Fat Tuesday is also, appropriately, called Pączki Day wherever there are Poles or Polish immigrants — in this case, the greater Chicago area. The jelly donut-like pastry, which means “little package” in Polish, is deep-fried and stuffed with custard, fruit filling or cheese, and topped with sugar glaze or powdered sugar. Apparently, pączkis (pronounced “poonch-keys”) were first made to quickly and deliciously use up eggs and lard prior to Lent, which the Roman Catholic church prohibits during the pre-Easter period.
Bennison’s Bakery in our very own Evanston, Illinois hosted a pączki-eating contest to benefit Haitian relief efforts this past Saturday, where six teams of two had five minutes to consume as many of the pastries as possible.
It was a little much to watch the teams wolf down the gooey pastries, but it didn’t stop us from wanting to taste some for ourselves after the contest. Luckily, the bakery had extra trays of cheese, cream, apricot and raspberry pączkis, which they offered to spectators for free(!). The traditional flavor is prune, which Bennison’s refrained from including in the eating contest, probably with the contestants’ digestive systems in mind.
The pastries are delicious, with a rich filling encased in a fluffy dough exterior, and Bennison’s strikes the ideal proportion of filling to pastry. Prune, apricot, cheese, raspberry, custard and apple pączkis are $1.28; the special whipped cream and strawberry-filled pączkis are $1.96. Stop by Bennison’s to try one! (Tara likes the prune, Karina favors the cheese.)
–Tara and Karina for TKGO
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