I figured, since I’ve lived in Michigan for 8 years now, it was about time I tried a paczki and, after being open for 18 years, Zingerman’s Bakehouse figured it was time for them to start making them. That’s what I call a match made in heaven!
Paczki (pronounced POONCH-key) are a traditional Polish treat eaten on Fat Tuesday. Because one of the largest Polish communities in the country is in Hamtramck, Michigan, paczki have become very popular here and are widely available on and around Fat Tuesday. These decadent pastries were traditionally created to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit remaining in people’s homes right before Lent because they were forbidden from eating them during this Christian holiday.
Starting Monday evening, Zingerman’s began the process of making approximately 1,500 paczki, starting with the dough.
It took our sales guy, Randy Brown, who grew up in the baking world, to make this happen. Randy has us making traditional paczki. That means we’re using a little Spiritus, Polish grain alcohol with a scary proof content, in the dough. It’s flavorless and you probably won’t taste it, but it keeps the dough from absorbing too much oil. (Interesting little baking trick we’re going to experiment with in our other fried doughs.)
–Amy Emberling, Bakehouse managing partner
Randy started work at 11:30 p.m. Monday night and, although he had been up all night, when I met him in the Bakehouse kitchen, you never would have known. He was upbeat and on his game as he flipped each paczki, one at at a time, in the fryer until he had each side evenly cooked.
I arrived at the Bakehouse about 6:00 am to catch the tail end of the process. Randy was frying up the last dozen racks of paczki, Nina Huey was filling them with a custard, and Devonie Townsend was busy glazing. As someone who truly enjoys a glazed doughnut, the process of glazing a rack of paczki was mouthwatering as the thick sugary glaze was showered over the rack of doughnuts, back and forth.
I was impressed with how Zingerman’s Bakehouse made nearly 1,500 of those paczki — frying, filling, glazing and powder-sugaring them — for preorder packing, all before 7:00 a.m. A truly impressive undertaking!
And my thoughts about my first paczki? Well, let’s just say I’ll be back for more next year!
If you want to try a Zingerman’s paczki, you may be out of luck this year, but try calling just in case. Rumor has it, they made a few extra. (734) 761-7255.