Chicago's Paczki Mania: Delightful Pastries Leads Charge as Fat Tuesday Demand Skyrockets

Chicago's Paczki Mania: Delightful Pastries Leads Charge as Fat Tuesday Demand SkyrocketsSource: Unsplash/Karol Chomka
Jo Marquez
Published on February 12, 2024

Chicago's craving for paczki hits its peak as Fat Tuesday approaches, with local bakery Delightful Pastries at the heart of the annual fried frenzy. The traditional Polish pastry, richer than your average doughnut thanks to an "enriched" dough packed with butter, milk, eggs, and a blend of lemon and orange oils – not to mention a splash of rum – sets paczki apart from its American cousin, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Seems like everyone in the Windy City is on a mission to get their hands on these decadent treats, and local bakeries are gearing up, with a compiled list from Block Club Chicago showcasing spots where paczki will pop up ahead of the holiday, spots such as the well-known Ace Bakery and even vegan options at Liberation Donuts are ready for the onslaught, many encourage pre-orders to handle the demand with several locations, like Alliance Bakery and Oak Mill Bakery, making it easy to secure your goodies online. Block Club Chicago reports that these deep-fried balls of joy, sometimes filled to burst with jam, custard, or fruit, frequently covered in a snowy dusting of powdered sugar, are expected to sell out.

Amid this doughnut-meets-dessert craze, Delightful Pastries' Chef Dobra Bielinski not only churns out approximately 40,000 paczki for the Mardi Gras season but also imparts the secrets of the perfect paczki through annual classes she conducts, "I didn't like when people didn't use quality ingredients or they took shortcuts," Bielinski, who opened the bakery in 1998, told the Chicago Sun-Times, her passion for authentic, soulful baking apparent in each lesson and every batch.

For those less culinary inclined or without time to apron-up for a baking class, the rush to reserve paczki from bakeries across Chicago is palpable with the holiday closing in, Chicagoans from all over the sprawling metropolis, pulling together Polish and sweet tooth communities alike trying to reel in the elusive catch of assorted flavors ranging from traditional plum butter to the more daring "Drunken Paczki" series boasting infusions of Moonshine and Jameson Whiskeythe Chicago Sun-Times elaborates.

The popularity of paczki soars beyond cultural lines, with Chicago's massive Polish population credited for elevating the pastry to local staple status, and it doesn't stop at a sushi place in town that started throwing its hat in the ring, creating their own spin on the paczkis, "They've popularized it and everybody's latched on," Bielinski noted with some amusement, the city's broad culinary scene embracing the paczki in its multi-flavored forms just as readily as they do slices of deep-dish or the legendary Italian beef sandwiches, according to her remarks in the Chicago Sun-Times.