Fat Tuesday means …Paczki!

MARQUETTE – Fat Tuesday is here and that can only mean one thing: paczki are back and more popular than ever.

The Huron Mountain Bakery started making its paczki at 3 a.m. Monday with a team of 32 staff members working at every point in the process, from rolling the dough, baking it, frying it and finally filling it to put into boxes.

The staff worked 27 hours to make 16,700 paczki – the singular version of the word is paczek – for Fat Tuesday.

Paczki are Polish fried dough stuffed with a variety of fillings and usually covered with powdered sugar or icing. Paczki are made from very rich dough containing eggs, fats, sugar and sometimes milk. Some of the most popular fillings are strawberry, Bavarian cream, blueberry, custard, raspberry, and apple. Paczki at the Huron Mountain Bakery cost 99 cents each or $10.99 for a dozen.

“We are going to have 10 different flavors,” bakery manager Benjamin Hayes said. “The most popular is Bavarian.”

Polish families would make paczki right before Lent to use up any ingredients that were forbidden during the season of Lent. Traditionally, Polish families would eat paczki on “Fat” Thursday at the beginning of “Fat” week ending on Ostatki. Ostatki, which literally means last, is the Tuesday before Lent which Americans celebrate as Fat Tuesday, the last day to indulge and party before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.

“Before Lent they would use up all their fats, sugars and fruits and get them out of the house,” Hayes said. “So they would bake them all into a pastry and that is where the paczki came from.”

The bakery is also producing another Mardi Gras favorite along with their popular paczki, King Cakes. King Cakes take their name from the three kings who visited the baby Jesus. The cake is traditionally eaten at the end of the 12 days of Christmas to commemorate their journey, but depending on the country where it is being celebrated King Cakes can be eaten any time after the 12 days of Christmas to Mardi Gras, the French words for Fat Tuesday.

“We started getting orders for paczki about a month ago and we also get a ton of orders for King Cakes because they are very popular,” Hayes said.

King Cakes can be made many different ways. The Huron Mountain Bakery’s King Cake is a danish with multi-colored icing with a surprise inside. The surprise is a little baby Jesus. Whoever gets the piece of cake with the baby Jesus inside receives good luck for the rest of the year.