Whether you were born in the Midwest or are a transplant, chances are you know about the local tradition of paczki – those calorie-filled pastries that are special treats available at bakeries and restaurants on what is known as “Fat Tuesday.”
This year, this so-called paczki holiday will look a bit different than in the past. First of all, there is a massive snowstorm said to be coming this way. Plus, with coronavirus, you won’t be able to stand around in line waiting for your pre-order or to pick up extra paczki when it comes your turn. But because these donuts are such a comfort food, chances are you’ll be there to support the businesses that are making them.
Most Metro Detroit bakeries will offer a few kinds of paczki, traditionally the raspberry or custard filled. Some creative types are adding new flavors this year to gain attention and get customers in their doors to grab a dozen or even more of these delightful donut-like desserts. Locally, you likely won’t find the trendier stuff – think lavender or siracha flavors – but you will find just about every kind of fruit filling or cannoli crème.
There are lots of places to try them. Consider these:
• Apple Fritter Doughnut Shop: Ferndale residents know the secret goodness for this local doughnut expert. After all, the store didn’t get the reputation for being the home of the Fritterman for no reason. Selection will vary this year so come in early to get your paczki.
• Rose’s Fine Food: In a special collaboration with Folk Detroit, Rose’s Fine Food will have boatloads of paczki available for foodie fans. Every year, they look forward to giving people something different for pre-order as well as pick-up. But it is recommended to show up when doors open because they sell out quickly.
• New Palace Bakery: This Hamtramck bakery has leveled up when it comes to paczki. The pastry is light and airy yet incredibly satisfying. It doesn’t weigh you down or make you regret eating the whole box. Plus, the fillings are delicate and just the right amount.
• Yellow Light: Detroit’s newest Eastside favorite bakery partnered with its good friends up at Almont Baking Company for paczki day. This business collaboration is likely to become a favorite for everyone who cruises by on Fat Tuesday. Flavor fillings will be: apple, custard, chocolate custard, lemon, raspberry, and apricot. Supplies are limited so get them while they last.
What makes paczki great is the nostalgia that comes with this particular kind of sweet, said Freeman Gunnell, owner of Grosse Pointe Park’s Cornwall Bakery. You can try to eat just one for breakfast, but you’ll likely to try a couple before the day is done.
“Paczki is one of the biggest traditions that I can really relate to from my childhood. It’s a great thing to have for this area,” Gunnell said.
Cornwall Bakery is a European-style bakery that serves artisan breads, high-end treats and more. The bakery also is known for its specialty coffees, wedding cakes and specialty cakes. Gunnell offers classes, pop-up dinners and food-focused trips as part of work here, making sure his local community and fellow chefs can try all of his food stylings, which go way beyond dessert.
Gunnell said Cornwall Bakery started making paczki about three years ago, mostly for customers who asked for these “Fat Tuesday” specialties. People who came in that day were willing to buy more, so they started to create a regular order for Paczki Day.
What makes this year more challenging, even beyond coronavirus and its impact on small businesses, is that Valentine’s Day is just two days apart from Paczki Day this year. That’s a storm of activity that will put any bakery into overdrive, Gunnell said. But he knows that his customers love to indulge in these calorie-heavy doughballs, so he’s willing with his staff to put in the time to have a great selection.
This year, Cornwall will have its standard flavors, which are apple, lemon, cherry, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry and custard. Its custom flavors, which change each year, include white-chocolate mousse, chocolate mousse, prune, cannoli, butterscotch and lemon curd.
“We’re sticking with what works this year,” Gunnell said, respecting how orders and appetites might have changed in 2021. However, Gunnell said they plan to experiment with flavors even more in 2022 and, hopefully, years going forward as staffing and demand allows.