Paczki Mania

By: Karen Talaski | February 24, 2020

Photo Courtesy of Detroit City Distillery.

When it comes to calories, Metro Detroit has never met a meal, dessert or drink drenched in caloric intake it doesn’t like. That’s especially true when it comes to one special Lenten treat, the fried dough filled with fruit-flavored jelly known as the paczki. 

People eat them by the dozen. Bakeries add to the temptation by seducing us into eating more with savory and sweet fillings. Tired of eating them for dessert? Then check out the Coney restaurant that slices them in two and adds a hot dog in between. There is no end to our creativity when it comes to this pastry.

If you’re already drooling and ready to order, bear this in mind: There is a right and a wrong way to ask for a paczki. According to the experts — both those who are Polish as well as wordy types — you will want to say Pączki (POONCH-key) if you are buying multiple. That’s the plural pronunciation. Pączek (POON-check) is singular.

And, in one stroke of boozy brilliance, a local distillery has added them to genuine Polish vodka for a sell-out sensation. For the third year, Detroit City Distillery is bringing its limited-edition, paczki-flavored vodka to Metro Detroit – and the sweet alcoholic beverage is selling out wherever DCD takes it, said Michael Forsyth, founder and partner at the Detroit-based business. 

Detroit City Distillery creates small batch artisanal whiskey, gin and vodka using the local ingredients sourced from farms near its distillery and tasting room in Detroit’s Eastern Market. Paczki Day Vodka will go on sale starting Feb. 22 with a special release party at DCD’s Tasting Room in Eastern Market and will be available through Paczki Day on Feb. 25 or until it is gone. And, chances are, there won’t be much left as Fat Tuesday slides into the Catholic time of reflection known as Lent. 

The special drink started as the brainstorm of Steve Orzechowski, the distiller for DCD and a proud Polish American. His experimental spirit decided to get creative, honoring Paczki Day in Hamtramck. Steve went to New Palace Bakery, bought dozens of paczki and tossed them into some vodka. The result was strangely delicious and beautiful, tinted a rosy pinkish color because of the paczki’s raspberry filling.  

“We made a little the first year. Last year, it sold out immediately. There was no marketing or anything. People were calling for it for days,” Forsyth recalled. “This year, we decided to scale it up and make it available to bars and restaurants. Paczki manic ensued – we’ve had people contact us from as far away as Poland. … It’s been so much fun.” 

Here are some places to pick up some paczki of your own – and whether you decide to brew with it, distill it or just eat it is up to you and yours. 

Chene Modern Bakery

One of the best ideas from this longtime Detroit bakery is that it starts making paczki early in February so you don’t have to wait to get your fix. They have been listed on “Best Bakery” lists across the board and for years, so it is well worth a trip to check out their flavors and other sweet treats on the menu.

New Palace Bakery

Yes, Detroit City Distillery used these beloved paczki to make its Paczki Day Vodka, so you know it’s good. Many people, including Steve from DCD, describe its paczki as mouth-watering, covered with frostings just as sweet as the filling. These paczki are light and fluffy – two words not commonly associated with paczki so you know they’re good.

Sister Pie

Creative recipes are in order at this bakery, which has a devoted following from people who enjoy savory and sweet. The bakers there are thoughtful with ingredients and how they mix, so they’re always testing new ideas. This year’s flavors include Malted Limed, Salted Maple and a pierogi-paczki hybrid, which its bakers are calling the Pieraczki. Try to say that three times. 

East Detroit Bakery

This Eastpointe-based bakery makes beautiful cakes, cupcakes and other sweets, so it’s no wonder that people drive from all over the East side to get its paczki. These paczki tend to be on the larger side, so you’ll want to remember that each one of these lovelies packs between 200-400 calories. But buy that dozen anyway. It’s a once-a-year treat for a reason. 

Randazzo

Not many people can get that luscious cannoli cream right, but Randazzo’s fresh market definitely knows how to do it. It fills its paczki with its Famous Cannoli Cream and Ricotta, and they sell out quickly. Because they are so popular and there is a limited production of them, get in line fast to add this unique flavor to your office or home offerings.