Happy Paczki Day! Or Mardi Gras! Or whatever you call it! Growing up, my family was firmly in the Mardi Gras camp, complete with King Cake. For the uninitiated, King Cake is a ring cake that is glazed to look like a bruise (Purple, green and gold if we’re going to be technical about it) with a plastic baby baked in it. The main goal of the King Cake is to stuff your face in the hope of finding the plastic infant.

Yay cake! Yay plastic! Yay babies!

(Actually, I have a hilarious story about trying to explain what the King Cake was to a bunch of my Jewish students at an independent school where I wasn’t supposed to talk about being Catholic. It went more creepily than it should have.)

These days, I’m ostensibly on the Paczki Bandwagon. You know, because I married a Polish person. Also, because I like donuts more than I like bruised-looking cake. Paczki Day can get pretty crazy here in Chicagoland, so I got together with my friends Marcia and Ben to order a dozen in advance for pickup yesterday. Truth be told, a dozen split between four people is insanity. I can never eat more than one.

I picked Bennison’s Bakery for a few reasons. First, it’s closer to my house and more driver-friendly than the downtown bakeries are. Second, you’re allowed to pre-order and prepay. Third, they have flavors that I’ve never even heard of – chocolate praline, what?

Yesterday, I took a break from my computer to scoot on over to Bennison’s to pick up my delicious morsels.

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Then, we drove them over to Marcia’s so that we could share in the bounty.

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Our half of the spoils.

Our half of the spoils.

Mandatory “food-cut-in-half” blogger shot:

Hazelnut chocolate praline insanity.

Hazelnut chocolate praline insanity.

Here are some fun facts about paczki for all of you nerd-types:

  1. Although Poland gets all the credit for these hyper-fattening treats, there are identical donuts in other Slavonic countries including Russia, Ukraine, Armenia and Slovakia.
  2. You can blame heritage for the fact that raspberry paczki are the only things you can find at the grocery store – the traditional fillings for paczki are raspberry jelly, custard and Bavarian crème.
  3. There is grain alcohol in the dough, ostensibly to help prevent the paczki from getting greasy. Personally, I think it’s because Polish people know how to party.
  4. Traditionally, paczki were made to use up all the lard, eggs, sugar and fruit that were in the house before Lent. This is because all of these things were forbidden during the season.
  5. Bennison’s Bakery hosts a Paczki Eating Contest, which hurts my stomach just to think about.

Are you on team King Cake or team Paczki?

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