2018-02-08 / Front Page

Enjoy county-made paczki, or perhaps one paczek

By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

You don’t need to be Polish or Catholic to know that the paczki are arriving.

Fat Tuesday arrives next week, and Leelanau will have plenty of the treats on hand.

Don’t be fooled by signs you see advertising “paczkis.” In fact, paczki – pronounced POONCH-kee – is the plural of the Polish word paczek – pronounced PON-chek.

If you’re eating just one of the delightfully sinful treats, you’re having a paczek. If you’re eating more than one, then you’re pigging out on paczki.

And, whatever you do, don’t be fooled by common jelly doughnuts masquerading as paczki, according to Tina Baker, the appropriately named proprietor of the Chimoski Bakery in Suttons Bay.

“Glorified jelly doughnuts are all you’re likely to get if you go to some big box store to buy paczki,” Baker said. “We rely on an old family recipe that most of the big guys just can’t duplicate – and you can taste the difference.”

Genuine paczki are generally bigger and more rotund than jelly doughnuts. They’re also a heck of a lot richer, with traditional recipes calling for more egg yolks and butter than most factory-scale bakeries are willing to invest in.

Paczki are offered for sale in a number of locations in Leelanau County and elsewhere in the days leading up to Fat Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras in some parts. Fat Tuesday is followed by Ash Wednesday on the Christian Calendar. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent, a period of fasting, moderation and denial that ends on Easter Sunday. That’s April 1 this year.

So, you’d better start eating paczki now, because they won’t be around forever.

Between Jan. 30 and Fat Tuesday, Anderson’s Market in Glen Arbor has fresh paczki delivered to the store daily from a small-scale commercial bakery in Benzonia.

“I don’t know if those folks are Polish, but a lot of people really love their paczki,” said Jamie Blough, a manager at Anderson’s Market. “Personally, I try to stay away from them as they are not calorie-friendly.”

When pressed by a newspaper reporter, however, Blough confessed to having sampled some of the merchandise.

“I will admit to eating a few of them – and the ones we get here at Anderson’s are pretty darn good,” Blough said.

Some businesses in Leelanau County take orders for paczki and send vans or trucks hundreds of miles to get them from bakeries known to use old Polish recipes. Most of those bakeries are in downstate Hamtramck, a historic Polish enclave literally surrounded by the City of Detroit.

Brenda Bugai of Cedar has been making paczki for only a few years as a home occupation. But she has already gained a reputation for turning out some of the best paczki around.

“We’ve even had some visitors come up from Hamtramck to buy our paczki, and the biggest compliment I got was that they taste exactly like the ones grandma used to make,” Bugai said.

Bugai has been selling fresh homemade paczki every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from her storefront in downtown Cedar right next to the Polish Art Center on Kasson Street (County Road 651).

Paczki are packed with a variety of fillings. But the traditional Polish filling is made with prunes, according to Baker.

More popular are custard, raspberry, cream cheese, lemon and blueberry.

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