The cases at Bennison's Bakery, 1000 Davis St., are already filled with fluffy paczki, a sweet Polish pastry typically eaten before the Christian observance of Lent.
While paczki are traditionally filled with fruit, Bennison's debuted chocolate praline mousse paczki last year. Traditional flavors include prune, apricot, cheese, raspberry, custard and apple, as well as fresh strawberry with whipped cream and banana cream.
The bakery's biggest sales day for paczki is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, when customers line up to buy the pastries as a sendoff before the Catholic Lenten fast begins on Ash Wednesday, which falls next Wednesday, Feb. 13.
Tag's Bakery, at 2010 Central St., will also be selling paczki, beginning this Friday Flavors at Tag's include apricot, lemon, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry custard and cheese.
While France, Brazil, New Orleans, Italy and most places with a Mardi Gras tradition hold their festivities prior to, or culminating on, Fat Tuesday, the Polish custom is to feast the Thursday before Ash Wednesday--called Fat Thursday by Poles.
In Poland, people traditionally made paczki for Fat Thursday to use up the eggs, lard and sugar in the house, because they were traditionally not eaten during Lent, according to the Polish American Association. Fat Thursday "is the last chance to party before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins," the association says on it website.
Here are a few more bakeries locally that will be selling paczki:
- Oak Mill Bakery, 8012 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Niles
- 9328 N. Waukegan Road, Morton Grove
- House of Cakes, 6189 N. Canfield, Chicago (across street from Park Ridge)
Know of other places that sell fresh paczki? Tell us in the comments, below.