My sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Jaworski, was popular for two reasons: He turned every lesson into a bingo game (with a king-sized Hershey's bar for the winner) and he brought paczki to school on Fat Tuesday.
It's a longstanding tradition for Polish-Americans in the Midwest to mark Fat Tuesday with deep-fried dough, even if it means waking up before dawn; driving miles to the right bakery and waiting in a line that stretches down a snowy street. Paczki are considerably easier to obtain in Seattle: "We'll have a good production going on Tuesday," promises Bakery Nouveau's assistant manager Christopher Donka.
Bakery Nouveau has been selling paczki since 2010, when chef William Leaman learned of the pastries from a buddy with a bakery in Chicago. Leaman had been thinking of fooling around with doughnuts, but didn't want to make a long-term commitment to frying. Paczki provided a seasonal solution.
As former Voracious contributor and fellow displaced Midwesterner Maggie Savarino wrote in a 2009 column, paczkis aren't exactly doughnuts: Paczki dough is rich and eggy, and should include alcohol (Typically just a touch, although bars in Hamtramck serve raspberry vodka paczki on Packzi Day.) Fillings vary, although the classical filling is prune.
"I've been told we don't do traditional ones because we don't do prune filling," Donka says. Noveau offers four paczki fillings: chocolate; vanilla; apple and strawberry with cream. The paczki are priced at $2.75 apiece, or $25 for a dozen.
Many Midwestern bakeries sell paczki only on Paczki Day, when they can clear as many as 40,000 paczki by lunchtime. Confining sales to a single day means paczki fans will go to great lengths to get their physical and psychological fill of the treat when it's available: For the last two years, the Bay City (Mich.) Times has trained a web cam on the box of pazcki in its newsroom, so pazcki lovers can watch copy editors and high school reporters snack.
Here, the schedule's more flexible. Bakery Nouveau and Metropolitan Market, which also annually fries paczki, typically start selling their pastries a week or two in advance of the holiday.