Every so often, I relish poor decisions. This is rarely the case when said decisions involve food and never the case when they involve champagne (though it is always the case when said decisions involve relish).
In a case for rarity, last week’s snowtorious blizzard, which for me capped about a month of intermittent winter illness and an accompanying pileup of accomplishments-to-be on my to-do list, gave me a chance to give my entire life the finger for one glorious day of doing – and eating – the wrong thing.
It began on the eve of the snowstorm, with a Twitter update from Liza announcing that a snowball fight would begin at 7:18 p.m. in McCarren Park. Having already canceled on a Hunan dinner in Flushing due to my sinus infection, I decided that there was no way I would miss a flash snow mob in my own neighborhood on the snowiest winter night of the year. As snowballs soared through a blistering and relentless sky and my face discovered a heretofore unknown compromise between stinging and numb, I thanked the maker for north Brooklyn.
I woke up the next morning sore and sick, but with the sun out and a fresh blanket of snow draped over Williamsburg, I made the natural choice to trudge through an extended length of winter for some truly outstanding doughnuts.
I’ve written about Peter Pan Donuts before, and my appreciation for its mastery of American fried dough has not abated. This particular visit, though, was more notable for the Polish side of Peter Pan’s pastry functions. When Amit, J.J., Lilydog and I came in from the cold, I noticed a platter of Paczki set atop the bakery’s bread box. After ordering my go-to, glazed sour cream and black coffee, I asked for one of each. Not realizing that there were in fact two platters of these Polish doughnuts, I ended up with a box of six.
I learned later on from Blondie that the presence of these jelly-or-cream-filled treats was a part of Paczki Day, a.k.a. Fat Thursday, the final Thursday before the beginning of Lent and a traditional excuse for the Polish pious to engorge themselves on their national doughnut.
The paczek, as Peter Pan’s staff have confirmed, isn’t as simple as a yeast doughnut adjusted to the Polish idiom, but it’s pretty close. Paczek dough is traditionally prepared to be richer than its raised American cousin, typically containing more eggs and sugar and sometimes including alcohol as a means of decreasing the amount of oil absorbed by the pastry as it bathes in hot, bubbling oil.
As I would discover after making the very poor decision to try every single item in the box, the paczek is also a filled pastry. Peter Pan excels at the art of the jelly doughnut, exercising restraint in the size of each piece and the sweetness of its filling. Peter Pan’s paczek shares these virtues: the raspberry jam at the core of three of my paczki day treats was hefty, sweet and tart without being heavy, sickly or sour. More impressive was the prune filling, a traditional choice that was surprisingly mild – as a prune lover, I mistook its smooth, not-too-sweet character for blueberry.
While the chocolate glazed Bavarian cream seemed a particularly clunky step down from the shop’s already perfect white cream raised doughnuts, Peter Pan’s glazed powidl paczek was unanimously declared by our group to be the winner. Just as the bakery’s paczki seemed to straddle a ground between tradition and Americana, this particular bite of happiness blended plum and berry jam into an awfully attractive gelatinous blob.
After making my way through half of the box, I was forced to face the consequences… hours of sugar-shocked fullness as a chaser to epic snowball fights are far from doctor’s orders when you’re recovering from a sinus infection.
Still, an evening of pain is not always enough to induce regret, especially when it closes out a beautiful day of snow-dusted deliciousness. Best of all, though I’ll probably never be able to repeat the experience of this particular Paczki day, I don’t have to wait for next year’s pre-Lent feast to head back for a great jelly doughnut.
Peter Pan only offers Paczki on certain Polish holidays.
Please contact the shop directly to inquire about the next occassion.
Peter Pan Donut and Pastry Shop
727 Manhattan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211