Millions of Poles will soon be chomping their way through several pączki (stuffed doughnuts) to celebrate Tłusty Czwartek (Fat Thursday), a day traditionally marked as being the last of the Carnival period before the start of Lent.
Seeing as Lent is a time of fasting, Fat Thursday provides the last opportunity to indulge until Easter arrives. Traditionally people meet in their homes or cafés with their friends and relatives and eat large quantities of sweets, cakes and other meals forbidden during Lent. Nowadays companies often get in on the act too, laying out piles of doughnuts for their employees.
In the past, instead of the sweet pastries commonly eaten today, people would eat bread dough stuffed with bacon. It wasn't until the sixteenth century the Polish tradition of eating donuts became widespread. Even then, the doughnuts differed to what is eaten now. The stuffing consisted of peanut or almond, and those who bit into the nut were said to enjoy a future of prosperity and success.
If doughnuts aren't your thing however, you can always try some faworki (pictured above). These traditional sweet and crisp pastries are made out of dough shaped into thin twisted ribbons, before being deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
So where can you grab yourself some pączki then? Well, finding some shouldn't be difficult as just about every local shop and supermarket will have piles of doughnuts on sale. That said, some pączki are better than others of course, so why not check out some of these places:
- Those in the Nadodrze area have the opportunity to try a classic variation of pączki from a shared Wroclaw/Lviv recipe. The doughnuts contain a plum and cinnamon filling, and can be purchased at Bema Cafe (ul. Drobnera), Cafe Targowa (Hala Targowa) and Egg Cafe (ul. Jedności Narodowej) amongst others. The full list of participating venues can be found here.
- Last year the popular food blog Wrocławskie Podróże Kulinarne recommended 10 places to buy paczki in Wroclaw: Cukiernia Carolin&Simon (Partyzantów 16 a), Piekarna Krajewscy (Pobożnego 20), Cukierna Biskupin (Olszewskiego 77), Cukiernia Gondek (Krzywoustego 302), Cukiernia Spychała (Nowowiejska 42), Cukiernia pod Trumienką (Curie-Skodowskiej 51), Łomżanka (Ruska 10), Cukiernia Krzycka Sikorscy (Sokola 52), Piekarnia Karłowice (Micińskiego 6) and Filipinka (Trzebnicka 13). Cukiernia U Spychały on Pereca street also comes recommended.
- Although the charm may have worn off since they burst onto the scene a year or so ago, Nasza Pączkarnia (formerly Stara Pączkarnia) on Świdnicka street is another good bet (but be prepared for a very long wait). There are other branches of the same company on Ruska street and Strzegomska street.
- Vegan pączki are available at Urban Vegan on Św. Antoniego.
If you don't happen to be near any of these places, then you can simply pop into your local cukierna or piekarnia for a pączek. It sure beats whatever the supermarkets or chain convenience stores have to offer, as the big stores often make significant shortcuts in order to sacrifice quality for price.