Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Quest for Paczki - 2009 Edition

When I worked downtown, I learned about paczki from Jenny Lee Bakery in Market Square.

Paczki (the singular is paczek) are basically filled donuts. But they're special Polish Fat Tuesday donuts. The theory is that you have to make pastries to use up all your lard and sugar and stuff, because you don't use those during Lent.

Traditionally, paczki come in lemon, raspberry, sometimes custard, and - the best part - lekvar, which is prune paste. There's actually a great flavor interplay between the donut glaze and the mildly sweet prune paste. Also you can only eat one or two before you get full.

Last year Jenny Lee Bakery closed forever. I woke up this morning and heard New Orleans music on the radio and thought, damn, no paczki? (Well, even if Jenny Lee were open, it would have been too late to get any there by 9 a.m., but I would have gone before.)

So after an early appointment on the South Side I went on a quest for paczki.

First, I cruised part of E. Carson St., because I'd heard there once was a bakery there that made them. But even when I went there five years ago they weren't apparently open, and now it's gone completely.

I looped around and headed for Homestead.

Last year on a quest for donuts I'd heard of a place called A+B Donuts. It's on 8th Avenue in Homestead across from the Waterfront shopping mall - but you can't get there from the mall. When I went last year, the place was closed but promised it would re-open. So I drove by today. The cute little donut shop part is up for sale (which is unfortunate, I hear it's cool-looking inside), but the bakery side is open every day except Monday. No paczki, but I got some other awesome-looking donuts.

A&B Donuts
As I was pulling out from my illegal parking space in front of A+B, I noticed there was a Shop N' Save across the road. There is actually a whole little "locals" mall there on the other side of the tracks from Waterfront, with a Rite Aid, and a Big Lots, and a Shop N' Save. It's hard to find Shop N' Save in the East End, which is overrun with Giant Eagle, so I went in to have a look. Paczki! But no prune. I settled for a box of raspberry, but my quest continued to find the one true paczek.

Shop N' Save Paczki
Oh yeah, I got some wasabi peas there too.

Saturday night we'd come through Homestead on our way back from a strange theater (we had to go out to Century III land to see Coraline in 3D) and passed Nancy B Bakery (actually a sign saying that the closed road was open as far as the bakery) so I was thinking to stop by. I was not really expecting paczki, but they have "world renowned chocolate chip cookies" and how bad could that be? Unfortunately Nancy B's is always out of chocolate chip cookies unless you pre-order. I told the lady at the counter that I'd never had one, and she went looking in the back and brought me a "second" - free! It is yummy. They also have other good cookies too - those crescent-shaped nut cookies are pretty awesome. So I bought some cookies there.

Cookies from Nancy B's
Last stop: Giant Eagle. Giant Eagle tries to be all things to all people, and I'm people, so I thought it was worth a shot. Actually I'd found prune paczki there before, last year or the year before, but different stores get different baked goods, so I wasn't sure the Edgewood one would have them. It did, and even had a sign about what they are and how to pronounce them! But they were out of prune, so I didn't buy any. But here's a picture of the display anyway.

Giant Eagle Paczki
So, no lekvar, but I will manage a fair amount of lard and sugar today, and even eat some "official" paczki. Though they're not as good as Jenny Lee's.