No matter how you pronounce ‘pączki’, just don’t call them donuts
Mardi Gras, or Mardi Gras, is the day of indulgence before the Christian fast known as Lent. For urban centers with large Polish and Polish-American populations, including Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Chicago, indulgence often means fried pączki. Or, 12.
The correct pronunciation of these traditional jelly- or cream-filled sinners, at least among non-Polish people, sparks a debate matched only by the struggle over which bakery makes them best. Most people land somewhere around “POONCH-key”.
But add the local dialect, or the effects of other Mardi Gras drinks, and “POWNCH-key” or “PAUNCH-key” sometimes pops up. “PACK-zee”? Not even close. Worst of all, however, is defaulting to “doughnuts”.
The recipe is similar to German, Jewish and Italian filled donuts, but traditional pączki contain a touch of Polish vodka called Spiritus, explains Eater.com.
One of the Pittsburghs most popular bakeries this year offered Vanilla Buttercream, Chocolate Buttercream, Strawberry Buttercream, Lemon, Raspberry, Apricot and Custard.
Poland itself digs on Shrove Thursday, which was February 24 this year. Chicago Bakery Report they usually serve tens of thousands of pączki (yep — or to takein Polish, as well as in Ukrainian – this is the plural, and pączek the singular) per day from Thursday to Tuesday.
In New Orleans, Mardi Gras is the last day of Carnival, which began on February 25. And Mardi Gras serves another favorite sweet tradition: king cake.
Kings cake is believed to have originated in France and was introduced to New Orleans in 1870. The French version of this delicacy is made with puff pastry filled with almonds that gives off a flaky texture. It also features a decorative pattern and is sometimes topped with a paper crown. Perhaps he is most famous for the hidden baby charm.
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Manny Randazzo King Cakesa bakery voted one of New Orleans’ top royal cake makers, says the royal cake tradition was brought to America from France in the 1870s. The idea of a baby inside was born much later.
In the 1940s, a baker named Donald Entringer solidified the tradition of the baby in the cake when a traveling salesman approached him trying to unload small porcelain dolls. Enttinger started baking the porcelain dolls in his royal cakes to symbolize the baby Jesus, and the tradition was born. When he ran out of ceramic babies, he followed the example of his fellow bakeries in New Orleans and switched to plastic.
Today, you’re more likely to find a plastic baby in your cake, but since little dolls weren’t always widely available, coins and beans have always been substituted.
So what does it mean to find the baby in your slice? (Ideally with your molars intact, and not, God willing, the next day!) Many believe a year of good luck will come your way; others say you’re on the hook for next year’s cake.
And, for some, the baby in your slice means a baked bun.