By Kelly White
Every year, just before Mardi Gras, people in the Midwest join other parts of the country and begin searching for jelly doughnuts. This year, Fat Tuesday, the day of feasting before the Christian fast known as Lent, kicked off on February 12 and the paczki were out in full force.
“This is our busiest day and we look forward to it every year,” Sharon O’Neill, of Doughs Guys Bakery, said.
Under the ownership of Sharon and her husband, Sean, Doughs Guys Bakery reopened at 12248 S. Harlem Ave., Palos Heights, in September of 2015 at the former location of Baumann’s Bakery after closing its former location on 111th Street in Chicago Ridge, where it had been for 2 1/2 years. The couple then opened up a second location in Crestwood, 13545 S Cicero Ave, in February of 2017.
Prepared by family and friends the night before Fat Tuesday, Doughs Guys made 12,000 paczki and O’Neill said all of them will be gone by the end of the day.
“A lot of time and love has gone into the creation of each and every paczki,” O’Neill said.
At both of their locations, Doughs Guys Bakery offered 17 flavors with the cost of a paczki being $2.25 for traditional and $2.40 for premium flavors of cannoli, fresh strawberry, fresh banana custard, fresh strawberry custard and fresh strawberry whipped cream. A dozen was another option for $27. Preorders were able to be taken in advance to ensure faster pickup.
The O’Neills have seen an increase in the popularity of the paczki over the years; however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the bakeries decided to limit this year’s quantity.
“We typically make 14,000 paczki every year, so we cut back a little, only because businesses are not buying in bulk like they normally do,” O’Neill said.
The tradition of baking and consuming paczki is Polish, but it’s honored in many different cultures.
Paczki are deep-fried pieces of dough shaped into spheres and filled with confiture or other sweet filling.
Paczki are usually covered with powdered sugar, icing, glaze or bits of dried orange zest. A small amount of grain alcohol is added to the dough before cooking; as it evaporates, it prevents the absorption of oil deep into the dough.
The difference between these and a basic doughnut is that paczki is made with rich, sweet yeast dough consisting of eggs, butter and milk.
“My husband and I are originally from Chicago Ridge and we have been going to Doughs Guys since they were in their Chicago Ridge location,” Jessica White, 33, of Tinley Park, said while in line at Doughs Guys in Palos Heights on Tuesday morning. “Paczki Day is not a day we’d miss.”
The heavy snow that piled up overnight did not stop customers like White and bakeries across the area joined in Dough Guys Bakery’s paczki rush.
Wolf’s Bakery, 3241 W. 95th St, Evergreen Park, has been a staple in the Chicago South Side community since 1939, and it was no surprise that it was also was very busy on Tuesday. At their location, the bakery made 1,000 dozen paczki that were offered in 12 flavors for $1.97 apiece or $2.34 for fresh-cut strawberry. Orders were also available in bulk and all orders were able to be taken in advance for faster pickup.
The 12 flavors were available on both Monday, Feb. 15, and Tuesday, Feb. 16. However, the fun did not stop there as Wolf will continue sharing their love for paczki after Fat Tuesday. For the next few weekends following the holiday, the bakery will be offering fresh-cut strawberry, cheese and lemon paczki.
Employees said they are blessed and thankful for all of their customers and happy to be part of such a wonderful bakery community.
Paczki advocates were grateful they made the decision to brave the snow for their favorite seasonal dessert, including the Bruces of Chicago Ridge.
“We ventured out early to beat the crowds,” John Bruce, of Chicago Ridge, said. “I love paczkis and enjoy all of the fruit fillings, but the strawberry is my favorite.”
“My favorite is the lemon filling with the powdered sugar sprinkled on top,” his wife, Maureen, said. “Paczki Day is something good to look forward to every year.”