Pączki (Polish: pączki, pronounced: [ˈpɔ̃t͡ʂkʲi] MP3 Pronunciation File) are traditional Polish doughnuts. Pączki is the plural form of the word pączek (pronounced: [ˈpɔ̃t͡ʂɛk]) in Polish, though many English speakers use pączki as singular and pączkis as plural.
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.
Although they look like bismarcks 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. Prunes and rose-petal jam are traditional fillings, but many others are used as well, including lemon, 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.
Due to New Orleans' influence, in America, pączki are eaten on Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) rather than on Fat Thursday. In the large Polish community of Chicago, and other large cities across the Midwest, Pączki Day is also celebrated annually by immigrants and locals alike.In Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Hamtramck, Milwaukee, and South Bend, Pączki Day is more commonly celebrated on Fat Tuesday instead of Fat Thursday. Chicago celebrates both Fat Thursday and Fat Tuesday, due to its sizable Polish population.
In Hamtramck, an enclave in Detroit, there is an annual Pączki-Day (Fat Tuesday) Parade, and lines at bakeries can be seen up to 24 hours before the deep-fried delights go on sale Tuesday morning. Many bars in town open early in the morning, and provide free entertainment, a party atmosphere, pączki-clad mascots, and at least one bar, pączki filled with Jagermeister. The Pączki-Day celebration in this town is even larger than many areas have for St. Patrick's Day.
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 Paczki Challenge. He was able to consume 18 raspberrry filled pączki before crossing the room.
In Ukrainian cuisine, they are called пампушки, pampushky.
In Lithuanian cuisine, they're called spurgos.
In Portuguese tradition, a similar confection called the malasada is made during Fat Tuesday. In Hawaii, 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 Brazil, it's called Sonho - Portuguese for "dream".