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Watch now: Bloomington-Normal readies for Paczki Day, Fat Tuesday

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Poland Carnival

A woman sells paczkis in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday. The treats are popular on Fat Tuesday. 

BLOOMINGTON — Bakeries in the Twin Cities will be extra busy on Tuesday. Known as Fat Tuesday, it is the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, 40 days of reflection and preparation before Easter Sunday.

By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians replicate Jesus Christ's sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days. Lent is marked by fasting, both from food and festivities.

“It is a big day,” said Heather Heinold, assistant bakery manager at Hy-Vee,  1403 N. Veterans Parkway in Bloomington. “People call in and they order all kinds of things.”

Among the big sellers in most local bakeries on Fat Tuesday are paczkis (pronounced PUUNCH-ki), deep-fried pieces of dough shaped into spheres and filled with sweet filling.

“We have orders for about 120 dozen,” said David Marquardt, of Denny’s Doughnuts and Bakery, 1107 S. Main St., Bloomington.

Paczkis, denser and heavier than regular doughnuts, are generally made with more sugar, shortening, egg and milk than regular doughnuts. Denny's double fries and double stuffs its paczkis.

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“But it takes about the same time to make as regular doughnuts,” he said. “It kind of depends upon what batch you are talking about, but it takes a couple of hours for us to make 60 dozen.”

Heinold said Hy-Vee sells them in packages of six.

“They come with all different types of fruit fillings, like prune and raspberry and apricot and lemon,” she said. “Some are rolled in sugar and some are rolled in powdered sugar.”

Marquardt said his father, who owned the bakery, started selling paczkis more than 20 years ago after Fat Tuesday observances trickled into Bloomington. The tradition is celebrated by many people in Chicago, where the paczkis are sold open face and smothered in fruits and cream, he said. The tradition to eat them on Fat Tuesday originates from a Polish custom of celebrating the last day before Lent fasting begins.

Complicating the issue this year is a winter storm warning and heavy snow in the Twin Cities.

“First there was the pandemic and that makes things crazy and unpredictable and now you add that with a snow storm,” Marquardt said. “Deliveries on Tuesday are going to be pretty wild.”

Also a big seller on Fat Tuesday are King Cakes, Heinold said.

It comes in a number of styles. The most simple, said to be the most traditional, is a ring of twisted cinnamon roll-style dough. It may be topped with icing or sugar, which may be colored to show the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power.

“We make a big deal about Fat Tuesday,” she added. “We set up tables and let everyone have a great time. It’s a fun day.”

Eating Packzki for Lent

Contact Kevin Barlow at (309) 820-3238. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_barlow


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