Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Paczki - Such a Guilty Pleasure!

It's Fat Tuesday, and that means one thing to Metro Detroiters: Paczki!

Each year I cannot wait to sink my teeth into these caloric treats that make plain donuts look downright wimpy, and they are a part of living in Detroit that no Michigan resident or visitor should miss.

A paczki (pronounced: pawnch-kee or poonch-kee) is a deep-fried piece of dough shaped into a flattened sphere and filled with a confiture or other sweet filling. Paczki are usually covered with powdered sugar, icing or bits of dried orange zest. A small amount of grain alcohol is added to the dough before frying; as it evaporates, it prevents the absorption of oil deep into the dough.

Although they look like Bismarck's or jelly doughnuts, paczki are made from an especially rich dough containing eggs, fats, sugar and sometimes milk. They feature a variety of fruit and cream fillings and can be glazed, or covered with sugar. Stewed plum jam, prunes or wild rose hip jam are traditional fillings, but many others are used as well, including strawberry, Bavarian cream, blueberry, chocolate, custard, raspberry, lemon, and apple.

Paczki have been known in Poland at least since the Middle Ages. Jędrzej Kitowicz has described that during the reign of August III, under the influence of French cooks who came to Poland, paczki dough was improved, so that paczki became lighter, spongier, and more resilient.

In the Polish community of
Hamtramck, Michigan, a small enclave located within the city limits of Detroit, there is an annual Paczki Day Parade, which has gained a devoted following. Many Hamtramck bakeries open as early as 3 AM and have people lining up, as early as the night before, for paczki on Paczki Day. The Paczki Day celebrations are even larger than many celebrations for St. Patrick's Day.

A favorite Hamtramck bakery of mine and one of the more popular places to get your paczki at is "The New Palace Bakery" located at 9833 Joseph Campau Street in Hamtramck.

"A Hamtramck staple, the New Palace Bakery has been peddling paczki for nearly 90 years. Their plum, apple, blueberry and raspberry paczki will tempt you. New palace has a dizzying selection of polish pastries, including babkas, fruit pies, dumplings, danishes and doughnuts. They make their own Moon Pies, and one can't help but stifle a giggle at their chocolate and vanilla "boy cookies," literally shaped like little boys."

Here's a look at the crowds early Tuesday morning as people lined up for hours!

It was even snowing!

The line extended all the way around the block and even more people were approaching to get their place in line!

People braved the cold temps and snow just for these tasty little buggers!

On Paczki day I also make a stop and my absolute favorite Italian bakery for more paczki, but paczki of a different kind! Tringali's Bakery in Warren MI, famous for their Italian Cannoli make their version of a Paczki filled with that rich, creamy and delicious cannoli cream! These are beyond heavenly!

For those who want amazing pie and a paczki-like experience, Michigan's own Achatz Handmade Pie Company , featured many times on The Food Network, has a special pie just for Fat Tuesday. The Paczki Pie features a crispy sugar glazed pastry shell filled with their famous vanilla cream and topped with their signature Michigan 4-Berry pie filling. This pie is just as good as the little packzi themselves!
Another unique Fat Tuesday treat comes from a local BBQ restaurant; Lazybones Smokehouse, has a created a "BBQ Pulled Pork" Paczki for today and are selling them for a $1.00 each. I haven't not tried or seen these, but curiosity may have me visit there today.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Seared Flat-Iron Steak with Wine Sauce

Here's a quick and easy dinner idea that's great any night of the week. I made this tonight and it took all but 30 minutes from start to finish with just a few ingredients and two simple steps!

Get The Recipe!

All you'll need is a a 24 oz flat-iron steak cut into four 6 oz pieces. I chose to leave the steak whole and serve thinly sliced pieces. You'll also need some coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, a cup of Merlot wine and some good quality butter. I'm using a wonderful Irish Butter that I found at the supermarket.

Sear the steak in a cast iron pan on high heat about 8 minutes per side, for medium-well. Transfer steak to a plate and loosely cover with aluminum foil.

Add wine to the pan and simmer until it's syrupy. Remove from heat, add butter, a small piece at a time until it's all incorporated.
Thinly slice the steak and drizzle with the pan sauce.

In the spirit of the upcoming Mardi Gras festivities, dessert was a delicious King Cake!