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Pączki facts for kids

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Polskie pączki.jpg
Glazed pączki
Alternative names kreple
Type Doughnut
Place of origin Poland
Region or state Central Europe, North America
Main ingredients Yeast-based dough, grain alcohol, confiture or other sweet filling, powdered sugar, icing, glaze or bits of dried orange zest

Pączki ( singular: pączek Kashubian: pùrcle; Silesian: kreple ) are filled doughnuts found in Polish cuisine.


Pączki are deep-fried pieces of dough shaped into spheres and filled with confiture or other sweet filling. Pączki are usually covered with powdered sugar, icing, glaze or bits of dried orange zest. A small amount of grain alcohol (traditionally rectified spirit) is added to the dough before cooking; as it evaporates, it prevents the absorption of oil deep into the dough. Pączki are commonly thought of as fluffy but somewhat collapsed, with a bright stripe around them; these features are seen as evidence that the dough was fried in fresh oil.

Although they look like German berliners (in North America bismarcks) or jelly doughnuts, pączki are made from especially rich dough containing eggs, fats, sugar, yeast 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 petal 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 Augustus III, under the influence of French cooks who came to Poland, pączki dough was improved, so that pączki became lighter, spongier, and more resilient.

Etymology, spelling and pronunciation

The Polish word pączek (plural: pączki) is a diminutive of the Polish word pąk "bud". The latter derives from Proto-Slavic *pǫkъ, which may have referred to anything that is round, bulging and about to burst (compare Proto-Slavic *pǫkti "to swell, burst"), possibly of ultimately onomatopoeic origin. From Polish the word has been borrowed into several other Slavic languages, where the respective loanwords (ponchik, ponchyk or ponichka ) refer to a similar ball-shaped pastry.

English speakers typically use the plural form of the Polish word in both singular and plural. They pronounce it as (the last being closest to the Polish pronunciation) and often write it as "paczki", i.e., without the ogonek (hook-shaped diacritic). This should not be confused with the unrelated Polish word paczki which is the plural form of paczka meaning "package" or "parcel".

Pączki Day

Fat Thursday versus Fat Tuesday
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Poland Fat Thursday
(Tłusty Czwartek)
Friday Saturday
Sunday Monday United States Fat Tuesday
(Pączki Day)
Ash Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Carnival Lent

In Poland, pączki are eaten especially on Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek), the last Thursday prior to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. The traditional reason for making pączki was to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in the house, because their consumption was forbidden by Christian fasting practices during the season of Lent.

In North America, particularly the large Polish communities of Chicago, Detroit, and other large cities across the Midwest and Northeast, Paczki Day is celebrated annually by immigrants and locals alike. The date of this observance merges with that of pre-Lenten traditions of other immigrants (e.g., Pancake Day, Mardi Gras) on Fat Tuesday. With its sizable Polish population, Chicago celebrates the festival on both Fat Thursday and Fat Tuesday. Pączki are also often eaten on Casimir Pulaski Day. In Buffalo, Toledo, Cleveland, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, St.Louis, South Bend, Louisville, and Windsor, Pączki Day is celebrated on Fat Tuesday.

The Pączki Day celebrations in some areas are even larger than many celebrations for St. Patrick's Day. In Hamtramck, Michigan, an enclave of Detroit, there is an annual Pączki Day (Shrove Tuesday) Parade, which has gained a devoted following. Throughout the Metro Detroit area, it is so widespread that many bakeries attract lines of customers for pączki on Pączki Day.

In some areas, Pączki Day is celebrated with pączki-eating contests. The contest in Evanston, Illinois, started in 2010, and is held on the weekend before Fat Tuesday, while Hamtramck's contest is held on the holiday.

United States

These pastries have become popular in the United States as a result of Polish immigrants and marketing by the bakery industry. Sold in bakeries mainly on both Fat Tuesday and Fat Thursday throughout Detroit and Chicago, they are particularly popular in areas where there is a large concentration of Polish immigrants: Milwaukee Northcentral and Southeastern Wisconsin, Chicago and Northern Illinois, Northwest Indiana, the Greater Detroit and Mid Michigan areas, Toledo, Greater Cincinnati, Greater Cleveland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Northern and Central New Jersey, Central Connecticut, Western Massachusetts. The Polish community in Buffalo has the largest Fat Thursday event outside of Poland, which is run in cooperation with the monthly Polish Happy Hour Buffalo event.


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