Drunken Donuts paczki with vanilla custard and vodka at Delightful Pastries in Jefferson Park, Chicago (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)
When Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world with his resignation announcement yesterday, Catholics across Chicago could at least stress eat with paczki.
The Polish pastries are part of the great last hurrah before Lent. They're traditionally eaten in Poland on Fat Thursday (last Thursday), and across this country today on Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras. In Chicago, we celebrate both days thanks to our Polish-American population, and because we like to eat.
Paczki look like everyday doughnuts but should feel heavier, bite denser, and taste unfamiliar, filled with stewed plum or rose hip jam. Before the gourmet doughnut trend, there were paczki.
But at Delightful Pastries, pastry chef/owner Dobra Bielinski, is injecting a little of the new world too, sometimes with a shot of vodka. Yes, she makes all the old world flavors at her Jefferson Park location. She says her older, Polish customers prefer them.
Yet, during a visit on Fat Thursday last week, an older Polish-speaking man listened carefully to a young Polish-speaking shopgirl explain the new flavors, including passionfruit jam. He eventually added a decidedly untraditional chocolate raspberry to his box of a dozen paczki.
Me too, but I like the stewed plum jam the best. Powidła is made with late harvest plums, cooked down slowly for hours with no added sugar or pectin, earning its sweet, tart, and thick character only with time.
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Pastry chef/owner Dobra Bielinski holds tray of plum and rose hip jam paczki at Delightful Pastries in Jefferson Park, Chicago (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)