dozen (does not include prune). Cranky's will also be offering paczki kitts featuring six unfilled sugared paczki and three two-ounce syringes filled with customers' choice of three fillings ($17). Pre-orders are recommended and can be placed online for pick-up on Feb. 16. Pre-ordering starts Monday, Jan. 18 with a deadline of Feb. 14 at noon. Cranky's will be open 6 a.m. to noon on Fat Tuesday.
5132 W. Lincoln Ave., (414) 543-7000
Grebe's has the goods every year, and this year will be no exception. Flavors will include cinnamon sugar coated apple, chocolate-iced buttercream, chocolate-iced custard, white-iced raspberry, sugar-coated raspberry, powdered sugar lemon and glazed prune.
Pricing for regular paczki is $1.25 each or $13.50 per bakers dozen. Paczki will be available for an extended time this year. Customers can pick them up in the bakery anytime between Friday, Feb. 12 and Tuesday, Feb. 16. Pre-orders are highly recommended.
7610 Harwood Ave., Wauwatosa, (414) 778-3333
Le Reve will offer paczki in four flavors including apricot, strawberry, raspberry and sweet cheese for $2.75 each. You can pre-order your paczki online at lerevecafe.com or by phone beginning Monday, Jan. 18 (for pick-up on Feb. 16); all orders must be placed by Feb. 6 at noon. Curbside pick-up is available, please indicate when preordering online.
7. Mila's European Bakery
239 N. Main St., Thiensville, (262) 242-1404
This year, Mila's Bakery will also be offering paczki for pick-up on Feb. 16. The buttery filled treats will be available with fillings including chocolate, lemon, prune, Bavarian custard and raspberry. Paczki are $1.75 each or six for $8. Pre-orders are highly recommended.
8. Molly’s Gluten-free Bakery
N47W28270 Lynndale Rd, Pewaukee, (262) 369-1404
For those seeking a gluten- and dairy-free version of paczki, Molly’s Gluten-free Bakery will be offering their version of the treat featuring a slightly smaller baked doughnut filled with raspberry filling and rolled in sugar for $3 each. Pre-orders will be accepted through Facebook (watch for their post on Tuesday, Feb. 9) for drive-thru pick-up. Orders must be pre-paid and the bakery will cease taking orders once they've reached capacity. Pickup for all pre-orders will take place on Monday, Feb. 15 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the bakery's back door drive-thru.
3200 S. 16th St., (414) 672-1620
5637 Broad St., Greendale (414) 423-4620
National Bakery locations will be offering traditional paczki (made with a butter based dough) in prune, raspberry or raisin. Pricing is $1.19 each or $14.28 per dozen. All locations will have paczki available on Fat Tuesday; but pre-orders are recommended.
10. Old World Polish Deli
7630 W. Grange Ave., Greendale
You can't get more traditional than the paczki from the Old World Polish Deli. They come in flavors including prune, raspberry and rosehip for $1.40 each. Pre-ordering is highly recommended.
11. The Polish Center of Wisconsin
6941 S. 68th St., Franklin, (414) 529-2140
Due to COVID-19, the cafe at The Polish Center of Wisconsin will not be open for Paczki Day. However, the Polish Center still is offering celebratory paczki (in flavors including prune, raspberry, custard, lemon and chocolate custard) for pre-order online with pick-up at the Polish Center on Feb. 16 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Paczki are $15 per dozen and can be ordered online. The ordering deadline is Feb. 8. Orders of five dozen or more are also eligble for delivery (a $10 delivery fee applies).
12. Sweet Perfections Bake Shop
1501 Paramount Dr., Suite C, Waukesha, (262) 446-2253
If you’re looking for something a bit different, Sweet Perfections Bake Shop offers up "top shelf paczki" in flavors like Bailey's Cherry Bombshell, Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet, Kahlua'n Mudslide, Raspberry Vodka Shooter, Rumchata Crunch and Spiced Bananas Foster ($3.25 each). Traditional flavors – including Bavarian cream, prune and raspberry ($2.50 each or four for $6) are also available. Pre-order will be accepted beginning Jan. 15 and are highly recommended
Sweet Perfections will be open Fat Tuesday (Feb. 16) from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. for in-store purchases and pickup. This year, due to COVID-19, the bakery will also be open for pre-order pickup-only Monday, Feb. 15 from 3 to 6 p.m.
Of course, you can also opt to get your paczki fix early. All paczki will be available in-store on Fridays and Saturdays each week from Friday, Jan. 15 through Feb. 13.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.