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Traditional pączki
Pączki (Polish pronunciation ) are traditional Polish doughnuts (the word pączek is roughly translated as doughnut). Pączki is the plural form of the Polish word pączek , though many English speakers use paczki as singular and paczkis as plural. In English, the common pronunciations pawnch-kee or ponch-kee imitate the Polish pronunciation, but some speakers pronounce the word as poonch-kee, punch-kee or panch-kee. The word "pączek" derives as a diminutive from the Polish word pąk ("plant bud"), evoking its shape.

Typical pączki

Home-made glazed pączki.

A pączek is a deep-fried piece of dough shaped into a flattened sphere and filled with confiture or other sweet filling. Pączki are usually covered with powdered sugar, icing or bits of dried orange zest. A small amount of grain alcohol (traditionally, Spiritus) is added to the dough before cooking; as it evaporates, it prevents the absorption of oil deep into the dough.

Although they look like bismarck or jelly doughnuts, pączki are made from especially rich dough containing eggs, fats, sugar and sometimes milk. They feature a variety of fruit and creme fillings and can be glazed, or covered with granulated or powdered sugar. Powidła (stewed plum jam) and wild rose hip jam are traditional fillings, but many others are used as well, including strawberry, Bavarian cream, blueberry, custard, raspberry and apple.

Pączki have been known in Poland at least since the Middle Ages. Jędrzej Kitowicz has described that during the reign of August III, under the influence of French cooks who came to Poland, pączki dough was improved, so that pączki became lighter, spongier, and more resilient.

Pączki Day

In Poland, they are eaten especially on Fat Thursday (the last Thursday before Lent). Many Polish Americans celebrate Pączki Day on Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday). Traditionally, the reason for making pączki was to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in the house.

In the large Polish community of Chicagomarker, and other large cities across the Midwest (namely Detroit), Pączki Day is also celebrated annually by immigrants and locals alike. In Buffalomarker, Clevelandmarker, Detroitmarker, Windsormarker, Milwaukeemarker, Pulaski and South Bendmarker, Pączki Day is more commonly celebrated on Fat Tuesday instead of Fat Thursday. Chicagomarker celebrated and Fat Tuesday, due to its sizable Polish population.

In Hamtramckmarker, an enclave of Detroitmarker, there is an annual Pączki Day (Shrove Tuesday) Parade, and lines at bakeries can be seen up to 24 hours before the deep-fried delights go on sale Tuesday morning. According to Garfield Heights police, one year 3,000 people waited for pączki. The Pączki Day celebration in some areas are even larger than many celebrations for St. Patrick's Day.

The day marks the Catholic celebration of the beginning of Lent. The Lenten season is the beginning of 40 days of fasting that Catholics do to bring them closer to Christ so that come the Resurrection at Easter they may live their lives more fully in accord with the Gospel.

Pączki in America

Assorted pączki in America

These pastries have become popular in the United States as a result of Polish immigrants and marketing by the bakery industry.

A cultural phenomenon is the emergence of the "Pączki Challenge", an eating contest in which individuals attempt to race from one side of a room (non-standard) while eating as many pączki as they can before reaching the other side. The person who arrives first and has eaten the most pączki wins. Typically a ratio of 1 pączek for every 10 steps is considered competitive. Amateur competitive eater McKay Johnson holds the record at The Greater Chicago Pączki Challenge. He was able to consume 18 raspberry filled pączki before crossing the room.

Pączki in Israel

Meanwhile, Polish Jews fried pączki ( , pontshkes) in oil, and ate them on Hanukkah ; this custom was imported to Israelmarker and spread to other Jews, who know them by their Modern Hebrew name, סופגניות, sufganiyot (singular: סופגניה, sufganiyah).

Pączki variations worldwide

In Romaniamarker, they are called gogoşi and are a very popular snack, especially during the summer.

In Iranmarker, they are called "Pi-rash-ki" and are very popular, especially among children.

In Russian cuisine, the word "pączki" transformed phonetically into ponchiki ( , plural form of пончик, ponchik) or pyshki ( , especially in St. Petersburgmarker). Ponchiki are a very popular sweet doughnut, with many fast and simple recipes available in Russian cookbooks for making them at home as a breakfast or coffee pastry.

In Ukrainian cuisine, they are called пампушки, pampushky.

In Israelmarker, it is known as Sufganiyah (סופגניה) which is eaten primarily during the holiday of Hanukkah.

In German and Danish, they are called Berliner. In Austriamarker they are called Krapfen.

In Lithuanian cuisine, they're called spurgos.

In Portuguese tradition, a similar confection called the malasada is made during Fat Tuesday. In Hawaiimarker, where Portuguese immigrants worked the sugarcane and pineapple plantations, malasadas are a popular breakfast or dessert item that can be purchased at countless malasada bakeries.

In Brazilmarker, it's called Sonho - Portuguese for "dream".

In Mexicomarker, it's called Bola de Berlín - Spanish for "Berlin ball"

In Chilemarker, it's called berlín - Spanish for "berliner".

In Hungarymarker, it is called fánk.

In Italymarker they are called bomboloni

In Sloveniamarker, they are known as krofi.


  1. pączki Retrieved November 23, 2009.
  2. Strybel, Robert and Strybel, Maria. Polish Heritage Cookery, Hippocrene Books (2005). p. 270.
  3. Paczki? Hard to say, culinary Lenten treat made by nuns. Catholic News Service. Retrieved November 23, 2009.
  4. Pączki Day in Hamtramck
  5. Recipes for Russian and other ponchiki .

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