Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Paczki at Starbucks

See, this is what I get for publishing the latest edition of the Carnival of Genealogy 2 days early. There's a story about the Detroit area Starbucks selling paczki in the Detroit Free Press that would have made a great lead in to a family-food-memory-story. But now it's too late to get on the Carnival. Oh well, here's the story anyway.

Paczki from Starbucks? by Sylvia Rector appeared in the Detroit Free Press 1/16/07.
Oh, yes; pastries go on sale today

For the first time, metro Detroiters can belly up to their local Starbucks counter and order paczki with their grande nonfat lattes.

The deep-fried, jelly-filled doughnuts are being sold, beginning today, at the area's 60-plus Starbucks.

Michiganders consume the beloved pastries by the millions in the period leading up to Lent.

While Starbucks and paczki may sound like a cultural mismatch, Great Lakes regional director Scott Hasselbach sees selling paczki as a way for the international chain to be "locally relevant."

The paczki -- pronounced POONCH-kee -- are available with apple cinnamon, raspberry and Bavarian cream fillings for 95 cents. Starbucks also will take orders for boxes of six for pickup on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 20, the day before Lent.

A typical paczek -- a single paczki pronounced POON-check -- has 400 calories and 25 fat grams. Starbucks didn't give its fat and calorie counts, but Hasselbach said its paczki contain zero grams of trans fat.

Now I can't imagine how the paczki from Starbucks could be anywhere near as good as the ones I remember getting from the Polish bakeries in Detroit when I was growing up (or even the ones still sold at the Polish bakeries in Hamtramck), but I'll play the guinea pig and sample one. Inquiring minds want to know how they measure up so I'll make a point of taste testing one in the next few days and letting you know ;-)

Here in the Detroit area, the day before Lent begins is not Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, it's Paczki Day! All the Polish bakeries in Detroit, Hamtramck, and the suburbs will work 24/7 to make and bake the paczki. People will stand in lines from midnight or so on until the bakeries open at 4am to buy paczki by the dozens. They take them to the office, to school, to the fire station, and home to family and friends. Detroiters are crazy for paczki! You know how they say everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day? Well here in the Detroit area, everyone is Polish on Paczki Day.

When I was a child, I remember going with my mom to the bakery to buy paczki. Since she was literally born in the bakery that her parents owned (and where she worked after school from the age of 12 on) she was pretty discerning when it came to baked goods. She never understood the fascination with paczki. She preferred a good cinnamon bun any day. But she was a good sport and faithfully bought the paczki for us every year.

Back in those days paczki-eating wasn't as popular as it is now and there weren't the long lines at the bakery. The biggest risk was that they might be sold out of your favorite flavor. Paczki filling comes in several flavors... strawberry, raspberry, Bavarian cream, prune, apple, lemon, blueberry, and custard. My favorites were the raspberry and the custard. Yum!

Now paczki are not your typical jelly doughnuts. The dough is much denser, not at all what you'd call "light and airy". It has lots of eggs yolks (about a dozen yolks are used in a batch of 18 paczki) and is deep fried. I found a Polish grandmother's recipe that shows how labor/time intensive they are to make (which is why mother opted for bakery-bought over making them herself).

As a child, I didn't live in a Polish neighborhood or think much about my Polish ethnicity. But when Paczki Day came around, I was definitely proud to be Polish!